The Ghana Black Stars Captain Visits Malawi to Re-invigorate Advocacy on HIV Prevention through the Protect the Goal Campaign

Signing of the Ghana Protect the Goal PLEDGE by H.E. President John Mahama (middle) & Black Stars Captain Asamoah Gyan (right)

Signing of the Ghana Protect the Goal PLEDGE by H.E. President John Mahama (middle) & Black Stars Captain Asamoah Gyan (right)

Accra, August 30, 2014 - The Captain of the Ghanaian national football team, Asamoah Gyan, is currently in Malawi to support the country’s invigoration of the global ‘Protect the Goal’ campaign, which was launched in Malawi last year. The three-day visit includes various activities and events organized to highlight the importance of harnessing the power of football to raise awareness of HIV particularly amongst the youth. The Malawian President, H.E. Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika’ is expected to sign the ‘Global Ball’, reaffirming his PLEDGE to HIV prevention. Fifteen other African Heads of State, including President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, have so far signed the ‘Global Ball’ which has now arrived in Malawi.

Read more in the press release issued by UNAIDS.

INTERVIEW: UN System Coordinator on Ebola dispels myths, pledges support for West Africa’s efforts to halt outbreak

20 August 2014 – As the World Health Organization (WHO) ramps up its response to the unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in West Africa, the wider United Nations, led by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has launched a system-wide coordination initiative to assist Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone in their efforts to halt the spread of the virus, which has left more than 1,000 people dead and is now affecting more than 1 million people throughout the region.

The Organization’s efforts got a major boost with the appointment of Dr. David Nabarro, British physician and public health expert, as Senior UN System Coordinator for Ebola, in support of the work done by WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan and her team to counter the outbreak of the virus.

Speaking to the UN News Centre before heading out on his first mission to West Africa, Dr. Nabarro, tasked with ensuring that the UN system makes an effective, coordinated contribution to the global effort to control the outbreak, touched on some critical issues – strengthening the health sectors in the affected countries, ensuring protection for frontline health workers, and tackling fear and stigma associated with Ebola – that the region’s Governments, with the support of the United Nations family, will be grappling with in the coming days and weeks.

Please read the full interview transcript or listen to his press briefing which was held on August 19.

Five UN Agencies to Help Ghana Green its Economy

Accra, 20 August 2014 – The United Nations, in partnership with the Government of Ghana, has launched an initiative to support national efforts to transition to a greener and more inclusive economy. Known as the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), the initiative would entail mobilizing social awareness and providing specialized training to identifying critical bottlenecks, formulating and assessing policy options, and enabling policy implementation for greening the economy.

Cross section of participants at the launch of PAGE

Cross section of participants at the launch of PAGE

The initiative was officially launched on 14 August 2014 at a national workshop in Accra. During the event, over 80 participants from the government, private sector, academia and civil society discussed the scope of actions that PAGE can carry out in Ghana to assist national efforts towards a green economy.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Trade, Kweku Ricketts-Hagan, said the key aim for a transition to a green economy is to promote economic growth and investment, while increasing environmental quality and social inclusiveness, and these will in turn lead to sustainable development. All speakers underlined the fact that the PAGE initiative comes at an opportune time for Ghana.

partners of PAGE at the launch

Ms Welch (5th from left) with other partners of PAGE

Ms. Gita Welch, UNDP RR a.i., welcomed the initiative, which consolidates five UN agencies – namely the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) – and closely coordinates with the entire UN Country Team through the UN Resident Coordinator system, as a milestone on the path of making Delivering as One a reality in Ghana.

The PAGE initiative in Ghana is in response to a request from the government.  It will operate within the framework of existing policies, such as Ghana’s medium term (2014–2017) development strategy and the National Climate Change Policy, and will build on existing work, such as the UNDP-UNEP Green Economy scoping study and assessment of Ghana. Consultations with representatives of the government, the private sector, academia and international development partners have identified critical areas where PAGE can deliver, including enabling conditions for sustainable economic growth with an emphasis on industrialization and the modernization of agriculture, as well as job creation.

The PAGE partners will contribute to the evidence-based selection of priority areas for the implementation of concrete green economy actions in Ghana, and will promote green industry, trade and jobs, as well as institutional capacity-building on the green economy through training-needs assessment and delivery.

UNIC Accra past intern Magnus Berg

“I will deeply miss both Ghana and UNIC. Once again, this has been an experience I would not want to trade for anything. I know that I will come back, and I know that I will meet my colleagues again. That is the reason why I am still smiling, even on my last day.” Click on Magnus to read more about his internship experience at UNIC Accra.
Magnus Berg

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).

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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.