UN University Mourns Prof. Alexander A. Kwapong, Former Vice Rector

Accra – August 19,  2014 – The United Nations University –Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) received with deep sorrow, the sudden passing away of the Former Vice Rector of the United Nations University (UNU), Prof. Alexander Adum Kwapong who was very instrumental in the establishment of UNU-INRA as the first UNU Institute in Africa.

Prof Alexander A. Kwapong

Prof Alexander A. Kwapong

As the Vice-Rector for Institutional Planning and Resource Development for UNU from 1976 to 1988, Prof. Kwapong worked closely with the first Rector, James H. Hester, to lay the foundations necessary for UNU as both a university and a part of the United Nations system, and to attract funding for the University.

Prof. Kwapong played an active role in the founding of the first UNU institute — the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER).

Continue reading

UNAIDS Executive Director arrives in Ghana on Wednesday

Accra, 18 August 2014 - The Executive Director of United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and UN Under-Secretary-General, Michel Sidibé, arrives in Ghana on Wednesday, 20th August 2014 for a two-day visit.

Mr. Michel Sidibé

Mr. Michel Sidibé

During his visit, Mr. Sidibé will meet with His Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, at the Flagstaff House to discuss and strategize ahead of the September 2014 UN General Assembly meeting on the emerging consensus around ending the HIV epidemic by 2013, the UNAIDS/Lancet Commission report and the side event at the UN general Assembly meeting in which H.E. the President will be playing a lead role. He will also engage in high-level interactions with the First Lady and will make a courtesy call on Ghana AIDS Commission to be briefed on progress in the national AIDS response.

Read more in the press release issued by UNAIDS


UNIC Accra Marks International Youth Day with a Forum

Accra, 13 August, 2014 - The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Accra in collaboration with the Accra Psychiatric Hospital (APH) and the Coalition of NGOs in Ghana Associated with UN-DPI (CUNANGOs) marked this year’s International Youth Day (IYD) with a youth forum under the theme “Youth & Mental Health”. The event brought together about 100 youth, students and health professionals from the APH.

Cross section of participants at the IYD event

Cross section of participants at the IYD event

The youth forum was aimed at creating awareness on mental illness and the impact of stigmatization of people with mental illness.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Adjoa Pinaman Appau, Deputy Medical Director at the APH, stated that the hospital is very much concerned at the increasing rate of mental illness among the Ghanaian youth which she attributed mainly to the use of of drugs such as alcohol and cannabis (locally called “wee”). Deterring the youth from experimenting with hard drugs, Dr. Appau mentioned that 70% of hard drugs users die before they turn 60 years of age. She advised the youth to take their mental health care seriously and maintain a good lifestyle for a brighter future.

Dr. Lily Kpobi addressing the participants

Dr. Lily Kpobi addressing the participants

Discussing the negative effects of stigmatization against patients of mental illness, Dr. Lily Kpobi, a Clinical Psychologist, and Lecturer at the University of Ghana stated that “stigmatization can negatively prolong the duration of curing a mentally ill person”. She noted that mental illness can be treated and managed, giving the patient a chance to live long and have a healthy life, adding that “mental illness by itself does not kill the patient”.

Answering a question from Emmanuel Yali, a participants at the youth forum, on chaining as a method of restraining people with mental illness, Dr. Kpobi said the action is inhumane and an infringement on the rights of the supposed patient. She advised caregivers and the general public to refrain from such practices.

Mr. Nsiah Anyetei, Director of Nursing at the APH took participants through some simple steps to calm people with aggressive tendencies without injuring themselves or the patient.

At the end of the forum, participants were taken on a tour of the hospital to familiarize themselves with the operations of the facility and what persons with mental illness go through.

Prior to this forum, UNIC Accra was engaged in number of media discussions to throw light on the essence of this year’s commemoration of International Youth Day.

UN Secretary-General appoints UN system Coordinator for Ebola

Accra, 12 August, 2014 – The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon is urging the international community to respond urgently to the shortage of doctors, nurses and equipment, including protective clothing and isolation tents to help curtail the further spread of the Ebola virus.

At a press briefing in New York today, the UN Secretary-General said three steps are essentially urgent to bring an end to the outbreak in West Africa.

First, addressing the severe lack of capacity in the most severely affected countries is crucial. Second, a coordinated international response is essential and the UN system will further strengthen the way it is dealing with the outbreak. Third, avoiding panic and fear can go a long way to successfully bring the disease under control like it was previously in other African countries.

According to the UN Secretary-General, Ebola can be prevented. “With resources, knowledge, early action and will, people can survive the disease” he noted.

He said Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have only recently returned to political stability following years of conflict that destroyed or disabled their health systems and therefore they require the assistance control the spread of the disease.

The UN Secretary-General, in close coordination with Dr. Margaret Chan of WHO, has designated Dr. David Nabarro as Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola Virus Disease. Dr. Nabarro will be responsible for ensuring that the United Nations system makes an effective and coordinated contribution to the global effort to control the outbreak of Ebola.

The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a public health emergency of international concern announcing today that the death toll has surpassed 1,000.

UN officials brief African journalists on climate summit 2014

Accra, 4 August, 2014 – Journalists from Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Nigeria have participated in an hour long online press briefing to discuss Climate Change and the upcoming UN Climate Summit in New York.  The summit is being convened by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon to mobilize action ahead of 2015 when countries hope to make strong global commitment and to increase political will for greater action and ambition.

Ghanaian journalists at the press briefing in Accra

Ghanaian journalists at the press briefing in Accra

The press briefing for the eight Ghanaian journalists, representing five media houses, was facilitated by the United Nations Information Centre in Accra through the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, both in New York.  The UN officials who addressed the gathering were Dan Thomas, Senior Communications Officer for the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Team, and Dan Shepard, Public Information Officer at the UN DPI.  They explained the essence of the summit and what journalists in Africa could do to create awareness on the impact of climate change. They mentioned occurrences such as unexpected rainfall and sea level rise as good talking points to open a public dialogue on climate change impact.

According to Dan Thomas, “Climate Change is not only about environment, it is also about economic and social issues”. Adding that “By asking the right questions and reporting on the common man, [journalists] can build support for climate change actions.”

Cross section of the journalists

Cross section of the journalists

New to the September 23rd climate summit in New York is that businesses are now a key constituency, and public-private partnerships are promoted as a key mechanism to mitigation and adaptation efforts. “It is a very important issue to many business owners. Many are realizing that the effects of climate change will determine their future profitability. By large, businesses see an interest in combating climate change” Mr. Thomas said.

Africa is expected to be the continent most affected by climate change. “The average temperature is rising faster in Africa than elsewhere. Issues such as water scarcity are going to become more acute and dry areas will continue to become dry.” Mr. Shepard stated.  In terms of transposing climate friendly policies, Africa is considered well-positioned to leapfrog by making use of available green technologies and clean production practices in their development practices.

“This is building up to become a very significant moment in history” Mr. Thomas remarked when addressing a question on the expected outcomes of the summit. The track records for previous international efforts to combat climate change are considered to be far from successful, given the discrepancy between the actions already taken and the extent of action that is desired by the scientific and business community, but Mr. Thomas said that a recent shift in momentum can be identified; “There is a new sense of leadership. The US president has publically announced his intention to attend, and this, among other things, sends an important signal to the international community that climate change is to be taken seriously.”

“Briefings like this help us to keep updated” Edmund Smith-Asante, journalist at Ghanaian newspaper Daily Graphic remarked after the briefing. “It helps us to know what happens in our country and continent, and sometimes it is good to know about the perception of our country from outside.” he added.

WHO Director-General, West African presidents to launch intensified Ebola outbreak response plan

GENEVA/CONAKRY, 31 July 2014 - The Director-General of WHO and presidents of west African nations impacted by the Ebola virus disease outbreak are meeting today in Guinea to launch a new joint US$ 100 million response plan as part of an intensified international, regional and national campaign to bring the outbreak under control.

“The scale of the Ebola outbreak, and the persistent threat it poses, requires WHO and Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to take the response to a new level, and this will require increased resources, in-country medical expertise, regional preparedness and coordination,” says Dr Chan. “The countries have identified what they need, and WHO is reaching out to the international community to drive the response plan forward.”

The Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan in West Africa identifies the need for several hundred more personnel to be deployed in affected countries to supplement overstretched treatment facilities. Hundreds of international aid workers, as well as 120-plus WHO staff, are already supporting national and regional response efforts. But more are urgently required. Of greatest need are clinical doctors and nurses, epidemiologists, social mobilization experts, logisticians and data managers. The plan also outlines the need to increase preparedness systems in neighbouring nations and strengthen global capacities.

Key elements of the new plan, which draws on lessons learnt from other outbreaks, include strategies to:

  • stop transmission of Ebola virus disease in the affected countries through scaling up effective, evidence-based outbreak control measures; and
  • prevent the spread of Ebola virus disease to the neighbouring at-risk countries through strengthening epidemic preparedness and response measures.

WHO and affected and neighbouring countries will renew efforts to mobilize communities and strengthen communication so that people know how to avoid infection and what to do if they fear they may have come into contact with the virus.

Improving prevention, detecting and reporting suspected cases, referring people infected with the disease for medical care, as well as psychosocial support, are key. The plan also emphasizes the importance of surveillance, particularly in border areas, of risk assessments and of laboratory-based diagnostic testing of suspected cases. Also highlighted is the need to improve ways to protect health workers, a scarce resource in all three countries, from infection.

Finally, reinforcing coordination of the overall health response is critical. In particular, this includes strengthening capacities of the WHO-run Sub-regional Outbreak Coordination Centre, which was opened this month in Conakry, Guinea, to consolidate and streamline support to West African countries by all major partners and assist in resource mobilization.

The scale of the ongoing outbreak is unprecedented, with approximately 1323 confirmed and suspected cases reported, and 729 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March 2014.

UNIC Accra kicks start UN Books on Wheels project

Accra, 29 July, 2014 – UNIC Accra has began distributing books to selected public and private universities across the country as an initial drive towards the launch of a new project known as UN Books on Wheel. The project aims at providing higher institutions of learning in Ghana with up-to-date UN publications and materials – targeting students in all fields of study – and increase awareness about the UN’s research capacities. The project, to benefit some nine universities will be launched in September this year.  Under the project, beneficiary institutions are expected to establish UN corners in their libraries and UNIC Accra will stock these corners with publications and materials about and on the United Nations. The institutions include Wisconsin International University College, Ghana, University for Development Studies (UDS), Ghana Armed Forces Command Staff College, Ghana Institute of Journalism, Knutsford University College, Institute of Local Government Studies, Ghana Technology University College, University of Professional Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

UNIC Accra NIO presenting some publications Mr David Newton, Director of GIJ

UNIC Accra NIO presenting some publications Mr David Newton, Director of GIJ

A selection of publications has been handed over to University for Development Studies (UDS), Knutsford University College and Ghana Institute of Journalism. All the institutions expressed their appreciation to UNIC for being proactive by reaching out to users of UN publications and knowledge.

“We want to support activities that create an appetite for knowledge. Reaching out to the people that you work for is very important, and I appreciate that you have chosen UDS to be a part of this project:” Micheal A. Ansa, Head of the UDS Accra office, told UNIC Accra colleagues.

In addition to a vast selection of publications that are subsequently going to be delivered to the partnering institutions, specially designed UN posters with famous quotes and fun facts will be added to the institutions’ material base. “We want to create an inviting atmosphere in the libraries’ UN section so that students feel more compelled to take part of our rich and qualitative literature” UNIC Accra’s National Information Officer, Cynthia Prah stated.

WHO opens regional Ebola response centre

Accra, 18 July 2014 - Two weeks following the Accra emergency ministerial meeting of African Health Ministers on Ebola, WHO has activated a Sub-regional Outbreak Coordination Centre in Conakry, Guinea. This is a first step towards the implementation of the inter-country strategic plan developed at the conference to curb the disease. The Centre will act as a coordinating platform to consolidate and harmonize the technical support to West African countries by all major partners and to assist in resource mobilization. Read more…

Nelson Mandela International Day 2014: The year without Madiba

Accra, 17 July 2014 –  For the fifth consecutive year on the 18th of July – the day Nelson Mandela was born –the United Nations supports a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of our time to help others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day. This year, the world commemorates the Day for the first time without this world icon, who promoted the use of time for the good of humanity when he said “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”.

Mandela raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall in June 1990

Mandela raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall in June 1990

It has been seven months since Madiba, one of the greatest leaders in modern history, bowed out of this world stage of despair, opportunities, challenges, hope and possibilities. But it feels like just yesterday when the world, through the eyes of the media, besieged the residence of Nelson Mandela in South Africa, to hear and see the breaking story of his passing.

As the world keeps celebrating his life, it is only appropriate, and justifiably so, that we reflect on his perspective of time to also use our time wisely for the good of humanity. Mandela devoted 67 years of his life to the service of humanity – as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.  He founded the “rainbow nation” out of the ruins of a deeply segregated apartheid society that many considered to be on the verge of civil war at the time. Through the spirit of reconciliation, guided by peace rather than vengeance, with visions of an inclusive future rather than retrospective resentment, Nelson Mandela touched not only the hearts of his country men and women, but people from all corners of the earth.

Continue reading

Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partners launch new report and call for renewed commitment from health & development community

New York, 10 July 2014 -  A new report highlighting the impact of malaria interventions on maternal, newborn and child health was launched today alongside the annual High-Level Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in New York.

A press release issued by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership states that intermittent preventive malaria treatment during pregnancy and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs) can reduce the risk of death to malaria within the first 28 days of life by 18%.

Read the full press release here.