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Your Africa Health News Bites for March 2016 By Dara Oloyede

March Health News 

Lassa Fever Has Killed Over 100 people in Nigeria

Oil Price Drop Leads to Health Crisis in Angola

In Sierra Leone, Pregnant Girls Can Get Their Education

Ghana Implements Public Health Act On Tobacco

South Africa: Sugar Tax Gets Sweet Support

 

Lassa Fever Has Killed Over 100 People In Nigeria

In Nigeria the Lassa fever has so far killed more than 100 people (theguardian.com). This outbreak began in August of 2015, and since then 375 people have been infected and 12 people have died (theguardian.com). The fever is in the same family as Marburg and Ebola (theguardian.com). The Lassa fever was first found in a town called Lassa in 1969 (theguardian.com).  The virus can spread through materials that have come in contact with rat excrements and through the bodily fluids of a person who has been infected with virus (theguardian.com).

For more information check out this article at theguardian.com: Lassa fever has killed more than 100 in Nigeria, latest figures show

 

Oil Price Drop Leads to Health Crisis in Angola

Last year the drop in oil prices led the Angolan government to cut public spending (voanews.com). The ramification of these budget cuts is most evident in poor communities. “Public services including trash collection and water sanitation, are overlooked by contractors who aren’t being paid or can’t import equipment due to foreign exchange shortages, contributing to a surge in deadly diseases” (voanews.com). The accumulation of garbage is leading to an increase in mosquitos. Since last December, cases of “Malaria, Cholera and chronic diarrhea” have increased (voanews.com). Some communities have tried to get rid of the piles of garbage by setting it on fire, but this has led to the spread of toxic fumes in overcrowded areas (voanews.com). The rainy season has also led to the contamination of water due to the large piles of garbage (voanews.com). These cutbacks are increasing the inequality gap in Angola, and many are unhappy about the government’s inability to address and fix this huge gap. 

For more information check out this article at voanews.com: Angola Faces Health Crisis as Oil Price Drop Leads to Cutbacks

 

In Sierra Leone, Pregnant Girls Can Get Their Education

During the Ebola crisis there was a rise in sexual violence that led to a rise in teenage pregnancies (voanews.com). In order to address this issue the government created an alternative way that young girls and women can still get their education (voanews.com).  “The alternative schools have been successful, according to Olive Musa, the head of non-formal education at Sierra-Leone’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology” (voanews.com). Some students prefer this type of alternative way to pursue their education because of the shame and exclusion they had experienced in more traditional schools (voanews.com). Musa has estimated that over 11,000 girls have registered for this program (voanews.com). Although these girls and young women are able to go to school, they are still not allowed to take entrance exams for secondary school or college if they are known to be pregnant (voanews.com). Musa said these attitudes around pregnant youth pursuing education will take time to change, but the government is searching for methods to reduce teenage pregnancies (voanews.com). Musa says that one ways is to increase in family planning and sexual health programs for youth (voanews.com). However, this still does not directly address how to reduce the sexual violence directed at young girls and women.

For more information check out this article at voanews.com: In Sierra Leone, Pregnant Girls Don’t Have to Miss Out on Education

 

Ghana Implements A Public Health Act On Tobacco

The Ghanaian government is working with the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) to implement the tobacco control measures as stated in the Public Health Act 851 (allafrica.com). “The act prohibits smoking in public spaces, adverts relating to tobacco and tobacco products, tobacco sponsorship, and packaging and libeling to create the impression that tobacco is less harmful”(allafrica.com). Through measures such as creating education materials for schools and documentaries, the FDA has been working to raise public awareness about tobacco (allafrica.com). This organization also has been holding forums for target groups, creating toll free lines, as well as signs to educate the public about the impacts of tobacco (allafrica.com). Many health advocates are calling for parliament to pass other laws along with the law on tobacco so that it can be effectively implemented (allafrica.com).

For more information check out this article at allafrica.com: Ghana: Government to Implement Public Health Act on Tobacco

 

South Africa: Sugar Tax Gets Sweet Support

South Africans are supporting South Africa’s tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (allfrica.com). These sugar-sweetened beverages include, “still and carbonated soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, energy drinks and vitamin waters, sweetened ice tea, lemonade, cordials and squashes” (allafrica.com). The Finance Minister, Pravian Gordhan, introduced the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in the nation’s budget plan, surprising many (allfrica.com). After the research by the University of Witwatersrand that a sugar tax could reduce obesity, there has been a push for a 20% tax on sugar (allafrica.com). The Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi said that a sugar tax is one way to help reduce non-communicable diseases (allafrica.com). For the health department, sugar is not their only concern, and they are also pushing on increasing education on salt, health issues associated with not exercising, and many other health concerns that result in non-communicable diseases (allafrica.com). Health advocates say that this tax must be supported with education, awareness campaigns, and appropriate food labeling (allafrica.com).

For more information check out this article at allafrica.com: South Africa: Sugar Tax Gets Sweet Support in News24 Poll

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Dara Oloyede is the African News Correspondent for Engage Africa Foundation. She is currently a Sociology and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder in Colorado. She was born in Nigeria, and currently is involved in the African Students' Association. She works at Community Health on her campus as a student coordinator and gives presentations centered on promoting student wellness through education and support. She hopes to pursue Graduate studies in Public Health after graduating with her Bachelors degree. During her free time she likes to read books, hang out with friends, go to the movies, concerts, as well as events that celebrate different cultures. 

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