Posted: 17 Feb 2011 05:52 PM PST
ATLANTA, Feb 18 — Nigeria has halted transmission of Guinea worm disease, bringing closer the moment when a disease is eradicated from the planet for just the second time in history, former US President Jimmy Carter said yesterday.
Just 1,800 cases of the painful disease remain, and 94 per cent of those are in South Sudan, which last month voted to secede from Sudan in the aftermath of a long civil war.
Scattered cases have also been found in eastern Mali and western Ethiopia, while Ghana is likely to announce soon that it has halted transmission entirely.
"We have a few years to go yet before we have the last case of Guinea worm on earth," Carter told a news conference at the Carter Centre in Atlanta, which has spent US$275 million (RM837 million) fighting the disease.
There were around 3.5 million cases of Guinea worm in 20 countries in Africa and Asia in 1986, when Carter organised a global effort to eradicate the disease.
Few people die from the parasitic Guinea worm but it is very debilitating, with fevers, blisters and extreme pain when the worms emerge from the body. It is spread by drinking unboiled stagnant water containing the larvae.
There are only 85 villages in South Sudan with five or more cases and thousands of people, mainly volunteers, are working to eliminate it, said Carter.
"I feel now that the prospects for rapid movement to a complete eradication in South Sudan is enhanced by the recent vote and by the ceasefire," Carter said.
Nigeria found its last case of Guinea worm in 2008, and so confident was the government that no more cases existed that it had set a bounty of 10,000 nairas (around RM198) for any confirmed cases, said Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.
Chukwu, Carter and others including former Nigerian President Yakubu Gowon were speaking before a ceremony at the centre to honour Nigeria and its northern neighbour Niger for stopping the spread of the disease.
Transmission could be halted globally by the end of next year, and by about 2015, the UN World Health Organisation could declare the disease eradicated, said Donald Hopkins, vice-president for health programmes at the centre.
A global vaccination effort eradicated the smallpox virus in 1979, but one unusual feature of the Guinea worm campaign was that it was led not by a government or a United Nations body but by a non-governmental organisation, Hopkins told Reuters. — Reuters
Posted: 17 Feb 2011 04:28 PM PST
CAIRO,Egyptian youth leaders yesterday moved to set up a new political party as the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood played an increasingly important role in preparing for post-Mubarak elections promised within six months.
Pro-democracy leaders plan to bring one million people out on the streets for a "Victory March" today to celebrate the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, and perhaps remind the generals now in charge of the power of the street that ended Mubarak's rule.
Inspired by Egypt, and a Tunisian revolt before that, protesters have taken to the streets across the Middle East and North Africa. Bahrain has cracked down on anti-government protesters and clashes were reported in Libya and Yemen.
Life in Egypt is still far from normal six days after the momentous overthrow of Mubarak, 82. Tanks remain on Cairo streets, banks are closed, worker protests and demonstrations are given voice by revolutionary fervour, and schools remain shut.
"The Higher Military Council will put matters back on track, but help us," army spokesman General Ismail Etmaan said on state television late on Wednesday night, appealing to Egyptians to stop striking and start getting back to work.
"The armed forces do not have future ambitions and want to hand power to the civilian parties when they are strong so that they don't collapse," he said.
The Brotherhood has a member on the committee redrafting the constitution, is on a council set up by activists to protect the revolution, and has said it will set up as a political party as soon as laws are changed to let it and others do so.
The Brotherhood's spokesman appeared on state television a few days ago, a first for a movement banned in the Mubarak era. Having been timid in the early days of the revolt, it clearly thinks it is safe to come out.
The Brotherhood is viewed with suspicion by Washington but is seen as the only truly organised bloc in Egypt, and reckons it could win up to 30 per cent of votes in a free election.
In another sign of the transformation of Egyptian politics, al-Gama'a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group), which took up arms against Mubarak's administration in the 1990s and was crushed by security forces, held its first public meeting in 15 years.
"Our position is to turn a new page with the new regime," said Assem Abdel-Maged, a group member who spent years in jail for his role in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. "We will perform any positive role we can to help society."
The Higher Military Council that took over after the overthrow of Mubarak was under pressure yesterday from activists demanding the immediate release of political prisoners, and the lifting of emergency rule.
Iran has created a further headache for Egypt's new rulers by saying two of its two naval vessels would pass through the Suez Canal, a move Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a far-right partner in the governing coalition, called "provocative".
It was not clear when the Iranian ships were due to arrive at the southern mouth of the Suez Canal. A senior canal official said it had received no notification so far. Any naval crossing needs approval from Egypt's foreign and defence ministries.
If they pass, it will be the first crossing by Iranian naval vessels since the 1979 Islamic revolution poisoned relations with Egypt, which signed a peace deal with Israel that year.
The crossing has threatened to be a distraction for the army council as it seeks to restore law and order and revive an economy damaged by the 18-day revolution that toppled Mubarak.
The interim government has sharply cut the nation's economic growth forecast to between 3.5 and 4 per cent from around 6 per cent before the popular uprising. Egypt's stock market has been shut for three weeks after plunging as the unrest began.
The ailing Mubarak, holed up with his family in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, is still coming to terms with the uprising, vowing to "live and die on Egyptian soil".
A committee, which includes a member of the Brotherhood, Sobhi Saleh, as well as legal and constitutional experts, met yesterday as the military dismantled the mechanisms that kept Mubarak's autocratic rule in place.
Saleh said on Wednesday that the military council had pledged to lift emergency laws before elections are held.
Some secular leaders fear that racing towards elections in a nation where Mubarak suppressed most opposition activity may hand an edge to the Brotherhood, banned under Mubarak.
The military council has already dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution, and now the committee must hammer out new amendments, likely to shorten presidential terms and ensure fair election rules, that must be ready in 10 days.
As part of a transition to democracy and civilian rule, the nation will vote in a referendum on the amendments prior to parliamentary and presidential elections that the military says it hopes to hold within six months.
Uncertainty remains over how much influence the military will seek to exert in reshaping a corrupt and oppressive ruling system that it has propped up for six decades.
Members of the new pro-democracy Council of Trustees of the Revolution said on Wednesday that its goal was to unite ranks, protect the revolution and open a dialogue with the military.
Existing registered parties are mostly small, weak and fragmented. The Muslim Brotherhood, which under the now suspended constitution could not form a party, may be the best organised group, but its true popularity has yet to be tested.
And with no clear leaders, the youth movement that was pivotal to the revolution due to its use of social networking to organise protests is seeking to overcome splits and had expected to announce a timetable for a new political party yesterday. — Reuters
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