Clinical training course in Liberia

The Joint West Africa Research Group or JWARG Monday began a week-long clinical training course in tropical and emerging infectious diseases for clinicians and lab professionals in Monrovia.

A press release issued in Monrovia says the training will help strengthen clinical skills needed to enhance research capability in West Africa.The 2014 Ebola epidemic highlighted gaps in local and regional disease data, research capabilities, and resources available to address epidemics in West Africa.

The course will include training on several specific diseases of concern in Liberia, including Ebola, Lassa fever, malaria, typhoid, and HIV, as well as training on sepsis from any cause, the release says.

Lectures will also address clinical response to infectious disease threats, including diagnostics, prevention, treatment and ethics. Students include clinicians from Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria who are partnering with JWARG to conduct research.

Physicians and scientists from JWARG’s partner institutions in West Africa and the United States are teaching the course. “This initiative is a unique collaboration between military and civilian partners in West Africa,” said U.S. Ambassador Christine Elder. “Each group brings unique perspectives and strengths to the table, enabling the Group to develop strategies and capabilities that will help prepare the region for future disease outbreaks.”

The training follows on the establishment of Liberia’s first clinical microbiology lab in 40 years at Phebe Hospital, implemented in late 2016 with support from JWARG. Prior to that, Liberia had no advanced microbiology diagnostic capabilities.

This improved capability is critical to the management of infectious diseases. JWARG efforts in Liberia will also enhance the capabilities of West African physicians, scientists, and institutions to conduct clinical research, build and strengthen research capabilities in the region.

It is also expected to provide an effective surveillance mechanism, develop effective countermeasures and also broaden understanding of relevant infectious disease threats. A local partner, Africabio Enterprises, Inc., supports JWARG efforts in Liberia.
--Press release

Gov’t unprepared for chiefs’ elections

The Senate Committee Chair on Internal Affairs, Good Governance and Reconciliation, Nimba County Senator Sumo Grupee says government is not prepared at this time to underwrite the cost of conducting elections for Liberia’s Traditional Council of Chiefs while the country is also faced with conducting presidential and representative’s elections.

Sen. Grupee announced the postponement of the chiefs’ elections when he appeared on a local radio talk - show over the weekend, following a longstanding opposition that has encountered Chief Zanzan Karwah’s administration in demand for his replacement.

Sen. Grupee had said his committee received two petitions, one calling for the establishment of an interim administration that would lead the council to elections, while the other called for the postponement of the exercise to a later date.

After reviewing the two petitions, Sen. Grupee said it was not feasible to conduct elections for the Council considering the fact that the national elections were in full swing.

A key obstacle cited as justification for postponing the Council’s election was that government would be required to make budgetary allotment to facilitate the process.

While announcing that his comments personal and not for the Senate Committee that he chairs, the Nimba County Lawmaker said he believed that the Karwah led-administration should hold onto power until at such time when the government has concluded with the conduct of the national elections which he says are cost intensive.

He suggested that following the national elections, government would be in the position to galvanize the needy financial resources to fast track the chiefs’ electoral process.

Meanwhile, Sen. Grupee has raised concerns that there are no clear criteria as to who is an elder, noting that most of the local government officials were appointed by the President and not elected by the people.

He cited alleged violation of elections laws here which called for the holding of “chiefdomship” elections for local government officials working under the Ministry of Internal Affairs or MIA, claiming that the National Elections Commission or NEC was not adhere to such laws.

Sen. Grupee concluded that the Council was not accountable to any board or the MIA due to the absence of a Board of Directors.

Rebuilding the World’s Forests

OXFORD – Humankind has always had a tricky relationship with forests. We depend on them to regulate the climate and rainfall, clean our air and water, sustain myriad species of plants and animals, and support the livelihoods of over a billion people. Yet we continue to destroy them, to the point that only half the world’s original forest cover remains.

The price of deforestation can hardly be overstated. Trees consume large amounts of carbon dioxide as they grow, making them vital tools for absorbing the greenhouse-gas emissions – from cars, factories, power stations, and livestock – that result in climate change. If we continue to lose forest cover, the Paris climate agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels) by 2050 will be impossible to achieve. In fact, to meet that target, we will need to restore a significant amount of forest cover that is already gone.

There are two ways to approach reforestation. The first is to allow agricultural lands to fall into disuse, and then wait for them to revert naturally to forest. This wouldn’t cost much, but it would take decades. The second option is more proactive: plant billions of new trees.

As part of the New York Declaration on Forests, signed in 2014, governments pledged to restore hundreds of millions of hectares of forests. But, with most governments short on cash these days, financing the pledge has proved challenging. Against this background, we must try to engage the private sector to deliver the needed investment.

When forests have an economic value, they are more likely to be cultivated than destroyed. And, indeed, trees have been cultivated for profit for millennia. Today, productive forests cover an area of more than a billion hectares, or about one-quarter of the world’s forested land.

Such forests produce fuelwood, which accounts for about half of tree removals. They also produce materials for clothes, oils for soaps and lubricants, fruits, and other foods, such as cocoa. Demand for these products is growing, though not as fast as demand for newspaper print falls as a result of computerization.

How can demand for forest products be increased? A promising opportunity lies in construction.

Timber has always been an important building material, and remains so for residential construction in places like the United States, Scandinavia, and parts of Southeast Asia. But most buildings today are constructed using bricks and mortar, concrete, and, for larger structures, steel – all materials that produce substantial carbon emissions during the manufacturing process.

While it is unlikely that timber can fully replace any of these materials, new types of engineered wood are making it more competitive. One of these is cross-laminated timber (CLT), which is made by gluing together layers of wood to create panels that are as strong as steel or concrete, and thus can replace those materials in buildings.

More research is required to determine the precise benefits of using timber to cut CO2 emissions. One estimate comes from architect Anthony Thistleton-Smith, one of the United Kingdom’s leading experts on wooden buildings. He recently noted that, whereas a typical British home has a carbon footprint of around 20-21 tons, a CLT home has a negative footprint of 19-20 tons. In other words, every home built with CLT saves 40 tons of CO2 emissions. If the 300,000 new

homes targeted for completion in the UK this year were built using CLT, it would be like taking 2.5 million cars off the road. The climate benefits could be massive.

As with so many climate measures, cost can be a major barrier to implementation. And, according to a United Nations report, CLT is more expensive than concrete in Europe. But CLT is still in its infancy, with only a handful of factories in operation. As the CLT supply chain develops, costs will inevitably fall, as has happened with renewable energy.

Moreover, builders report that the total costs of building with CLT already end up similar to those of building with concrete, because it takes less time. After all, unlike concrete, CLT doesn’t need time to set.

Of course, delivering such a transformation will not be easy. Vested interests – pressure from industries producing traditional building materials – must be overcome, including by ensuring a level playing field in terms of subsidies. Furthermore, public concerns – for example, regarding fire safety or infestation prevention – must be addressed, and builders will have to learn new skills. Most important, monitoring will have to be improved considerably, so that increased demand does not result in more deforestation.

For many countries, the economic opportunities should be sufficient to make addressing these challenges worthwhile. New plantations could regenerate rural areas, as new factories created opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs. Governments and larger companies would be able to tap the fast-growing green-bond market to fund the early transition, including the creation of systems using drones and satellite imaging to monitor for unsustainable forestry practices.

Opportunities to align economic development with the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions are rare. Yet that is what reforestation offers. We must take advantage of this opportunity, by pursuing a construction transformation based on restoring trees, the world’s most effective carbon-capture tool. In this “new age of timber,” we would grow wood, build with wood, and allow our forests to thrive.

By Justin Adams

Power outage disrupts House’s regular session

Regular session at the House of Representatives on Tuesday,7 March was interrupted due to power failure. Lawmakers had gathered Tuesday in the Chamber of the House ofRepresentativesto conduct normal business as usual when the currentsupplying the Capitol Building abruptly went off.

After waiting for some time, Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay instructed the Chief Clark of that august body to announce that there willbe no session because of power outage.
Reporters at the Capitol went to the Chief Clark’soffice to take a look at the agenda for the day, but a staffin the office said the agenda was about to printed when power failed, sothere was no way to have it printed.

This is the second time in less than a month lawmakers in the House ofRepresentatives have abruptly closed session due to lack of power since they returned from annual break and the start of the voter’s registration process here.

The 1986 Constitution of Liberia mandates members of the legislatureto meet every Tuesday and Thursday to conduct official business, butthat have not been the case for 24 of February and the March 7,2017, respectively.

By Bridgett Milton-Editing by Jonathan Browne

Pres. Sirleaf receives new Irish envoy’s Letters of Credence

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has received the Letters of Credence of the new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Ireland, H.E. Catherine Campbell. President Sirleaf recounted the longstanding Liberia-Ireland relationship culminating in Ireland’s support in the areas many sectors of Liberia’s development processes.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf noted that it is interesting to see how far Liberia-Ireland relationship has come as well as the role of Irish missionaries deployed to Liberia many years ago to spread the gospel of Christ through the Catholic Church. “The civil interrupted the relationship before your return in 2003. Since then, Ireland has helped greatly with Liberia’s peace keeping and peacebuilding efforts in a strong way. We vividly remembered your gallant troops deployed with UNMIL and we remain grateful”, President Sirleaf said.

President Sirleaf also praised Ireland for helping with the education of the young people of Liberia by sponsoring several Liberians at GIMPA in Ghana and personally thanked the new Ambassador for her participation in the recently held International Women’s Colloquium in Monrovia.

“Liberia has had very difficult times, but 12 years of peace since the conflict ended is good for us as a nation and people. It has helped us improve governance, built infrastructures and bring general development to the people; this is a process that Ireland has been involved with and we thank you for that”, the Liberian leader concluded.
Responding, the Ireland Ambassador presented warm greetings from the President and people of Ireland. She personally acknowledged President Sirleaf’s leadership in peacebuilding, fight for justice and the battle against Ebola.

“Your personally achievements as well the what has been achieved by Liberia under your leadership is purely remarkable. You have promoted sustainable development and your country has made a lot of progress”, she noted. She assured President Sirleaf of her readiness to work with Liberia in the next few years, promising to strengthening the already strong relationship.

The Mispriced Risk of Infectious Diseases

NEW YORK – Global business leaders and investors are largely transfixed by two kinds of risk: macroeconomic and geopolitical. In the near term, this means a focus on the US Federal Reserve’s impending rate hikes and the upcoming elections in France and Germany. Over the longer term, it means awareness of structural risks like high sovereign debt, demographic shifts, and natural-resource scarcity. But there is a third, arguably more pernicious, risk lurking below most decision-makers’ radar: infectious diseases.

According to the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tom Frieden, the world is at greater risk than ever from global health threats. People travel farther and more often. Supply chains, including for food and medicines, extend across the world. A poorly treated case of, say, tuberculosis (TB) in Asia or Africa can present in a hospital in the United States within days.

Against this background, scientists are concerned about the recent uptick in epidemics of diseases such as Zika, Ebola, and avian flu. And they are alarmed by the resurgence of life-threatening diseases such as influenza, HIV, malaria, and TB.

To be sure, in terms of fatalities, recent disease outbreaks and pandemics are a far cry from past global flu epidemics. Whereas the 2003 SARS epidemic resulted in 774 deaths, and the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 left 11,310 dead, the 1918-1920 flu epidemic claimed the lives of 100 million people – more than five times the number killed in the world war that had just ended. Indeed, some 5% of the world’s population perished.

But the risks from infectious diseases that we face today could intensify substantially, owing to the rise of anti-microbial resistance (AMR). According to the World Health Organization, “480,000 people develop multi-drug resistant TB each year, and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, as well.” Antibiotic resistance, the WHO cautions, is now present in every country, putting patients at risk of worse clinical outcomes and at greater risk of death, while increasing the burden on health systems.

England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, has warned that, if left unchecked, the growing impotence of drugs could be catastrophic. By 2050, she estimates, drug-resistant infections could be killing someone “every three seconds.” The Review on AMR estimates that, at that point, some ten million lives could be lost each year, at a cumulative cost to global economic output of $100 trillion. To put that into perspective, world GDP today totals $74 trillion per year.

Yet the potential long-term human and economic consequences of AMR of are not widely appreciated by the public and, in particular, by financial markets. In fact, protection from public health threats is one vital area where markets do not deliver efficiently. As a result, it is governments that usually bear the costs of prevention and treatment.

With government budgets already overstretched, coping with the intensifying health burden from AMR will be difficult, to say the least. Yet governments are unlikely to move fast to mitigate this risk. On the contrary, experience indicates that governments often struggle to align public spending with underlying or mounting problems, such as public-health threats, until they reach a crisis point.

More people died of cancer in the US last year than in combat. In fact, last year’s 580,000 cancer deaths exceed the roughly 430,000 battle deaths, on average, in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War. Yet government spending on cancer averages approximately $4 billion per year. That is just over 0.5% of the annual military budget of roughly $718 billion.

Of course, government budget-allocation decisions are complicated and dogged by political imperatives. The US military employs some three million people, making it the single largest employer in the world, and there is substantial political pressure from some constituencies to place the highest priority on America’s military dominance.

But it is not just a matter of how much is spent; it is also a matter of when. Governments don’t wait for war to break out before investing in the military. Yet they do tend to wait for crises to erupt before they invest in fighting infectious diseases.

The world spent $15 billion on its emergency response to the SARS epidemic and $40 billion on its response to Ebola. In 1918, the crisis response to the flu pandemic cost some $17.5 trillion. Had countries spent more on mitigating the risk of such disease outbreaks – for example, by fortifying their health-care systems and promoting responsible use of antibiotics – those huge emergency payouts may not have been necessary. At the very least, they probably would have been smaller.

In this sense, the fight against infectious diseases closely resembles the fight against climate change. Though the threat is substantial, it is not immediate, so governments continue to pursue other priorities, allowing the threat to grow, largely out of sight. As a result, it is not adequately priced into the markets.

When the crisis finally erupts, the true scale of the threat will become clear. But by that point, it will be much more difficult and expensive to contain, resulting in far more casualties. Unfortunately, that point may be closer than anyone – government or investor – expects. Dambisa Moyo, an economist and author, sits on the board of directors of a number of global corporations.

By Dambisa Moyo

Trump’s Gift to China

NEW YORK – US President Donald Trump’s protectionist threats against China have spurred much concern. If he follows through on his promises and, say, officially labels China a currency manipulator or imposes higher import tariffs, the short-run consequences – including a trade war – could be serious. But, in the longer term, a turn toward protectionism by the United States could well be a blessing in disguise for China.

There is no doubt that China is going through a difficult phase in its development. After three decades of double-digit GDP growth – an achievement with few historical parallels – the pace of China’s economic expansion has slowed markedly. The combination of rising labor costs and weaker demand for Chinese exports has reduced China’s annual GDP growth to 6.9% in 2015 and 6.7% last year. The Chinese government has now lowered its growth target for 2016-2020 to 6.5-7%.

This is still a respectable pace; but it is not the best China could do. As Justin Yifu Lin and Wing Thye Woo have noted, in 1951, when Japan’s per capita income relative to that of the US was the same as China’s is today, Japan was experiencing sustained growth of 9.2%.

One impediment to such growth for China is a heavy debt burden. A stress-test analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute found that if China continued to pursue its debt- and investment-led growth model, the ratio of nonperforming loans could rise from 1.7% today (according to official figures) to 15% in just two years. That said, the risk of NPLs is not news to the People’s Bank of China, which will, the evidence suggests, take steps to mitigate it.

Unfortunately, debt isn’t China’s only problem. Its dominance in global exports – the main engine of its growth in recent decades – has eroded. India’s trade-to-GDP ratio overtook China’s last year. And, while labor productivity is rising steadily in China, it remains less than 30% of advanced-country levels.

Given these challenges, it may seem strange to assert that China may now be on the verge of ascending to a new level of global influence. But, because of Trump’s policy approach, China has a new and important opportunity to do just that.

While trade and capital flows require regulation, openness, on balance, does vastly more good than harm. Trump’s “neo-protectionist” policies – which aim to limit the flow of goods, services, and people to the US – are rooted in nothing other than myopic xenophobia. In the end, this will isolate the US far more than China or Mexico.

History bears this out. On the eve of World War I, Argentina was among the world’s wealthiest countries, behind the US, but ahead of Germany. Since then, Argentina’s economy has deteriorated substantially for two reasons: inadequate investment in education (a mistake that Trump may also make) and heightened protectionism.

The rise of nationalism in the 1920s culminated in 1930, when far-right nationalist forces overthrew Argentina’s government. The new government – which was bitterly opposed to liberalism, not to mention foreigners – raised tariffs sharply in several sectors. On average, import tariffs rose from 16.7% in 1930 to 28.7% in 1933. Jobs in traditional sectors were saved, but productivity declined. Today, Argentina is not even among the top 50 economies worldwide.

So Trump’s policy approach can be expected to do great damage to the US economy and have far-reaching implications, given America’s prominent global role. But self-imposed economic isolation, combined with an inward-looking “America first” foreign-policy approach, will also create space for other countries – including China, India, and Mexico – to increase their own international clout.

Consider Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the mega-regional trade deal involving 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, but not China. The TPP certainly had its flaws – not least that it would have conferred disproportionate and unfair benefits on large corporations. But it had plenty of redeeming qualities, and was being celebrated in countries like Malaysia and Vietnam for the access it would give to the US market.

Now that the rug beneath these countries’ feet has been pulled out, China can lend a helping hand. Already, China has boosted its regional investments considerably, including through its “one belt, one road” initiative. Without the TPP facilitating capital flows among its member countries, China is likely to overtake the US as the largest source of foreign direct investment for the ASEAN countries. China is also seeking to deepen its economic ties with TPP signatories Australia and New Zealand.

Likewise, China has seized the opportunity afforded by Trump’s ill-conceived plan to build a wall on the US border with Mexico to reach out to America’s southern neighbor. Just over a month after Trump’s election, Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met with Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu, pledging to deepen diplomatic ties and increase flight connections and trade. China is already Brazil’s top trading partner. It can now aim for the same position in Mexico, and perhaps all of Latin America.

As Trump adopts increasingly closed-minded and xenophobic rhetoric, Chinese President Xi Jinping is toning down his nationalist language and sounding increasingly like a global statesman. China, he seems to recognize, now faces the chance not just to achieve another round of economic expansion, but also to secure a far more prominent role in global decision-making and policy. Kaushik Basu, a former chief economist of the World Bank, is Professor of Economics at Cornell University.

By Kaushik Basu

“Friends of Sulunteh” debunk critics

The National Chairman of the ‘Friends of Jeremiah Sulunteh’ has termed as laughable comments that Amb. Sulunteh is over ambitious.

Recently a member of the governing Unity Party in Bong County claimed Ambassador Sulunteh left the UP because he is over ambitious, but did nothing to improve the party.

But Mr. Othello Frank has frowned at the comment, describing it as laughable.

He said those making the comment need to think and counter-think before stating such in public.

Mr. Frank argued that Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh did a lot in the Unity Party, while serving as Senior National Vice Chairman of the party.

He named provision of scholarships to youth of the party and contribution to the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in two polls as great contribution to the UP.

Mr. Frank cautioned Ambassador, who quit the UP last month and has reportedly joined the opposition Alternative National Congress, not to listen to critics, who think he did nothing for the governing party.

He reminded critics that if Amb. Sulunteh were over ambitious, he would not have abandoned the senatorial races in 2011 and 2014 to save the image of the UP after he was asked by President Ellen Johnson Sirlaf to do so.

He added that in 2014 there were people who left the party and contested as independent candidates after losing the UP primary, noting they were over ambitious that is why the party lost the election to the National Patriotic Party.

By Papa Morris-Editing by Jonathan Browne

MOVEE beats war drum

Opposition Movement for Economic Empowerment or MOVEE National Chairman Mr. Dee Maxwell Kemayah has sounded a war drum here that the October 10th elections will not be held if there are attempts to stop his party’s standard bearer, ex-governor Dr. Joseph Mills Jones from participating in the polls.

Mr. Kemayah’s threat came Monday, 6 March after Liberia’s Supreme Court ruled Friday, 3 March upholding a National Code of Conduct passed by the Legislature as being “legal and binding” for “all intents and purposes.”

The National Code of Conduct which surfaced from the Executive Branchin which Dr. Jones served for two terms as Central Bank Executive Governor before he retired, has strict instructions that “all officials appointed bythe president” shall not engage in political activities or quit theirappointed jobs two or three years prior to publicelections.

But Dr. Jones, whose position then as Executive Governor of the Central Bank,would have required him to resign three years before the date of elections, did not resign the post until his tenure ended.

However, following the Supreme Court’s decision, his party chair Mr.Kemayah called a press conference in Monrovia on Monday, 6 March at the party headquarters to warn that any attempt to stop his politicalleader from contesting the presidency in October, the Liberianpeople will not accept the decision.

Mr. Kemayah insisted that Dr. Jones will be on the ballot paper as apresidential candidate to contest in the October elections on groundsthat he has not violated, and will not violate any part of theConstitution of Liberia.

He called on officials and partisans of MOVEE to continue with theiractivities in their communities, districts and counties acrossLiberia.

“As a matter of fact, we want to let all of you our members,supporters and well- wishers know that this misinformation will notshake Dr. Jones and MOVEE. Dr. Jones is right now in the Southeasternpart of Liberia doing MOVEE’s work, where he is being well received,”he said.

After making threats against the elections, Mr. Kemayah later saidMOVEE believes in the conduct of peaceful, free, fair andtransparent elections.

He accused the media here of only spending time and effort to wronglydrawing Dr. Jones into the rulings of the Supreme Court when Dr. Joneshas not been involved with any case at the Supreme Court.

He also accused some unnamed politicians and their surrogates of allegedlytrying very hard to tie Dr. Jones into the Code of Conduct sinceits passage by the Legislature in 2014.

He concluded that the detractors were insinuating that the Political Leader and Standard Bearer of MOVEE will be stopped from contesting the Presidency in October.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Editing by Winston W. Parley

Young musician meets tragic end

One of Liberia’s budding musical artists Quincy L. Burrower, c.k.a. ‘Quincy B’ died early Friday, 3 March in a car crash near UNMIL Headquarters or Pan African Plaza in Monrovia while on his way home a local club.

Quincy had performed at Anglers Club up to early dawn and was reportedly driving home when his vehicle veered off the road and banged against a bullet-proof wall erected at the front view of the UN headquarters, killing him instantly.

Three other artists riding with him sustained injuries including Morris Gayford, c.k.a. “CIC” who broke his legs; Kovacee, and Feouls, who sustained minor injuries. Huge crowd Friday morning trooped at the John F. Kennedy Hospital upon hearing the death news of the promising artist. In the crowd were musicians, journalists, fans, friends, sympathizers and family members.

When this paper asked the mother of “CIC” about her son’s misfortune, she said she was removing him from the JFK to her resident in Brewerville outside Monrovia for herbalists to attend to his legs.

The late ‘Quincy B’ was an artist, producer, and entrepreneur. His body has been deposited at the St. Moses funeral parlors in Gardnersville, Somalia Drive, pending funeral and interment.  The diseased, who was believed to be in his early 20s, will be remembered for his soft and inspirational singing.

By Samuel Kamara -Editing by Jonathan Browne

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