New global plan to fight TB

first_imgThe new global TB plan was launched in Pholoshong Primary School in Alexandra. (Image: Bongani Nkosi) The fight against TB has been re-energised in South Africa and around the world with a new campaign launched recently in Johannesburg.International leaders of the Stop TB Partnership launched the “Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015” in Alexandra, the densely populated township in the north of Johannesburg, on 13 October 2010.Although there is an existing global TB plan in place, launched in 2006 and due to expire in 2015, the most recent campaign is meant to add new vigour to it, focusing on “setting new and more ambitious treatment targets for the next five years”.The new drive is about “putting a platform in place” for the facilitation of global efforts meant to eradicate TB, said Stop TB Partnership executive director Rifat Atun.The partnership is hoping to raise US$46.7-billion (R316-billion) for various global TB-fighting initiatives between 2011 and 2015.Although billions of US dollars have already been raised, more money is needed to treat the 30-million TB patients across the world, Atun said.According to the partnership, 10-million people in the world run the risk of dying from TB in the next five years. This includes 4-million women and children. “We need to stop these unnecessary deaths,” he said.“This plan will take us further towards universal access” of TB care, Atun said. “TB is curable – it’s unacceptable that it still remains a worldwide scourge.”It takes six months or slightly more to cure TB if a patient completes his or her treatment – a point the South African health department has been emphasising to its patients.The plan “will impact everyone in the world”, said the partnership’s Judith Mandelbaum-Schmid.The funds raised by the initiative will go towards beefing up TB care and vaccine research.There is still no vaccine that prevents pulmonary TB, which is the most common form of the disease, according to the partnership. But “if we execute this plan, we’ll be able to produce at least four vaccines”, Atun said.Many countries still rely on the outdated diagnostic method of testing human sputum for bacteria. Part of the plan is that new, hi-tech methods will be investigated over the next five years.Private and public sector investments will be critical for the plan’s success.Business involvementCorporates have been urged to invest in the plan. John Tedstrom, the president of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/Aids, gave assurance that international groups such as Chevrolet will be involved in new investments for vaccine research.“Business will be part of the solution,” said Tedstrom. “The re-launch of this plan is something that’s desperately needed.”UN agencies offer back-upUN health agencies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAids, firmly support the new strategy. Their senior officers attended the launch in Alexandra, where they publicly endorsed it.UNAids’ deputy director Paul De Lay said the agency “stands strongly behind the plan”. “We’ll do everything in our power to ensure that this plan is implemented.”Because HIV weakens the immune system, affected individuals are most susceptible to TB, which attacks as an opportunistic disease. De Lay decried the “terrible link” between TB and HIV/Aids at the launch.The new plan has been endorsed by various international role-players, said WHO’s Dr Mario Raviglione. “It is telling the world what needs to be done and how much money is needed to stop TB.“WHO is fully committed to supporting this plan,” said Raviglione.For those living with TB and HIV this “global plan means hope”, said Carol Nawina Nyirenda, who represents affected communities throughout Africa.SA ideal for launchAlthough South Africa has one of the highest TB rates in the world, the country is making progress in eliminating the disease, said Qedani Mahlangu, MEC of Health and Social Development in Gauteng.In the last year Gauteng, the country’s smallest yet most populated province, has achieved an 82% TB cure rate among patients on treatment.The national HIV Counselling and Testing policy, introduced by the government in April, integrates testing for both HIV and TB, and for diseases such as diabetes. The Gauteng provincial government reported that by July this year more than 300 000 people had been tested.“We’re delighted to have the global plan launched in South Africa … especially in Alexandra,” Mahlangu said.“TB is a global problem and it requires a global solution,” Atun said.last_img read more

Cape Town pupils reap a healthy meal

first_imgThe garden includes 40 different varietals of vegetables and herbs – aubergine, tomato, spinach, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, beetroot, rosemary, thyme, basil and many more.In 2013 a study by the African Food Security Urban Network found that 12 million South Africans are food insecure. This in a country that is generally food secure.FOOD SECURITYSouth Africa’s Vision 2030, better known as the National Development Plan, identified food security as an important target in meeting the objectives of the NDP.A project in Cape Town funded by Woolworths MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet fund is creating food security for a group of pupils in Observatory and Salt River. The edible garden planted at Observatory Junior School will produce 10 kg’s of fresh vegetables daily, allowing the 1 500 pupils at Dryden Primary School, Mary-Kihn Primary and Observatory Junior School to enjoy a healthy fresh meal.Helene Brand, MySchool’s CSI Manager, explained that the Salt River/ Observatory area was home to many households unable to provide a packed lunch. A secondary benefit she pointed out, “The edible garden at Observatory Junior School is our contribution towards giving more learners access to fresh food and a living garden where they can learn how to grow food and take responsibility for the upkeep of the garden.”THE GARDENThe garden at Observatory Primary is 400 square meters and includes 40 different varietals of vegetables and herbs – aubergine, tomato, spinach, leeks, cabbage, broccoli, beetroot, rosemary, thyme, basil and many more.Harvested produce is shared between all three schools, and is the base for the healthy lunch provided to learners every day. All three schools will also use the garden as an educational resource centre, actively involving learners in managing the garden. They will plant and harvest what they’ve grown, giving them a lifelong skill.Andy Clark, head of transformation at Woolworths Financial Services, said: “We’ve worked with all three schools through our participation in the Community of Learning Principals and the Partners for Possibility initiative and wanted to continue supporting them, so they can continue on their journey to be more sustainable and independent. They are run by highly committed staff and are motivated to participate in initiatives that will benefit their learners.“We are hoping to roll out more gardens at schools in the area, contributing to the communities in which we operate.”YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOWMore than half of Urban Harvest, the company that established the garden, 250 edible garden projects are based at schools in the greater Cape Town area. They seed gardens and help maintain and train people until they are self-sustainable.Explaining their philosophy Urban Harvest’s Ben Getz said: “The edible garden teaches learners that ‘you reap what you sow’. In the garden hard work pays off in many ways and the learners gain a greater sense of responsibility.“They also gain a sensitivity to and an appreciation for quiet, meditative, slow time when weeding or feeding the garden. They learn about keeping space neat and organised and a respect for nature and its lessons.”FETSA TLALAIn 2013 the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson launched Fetsa Tlala – an initiative aimed at improving household food security and stimulating sustainable job creation in the poorest districts of the country.This initiative ensures that underutilised agricultural land is put under production to increase local access to food.Fetsa Tlala will be financed through, amongst others, the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP). Allocations to provinces will be dedicated to food production, either crop or livestock production. More inclination, however, is towards the production of staple food such as maize, beans, wheat, sunflower, ground nuts and potatoes.CASP is the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries’ premier support programme and is funded through the Division of Revenue Act.last_img read more

If Foxconn Replaced Its Humans With Robots, Would You Feel Better?

first_imgFoxconn, the Taiwanese company that manufactures devices for Apple, Nokia, and Sony, has over 1.2 million employees, mostly in factories on the Chinese mainland. By 2016, it would like to replace as many of those as possible with robots that can do the job 24/7.That would address the human rights concerns about the company’s working conditions. But is it worth putting 1.2 million people out of work? It’s the classic globalization question.Foxconn declared its intentions to go robotic last year, announcing that it had 10,000 robots online, ramping up to 300,000 this year. The goal as stated in the 2011 Xinhua article was to get to 1 million robots by 2014. This TechWeb post from January (which was brought to my attention by John Biggs at TechCrunch today) says Foxconn would reach the goal this year. IT + Project Management: A Love Affair I used robots to translate the TechWeb post into English, and I think it reveals some interesting tidbits. It describes (vaguely) a gradual process by which certain tasks will be moved over from people to robots, eventually taking over much of the assembly process. Foxconn chairman Terry Gou says that “Foxconn[‘s] young people will [re-learn] to [manipulate] robot software, application and maintenance, to become robot application engineers and software engineers, operating the robot and joint production.”It’s actually a pretty frank article, acknowledging the tragic suicides of Foxconn workers in 2010 and attributing it to the monotonous, relentless working conditions. No one wants more of that, let alone the underage workers that managed to slip through at one factory. The positive PR in the article points to how much more productive Foxconn will be with these robots, which only cost about $25,000 a piece (three times as much as human workers make). The robots seem like a win-win-win-win.Foxconn gets unbeatably low production costs and high production volume. Tech companies like Apple might even start competing with China for robot manufacturing, driving prices even lower. Thus customers get cheaper computers. And Foxconn workers get trained for higher-skilled, less awful jobs. Or some of them do, at least. The unspoken implication is that nowhere close to 1.2 million workers will be necessary.The reporter relates this exchange between two Foxconn workers (forgive the Google Translate weirdness):“Are you afraid of robots to fight for a job?”“A little worried.”“Robot than you good?” [Presumably, “Worried that robots are better workers than you?”]“Not tired, a robot can top several employees, do not get hurt, and so on.”It’s a win-win-win-win-lose. The losers are the Foxconn workers who depend on these manufacturing jobs and will lose them to robots. This isn’t just going to affect Foxconn. It’s going to come home to all of us, wherever we live, sooner rather than later. Is it worth the trade-off?I think it is, but only on one condition, which Vivek Wadhwa articulated on ReadWrite last month: We have to throw all our efforts into reforming education.Lead image via Wikimedia Commons Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… jon mitchell Tags:#Foxconn Related Posts 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of…last_img read more

Not SAI’s duty to treat Dutee so shabbily

first_imgSports View by S. Kannan.The Sports Authority of India has shown complete insensitivity in dealing with the plight of young and promising athlete Dutee Chand.Days before the Indian track and field team was to leave for Glasgow to compete in the Commonwealth Games, news broke that the Orissa girl was ineligible to compete because of an increased androgen level in her body. In the normal course, androgen (primarily testosterone) levels are usually associated with a male athlete. However, in case there is suspicion that a female athlete exhibits certain male characteristics and it gives her an extra edge over the field, there is cause for checking for hyperandrogenism.This is not the first time a female athlete from India has been embarrassed and made to feel like a dope cheat. Call it exuberance or sheer callousness, the way the SAI and the Athletics Federation of India has dealt with Dutee is awful.Sources in SAI say a test was called for by the AFI on the reigning 100 and 200 metres sprint champion as it felt something was amiss. Whether it was due to certain changed physical characteristics or something else is best known to the AFI.Then again, this is not the first time a female athlete at home has faced such trauma. To be sure, every other person knows the names of Shanti Soundarrajan, silver medalist at the 2006 Doha Asian Games, who failed a gender test.The name of Pinki Pramanik is even more famous, as the 2002 Busan Asian Games gold medalist flunked a gender test and was later accused of rape in Kolkata. If you talk to old timers who were part of India’s campaigns as long back as the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok, a track and field athlete failed a gender test. Yet, the officials showed great care in keeping her name under wraps.advertisementAthlete Dutee Chand.Not many would know that the athlete in question was so traumatised, her teammates and coaches felt she could even have committed suicide at that point of time. Nobody went to the media and shouted out her name. Her anonymity is something which needs to be respected and she continues to work even today with the Indian Railways. Then again, in 1990, at the Beijing Asian Games, a woman hockey player failed a gender test and had to be sent home. In an age when TV channels were not around to rip open privacy and the internet did not exist, the player returned home safe and sound.Coming back to Dutee, it was not SAI’s duty to issue a press release and vilify her (without mentioning her name). Today, it is well known that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the international athletics body (IAAF) have stopped conducting gender tests as it has become so sensitive.Tests for hyperandrogenism are well prescribed and even in India the government has laid down the SOP (standard operative procedure) in black and white. If at all the SAI and AFI cared for Dutee, they would not have meted out such treatment to her. WHEN it comes to an athlete failing a dope test, what the SAI does is to inform the concerned federation and athlete. Once the ‘A’ sample comes positive, a test is ordered on the second sample called ‘B’. Mind you, nobody is in a hurry to tell the world a dope cheat has been caught.Benefit of doubt has to be given to athletes, as was the case in 2010 at home when so many athletes tested positive for MHA (methylhexanamine). The athletes said they were innocent and health supplements could be the cause. This time, Dutee has been painted like a cheat by the SAI, unmindful of the fact that she did not use anything to boost her hormone levels for achieving any advantage.In an age where the media feasts on sensational news, Dutee has become a victim for no fault of hers. As if to rub salt into the wounds, we have thick-skinned officials who tell us she could again compete as a female athlete if her androgen levels are below the prescribed limits of 2 nanograms per millilitre. For those unaware of the jargon, a nanogram is one-billionth of a gram!Logic demanded that the SAI and the AFI spoke to Dutee and her family in Orissa and pointed out that something was wrong. After that, she could have been pulled out of the squad. At least, that way, the young girl would not have been subjected to this kind of public humiliation where the average person now wonders if she is a boy or a girl.advertisementToday, when rape cases are mentioned, the name of the victim is not supposed to be given away. Take the case of the December 16, 2012 gang-rape victim in New Delhi. By and large, people have shown care in respecting her personal identity. The SAI, best known as a body which maintains stadia in India, cannot be allowed to get away with something which borders on character assassination. Athletes crave for respect, more so when they are down and out. Ideally, I would not have named the athlete, but it’s now out in full glare in public domain.s.kannan@mailtoday.inlast_img read more