Tuesday, January 5, 2016


FROM   npr.org   -  Health

Now That He's A Dad, Tanzanian Doctor Is An Advocate Of Prudent Panic

Becoming a father made Dr. Namala Mkopi appreciate why parents worry so much. He's been a leading advocate for childhood vaccines in his native Tanzania.
Becoming a father made Dr. Namala Mkopi appreciate why parents worry so much. He's been a leading advocate for childhood vaccines in his native Tanzania.
Ben de la Cruz/NPR
Namala Mkopi always wanted to be a pediatrician. He doesn't know exactly who or what inspired him. He just wanted "to treat kids."
And nothing would stand in his way, not even biology. "It wasn't my thing," he admits. "I never really liked biology."
Today, at age 38, he is a pediatrician and an advocate for child health in his native Tanzania. The vice president of the Pediatric Association of Tanzania, he has led national campaigns to introduce childhood vaccines and has traveled to the United States to gain support for child and maternal health programs. One success story has been the 2013 introduction of the vaccine against rotavirus, the most common cause of diarrhea in infants and young children.
"Every child is now getting the vaccine," Mkopi reports. He used to see 45 patients at a time in his hospital's ward for children with diarrhea. Today, he says, "we are seeing very few cases and most are older children who didn't get the vaccine."
On a visit this past fall, Mkopi stopped by NPR headquarters to talk about his philosophy of child-rearing (which has changed now that he is a parent to Nolan, age 4) and why people need to pay more attention to a disease no one likes to talk about: diarrhea.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How do you like being a dad?
It's nice to have kids around. It gives you peace and understanding, and you treasure life so much.
Has being a parent changed your views about raising kids?
I appreciate what parents are going through, why they're so worried, and [their] need of making sure their kids survive. Because I will do anything to make sure my child survives.
At least your son has a doctor as a dad.
When my child has the flu, I freak out. I actually don't feel like I'm a doctor anymore. I feel like, "Oh my goodness, I have to take my kid to a doctor." When parents panic, I understand why they panic. I put myself in their shoes and I understand.
Is panic a good parenting reaction or a bad one?
A parent who panics and goes to the hospital early is a safer kind [of parent] than those who are, "Everything will be OK, it's just a cold, it's just passing." We have kids who are so very sick come into the hospital, because a parent was feeling, "Everything is OK, nothing bad will happen." But eventually bad things happen. It's better for parents to panic and give kids the attention they need — even if you go to the hospital and they tell you it's nothing, just a cold. It's better than not knowing what's going on with your child.
Here in the West a lot of parents are overprotective — they won't let their kids play on their own outside, for example. Are there overprotective parents in Tanzania?
Overprotective parents? I guess that's a disease of development. Because when I was a kid I was free to play with anybody, anywhere. I would just disappear the whole day, nobody would make any noises. I was just supposed to appear for meals. That [kind of life] still exists with low-income families but rich people are very overprotective with their kids. They do not play where we used to play, in the dust.
What's your preference: overprotected kids or free-range kids?
I wish I could just let my son play with other kids. But at the same time I know the danger out there. People are now reckless, riding motorbikes like they are crazy, driving their cars with high speed. People are just so rough on the roads. It makes me feel like I have to comply with the disease of development — because just like that, something bad can happen. We are seeing a lot of kids rushed to the hospital because they've been knocked by motorbikes, knocked by cars.
One disease that can take a toll is a disease that doesn't get a lot of attention in the media: diarrhea. What's the message you'd like people to get about diarrhea?
The one key thing is that diarrheal disease kills if not attended. One should seek medical attention immediately.
Do you have a story that illustrates the seriousness of diarrhea?
One day my wife woke me up around 3 a.m. and told me somebody's calling. I couldn't hear the phone ringing — work that day was so much I was so wasted and tired. That person was crying. What I could hear was, "My child is very sick, help me." I told that lady, "Go to the hospital, we will meet up there."
I live 8 kilometers from my hospital, so I drove like a zombie. She [turned out to be] my junior colleague, she's a doctor as well. Her child was about 9 or 10 months and had a bout of diarrhea. The child was unconscious and in shock, severely dehydrated. We couldn't find blood vessels to give fluid so I had to find access through the bone and push [in] some fluids. I asked, "When did the child start having diarrhea?" It was less than 24 hours.
The child survived. I left the hospital at 8, and I just went home and changed and came back to work.
You must have still felt like a zombie.
When the child survives you feel happy the whole day.

Monday, December 28, 2015


27th December 2015
  Plan comes into effect next June
Dar es Salaam
A new Dar es Salaam master plan which has just come off the drawing board and is scheduled to be put into effect in June, next year, is likely to see more than 3.6 million Dar es Salaam residents rendered homeless on the ground of encroaching on industrial or residential areas. 

According to the ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, city residents need to brace themselves for massive evictions come next June when the city master  plan comes into effect because only 20 per cent of the residents live in surveyed areas.

A senior ministry official told The Guardian on Sunday that the new master plan would have a lot of changes compared to the previous one which served from 1979 and 1999.

“The lifeline of a city master plan is only 20 years, so the initial city master plan expired in 1999. During the past 16 years Dar es Salaam has been operating without a settlement plan,” the ministry’s Acting Director of Rural and Town Planning, Prof. John Lupala, told this paper recently.

With an estimated population of 4.5 million people, most of them living in squatter or unplanned areas, many houses built in non-surveyed areas or those which have been lined up for other purposes other than residence, will be deemed to have encroached on the areas and therefore liable to demolition.

Prof. Lupala said that most people bought plots for residence by only involving local government authorities without being aware of the central government’s plans for the relevant areas. 

He elaborated that it had taken the ministry more than two years to prepare the new master plan and it would accommodate all developments and changes made in the city.

“We are in the final stages of completing the new master plan which is expected to be rolled out in June, next year,” he said.

The Rural and Town Planning director said that upon expiry of the Dar es Salaam master plan in 1999, the city council came up with a Strategic Urban Development Plan in 2002, but it was not approved by the ministry to be used as a city master plan.

He noted however that even the old master plan had revealed massive encroachment of residential buildings, industrial and commercial structures on areas not earmarked for those purposes.

Dr Lupala pointed out that there had been construction of homes in swampy areas or those close to rivers and the sea shore, in open spaces and even in industrial areas, saying it was in contravention of the old master plan. 

“All the people who built in areas not meant for human settlement and without the go-ahead from the Lands ministry will be deemed as invaders,” he said.

He also pointed out that a number of surveyed areas in Dar es Salaam had also been invaded and developed without following laid down legal procedures, saying from next year the government would provide a copy of the city master plan to all local government offices for execution to avert encroachment of non-surveyed land.

 “People should build the culture of visiting the ministry of Lands to seek advice on the planned use of the plots of land they intend to purchase before they actually by it,” he warned, adding that most local government officials were not conversant with the new city master plan.

The government is acting tough to ensure the old city master plan is adhered to prior to coming into force of the new one. In some areas of the city, permits to construct homes in open spaces and in swampy areas were issued owing to corruption.

A source in the Lands ministry who preferred anonymity, said, “If you take the area of Tabata in Ilala district, a major part of the area was earmarked as a residential settlement for government employees. 

“Tabata Aroma, until now, is for National Social Security Fund (NSSF) employees while Bima had been earmarked for National Insurance Corporation staff, with Magengeni being reserved for NSSF quarters.

“Tabata Sigara, on the other hand, was earmarked for Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara) and Tanzania Cigarette Company staff, whereas Chang’ombe was reserved for VETA and Tanzania Elimu Supplies staff.”

He said the areas had since been invaded by other people because they were left undeveloped for a long time by the assigned government institutions.

According to him, a place such as Mbezi in Kinondoni district had originally been earmarked for industrial purposes, but now most of the land had fallen into the hands of invaders and turned into a residential area, with posh homes dotting its landscape. 

Last week, many Dar es Salaam residents were left homeless after the ministries of Lands and Environment, in collaboration with Kinondoni Municipal Council, demolished hundreds of homes illegally put up in the floods-prone Msimbazi valley. 

The government has declared a moratorium of the demolitions until next month when the exercise is to resume in the valley stretching from Kinondoni municipality to Pugu, where more than 8,000 houses are set to be demolished.

The exercise will also see structures illegally constructed in open spaces or close to water sources or the sea shore in Mwenge, Kinondoni Biafra and Sinza suburbs pulled down.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Climate crunch to dominate Commonwealth summit

The 2015 Commonwealth Summit kicks off on Friday to a grand opening ceremony with Queen Elizabeth, followed by intense working sessions where world leaders will grapple with climate change.

As the clock ticks to a UN climate conference in Paris starting Monday, leaders including France's Francois Hollande, Britain's David Cameron and the UN's Ban Ki-moon will try to open the door to a landmark accord for taming greenhouse gases.

"We look towards Paris and an agreement that will determine the survival of our species and all those who share this precious planet with us," Britain's Prince Charles said in a speech in Malta on Thursday, as leaders arrived on the windswept island from four continents.

"We do not have the right to steal our children and grand-children's inheritance. We do have a responsibility to act now... and I'm sure that the Commonwealth will play a critical and leading part in this endeavour," the heir to the throne said.

Born out of the British empire, the Commonwealth of Nations brings together around a quarter of the world's countries and a third of its population. The 24th biennial summit is expected to focus on the issues of extremism and migration as well as the environment.

Prime ministers attending include Canada's new leader, Justin Trudeau, Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif and Pakalitha Mosisili from Lesotho.

The hope is that by finding common ground in Malta -- among countries which differ enormously in terms of culture, size,  and diplomatic muscle -- the COP21 talks in Paris can break through a logjam of connected and highly contentious issues.

Potential stumbling blocks in Paris abound, ranging from financing for climate-vulnerable countries to scrutiny of commitments to curb greenhouse gases and even the legal status of the planned accord.
The last attempt to get a global climate deal -- at the ill-tempered 2009 Copenhagen summit -- foundered upon divisions between rich and poor nations.

- 'Fervent hope' for a deal -
Hollande, as president of the conference's host country, is expected to make an impassioned plea at the Commonwealth summit later Friday, before diplomatic toils continue on the sidelines of a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth.

The objective in Paris is to forge a post-2020 deal that will prevent global warming from breaching two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial levels.

"It is the fervent hope of countless concerned people around the world that global leaders... agree to an ambitious long-term goal for the rapid reduction of carbon emissions," Charles said, adding that the fate facing humankind should the plan fail "utterly beggars belief".

Countries most at risk -- including low-lying small island states and poor nations in Africa, many of whom are Commonwealth members -- have called for capping warming to 1.5 C, saying anything less would result in catastrophic impacts.

The Commonwealth's Business Forum warned it was not just vulnerable nations that would pay the price of inaction, and companies globally would have to react to survive.
- 'Profound consequences' -

One billion more people are expected on the planet by 2025, sparking a 35-percent increase in global food demand and a 50-percent increase in energy demand, while carbon emissions would have to be cut by six percent to stay within 2.0 degrees, it said.

Prince Charles insisted an accord would mean little if the private sector could not be persuaded to get behind the climate change fight.

The sentiment was echoed by Sherard Cowper-Coles, senior adviser to the chairman of HSBC -- one of the companies brought in to explain the potential financial gains to be made from businesses getting into bed with the green economy.

He said Thursday that what companies needed from the Commonwealth talks and the Paris summit was "a signal that governments believe private finance is absolutely essential".

"There are some in the community who believe it should all be done with public money. If you believe that, you are condemning humanity to a very bleak future."

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Minister for Energy and Minerals, George Simbachawene

The government plans to establish a mineral bank that will, among other things, provide financial support to small-scale miners in the country.

Minister for Energy and Minerals, George Simbachawene, told The Guardian yesterday that the bank will aim to support artisanal miners who lack access to bank loans to enable them become large-scale miners.

He said a number of banks operating in the country were unwilling to support mining sector operations.

“The mineral bank will have experts in the mining sector aware of its demands and nature,” he said, adding that the bank will also help miners secure markets because it will know the market for various minerals.

Speaking on the sidelines of granting contracts to small-scale miners who benefited from government loans through the Tanzania Investment Bank [TIB], the minister said the government was committed to helping small-scale miners.

The bank is to be housed in the yet to be built Arusha-based Madini House

The building site and plan are already in place, with the construction designed to allow choppers to land on its rooftop to enhance security to mineral traders.

Madini House will also accommodate government agencies including Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).
Tanzania has approximately four million miners with only 1500 to 1700 of them in the mainstream mining activities, thus the need to have plans to assist the remaining  group.

Establishment of the bank is the government’s response to an earlier appeal from the Federation of Miners Association of Tanzania (FEMATA) for the state to help in the establishment of the bank and construction of the house.

The bank to be established, according t the minister, will also help regulate the prices of precious resources.

FEMATA President John Bina said here that Tanzania should borrow a leaf from countries such as Ghana and China who had such facilities.

Earlier, the miners had asked the government to allow them to have an annual mineral celebration, such a a Mineral Week or Day.

Mid this week, some 111 artisanal miners, through the Multi-Stakeholder Partnership Initiative (MSPI) launched last year by the government and the World Bank Group (WBG), received Sh7.2bn support from a local bank, Tanzania Investment Bank (TIB), to support mining-related activities countrywide.



Hitch caused by `poor`construction material

Part of the rooftop of Terminal-III building, which is still under construction at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar  es Salaam, crumpled last week, posing a security threat to the workers on site.

It was the first incident of its kind since the two-phased project kicked off in January, last year, but Director General of the Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA), Eng. Suleiman Suleiman, described it as “too minor to deserve public attention.”

However, he has reportedly given the contractor, Bam International Construction Company, a two-week ultimatum to release a report over the 6-metre affected area, amid fears that the crash might entirely destroy the 75,000 square-metre terminal structure.

Pending results from a probe team while the non-affected portion has already been inspected by a team of engineers as required by the terms of contract, Engineer Suleiman suspected faulty bolts as the cause of the collapse, noting that the detected hitches would be communicated back to the manufacturers and suppliers.

“Usually, samples from all imported building materials are tested to ensure they are up to required standards. It might be that the failed bolts were not tested since not all materials are taken to the testing site,” he said.

“It is up to the contractors to take appropriate measures against the manufacturers and suppliers of the substandard construction material.

What we need is the handover of a perfectly accomplished project according to the terms of the contract,” said the TAA chief in response to a question as to what would happen if the construction materials were of poor quality.

“That’s why the contractor is paid only after completion of the project and with the approval of construction experts,” he noted, adding that the terms also required the contractor to remain in the country a year after handing over the project.

The Guardian on Sunday had responded to a tip-off by a concerned worker who, like others, feared for his life following the collapse in a situation they alleged was short of social security as they even had no insurance cover.

But it was later established that Bam had adhered to all basic safety standards, including provision of safety gear, and placement of instruction banners across the site.  

“They don’t have to be worried for their safety. The working environment is safe, information well-communicated and the situation closely monitored,” said the TAA boss, while pointing at a temporary Safety Unit building and a stand-by ambulance at the site.

Bam officials declined to comment as they directed the reporter to TAA for any information.

Terminal 3, a 75,000-square-metre complex five times bigger than Terminal-2, will be served by 40 counters, equipped with 18 air bridges and designed to dock gigantic A380 Airbus planes.

Completion of the ambitious project will see JNIA playing the role of Tanzania’s main international gateway as passenger annual turn out will be increased to 6 million. 

The construction of Terminal 3 is done in two phases including the Sh293bn phase one scheduled for completion in 2016 to handle 3.5 million passengers annually, and the Sh225bn phase two scheduled to accommodate 2.5 million travelers on its completion in 2017. 

The project is in place thanks to the Dutch-government guaranteed loan from HSBC Bank through Export Credit Agency and 15 per cent financial involvement from the local CRDB Bank.


Saturday, October 10, 2015


Tanzania charges Chinese 'Ivory Queen' smuggling suspect

A customs officer arranges confiscated elephant tusks before a news conference at the Port Authority of Thailand in Bangkok
View photo
A customs officer arranges confiscated elephant tusks before a news conference at the Port Authority …
By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - A Tanzanian court has charged a prominent Chinese businesswoman, dubbed the 'Ivory Queen', with running a criminal network responsible for smuggling tusks from more than 350 elephants, court documents seen by Reuters on Friday showed.

Yang Feng Glan, 66, was accused in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, this week of smuggling 706 pieces of ivory between 2000 and 2004 worth 5.44 billion Tanzanian shillings ($2.51 million).

Glan, a Swahili-speaker who has been in the east African nation since the 1970s, is secretary-general of the Tanzania China-Africa Business Council and owns a popular Chinese restaurant in Dar es Salaam, according to police sources.

Reuters was unable to reach the lawyer for Glan who was not allowed to enter a plea until the case resumes.

She is being held at the city's Segerea maximum security prison until an Oct. 12 bail hearing. If convicted, she could face more than 20 years in jail.

In the court documents, prosecutors said Glan "intentionally did organise, manage and finance a criminal racket by collecting, transporting or exporting and selling government trophies" weighing a total of 1.889 tonnes.

The East African nation's elephant population shrank from 110,000 in 2009 to a little over 43,000 in 2014, according to a census released in June, with conservation groups blaming "industrial-scale" poaching.

Demand for ivory from fast-growing Asian economies such as China and Vietnam, where it is turned into jewels and ornaments, has led to a spike in poaching across Africa. Conservation of African big game has also been in the international spotlight in last few months since the killing of famed Zimbabwean lion Cecil by an American dentist.

China, the world's biggest consumer of elephant tusks, announced in February a one-year ban on the import of African ivory carvings, but conservationists say corruption is fuelling poaching in Tanzania.

The Elephant Action League, a U.S.-based conservation group, said it believed Glan to be "the most notorious ivory trafficker brought to task so far".

"It's the news that we all have been waiting for, for years," Elephant Action League founder Andrea Crosta said in a statement.

"Finally, a high profile Chinese trafficker is in jail. Hopefully she can lead us to other major traffickers and corrupt government officials. We must put an end to the time of the untouchables if we want to save the elephant."

($1 = 2,167 Tanzanian shillings)
(Editing by George Obulutsa, Ed Cropley, Anna Willard)

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Scientists: Major coral bleaching crisis spreads worldwide

Associated Press
This photo provided by the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, taken in December 2014, shows coral before bleaching in American Samoa. The first image was taken when the XL Catlin Seaview Survey responded to a NOAA coral bleaching alert. Devastating bleaching of colorful coral is spreading into a rare worldwide crisis, scientists announced, predicting it will likely get worse. Triggered by global warming and the El Nino, record hot ocean water is causing the fragile coral to go white and often die, threatening picturesque reefs that are hotspots of marine life, experts say. (XL Catlin Seaview Survey via AP)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The bleaching of colorful coral is spreading into a worldwide, devastating crisis, scientists say, and they predict it will likely get worse.

Triggered by global warming and the El Nino, record hot ocean water is causing fragile coral to go white and often die, threatening picturesque reefs that are hotspots of marine life, experts say.

The spread of sickly white started more than a year ago in Guam, then devastated Hawaii, infected the rest of the tropical Pacific and the Indian oceans and has now infested Florida and the Caribbean. On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international reef scientists pronounced it a global coral bleaching event, only the third in recorded history.

No place with coral has been spared, though some regions — such as Hawaii — have been hit harder than others, experts said. Excessive heat stresses the living coral, which turns white and then becomes vulnerable to disease.

"We may be looking at losing somewhere in the range of 10 to 20 percent of the coral reefs this year," NOAA coral reef watch coordinator Mark Eakin said. "The bad news for the U.S. is we're getting hit disproportionately just because of the pattern of the warming."

He called bleaching a crisis, especially with worsening global warming forecast for the rest of the century: "If that's not a crisis, what is?"

Eakin said he's especially concerned about Hawaii, which already suffered through bad bleaching in 2014.

"Hawaii is getting hit with the worst coral bleaching they have ever seen, right now," Eakin said. "It's severe. It's extensive. And it's on all the islands."

In one part of northwestern Hawaii, "the reef just completely bleached and all of the coral is dead and covered with scuzzy algae."
Florida started getting hit in August. The middle Florida Keys aren't too bad, but in southeast Florida, bleaching has combined with disease to kill corals, Eakin said. It has also hit Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic and is about to hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, he said.

Warm water causes bleaching and ocean temperatures are at record high levels, partly because of steady manmade global warming and partly because of the El Nino, which is an occasional warming of the central Pacific that changes weather worldwide, Eakin said. Add to that Hawaii's "blob," a pool of warm water that has stagnated in the northeast Pacific.

The last super El Nino, in 1997-1998, was the first global bleaching event. A smaller El Nino in 2009-2010 was the second.

So far the 1998 bleaching was worse, but that was the second year of an El Nino and we're in the first of two years now, Eakin said.

Oceans worldwide are by far the warmest on record — August 2015 was four-tenths of a degree warmer than in August 1998. Next year, he said, may be as bad as this year or even worse.

NOAA produced forecasts of bleaching that show it as a giant red blob moving across the globe again. And what worries marine ecologist Gregor Hodgson, who heads the group ReefCheck, is the forecast that the blob will hit the Great Barrier Reef in Australia next spring.

The computer model forecasts "this horrendous dramatic" impact on the Great Barrier Reef, Hodgson said. "It's truly terrifying."

This isn't just a problem for divers and fish; coral reefs are crucial globally, Eakin said. Coral reefs protect shorelines, produce tourism dollars and help provide food for 500 million people around the world, he said.

Even though coral reefs are one-tenth of 1 percent of the ocean floor by area, they are home to 25 percent of the world's fish species, Eakin said.

"You kill coral, you destroy reefs, you don't have a place for the fish to live," Eakin said.