Best efforts in Africa

Two weeks ago, we shared the news that Liberia, which had been the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, was on its way to being declared Ebola-free, after having gone weeks with no new cases.

Friday, the Associated Press reported the bad news that a new case had been confirmed. Even more worrisome is the fact that officials aren’t sure how the woman contracted the deadly virus, so they don’t know if there are more cases lurking out there they don’t know about.

Still, given that this is the first – and so far, only – new case reported since late February in an outbreak that has killed more than 10,000 people in the region, it is clear that the fight in Liberia is nearly over.

But that is not anywhere near the case in Guinea.

Reuters reports that Guinea is now the main hub for Ebola transmission, having taken the dubious honor from Sierra Leone.

The number of Ebola cases in Guinea has doubled from a month ago:

“Dr. Rafiou Diallo, a spokesman for Guinea's health ministry, said there were 91 suspected and confirmed Ebola patients in treatment centers compared with just 39 in February,” Reuters said. The number of cases in Guinea hit its peak in December with 171.

So why is Liberia nearly Ebola free and Guinea still struggling?

Officials say there is still resistance to Ebola-fighting efforts, such as safe burial practices. In other countries, especially Liberia, officials said education – explaining how the virus is spread and how control efforts can stop the spread – lowered resistance dramatically to the point that people where happy, for example, to be tested at roadside monitoring stations. And when groups worked to find ways to accommodate traditional burial customs within safe burial practices, people were more willing to let go of the truly unsafe practices.

Inside a refugee camp

TakePart has a behind-the-scenes look at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where the International Rescue Committee serves more than 150,000 displaced people from South Sudan, Somalia and Uganda:

Children fleeing violence from South Sudan’s civil war often arrive malnourished at the Nadapal outpost situated between the two countries’ borders, in need of immunizations and dietary supplements. Unstable conditions due to the neighboring war turn a trip to the outpost into a dangerous mission, with medical staff accompanied by an armed convoy for the three-hour drive each day.

The 12-minute video dramatically shows how harsh conditions in the camp are due to the unbearable heat when the reporter passes out and is confined to bed rest for heat stroke. The nurse she was interviewing, meanwhile, continues her 12-hour shift providing care.

Much of the video focuses on the anti HIV/AIDS efforts in the camp and with the local nomadic tribal people who live nearby. When efforts with the locals failed, IRC staffers empowered HIV-positive tribal members to conduct the education efforts, which have fared much better.

Drip, drip, drip

In Tanzania, the issue is water – or a lack thereof.

Two years into a severe drought, farmers are struggling to bring in enough crops to even feed their family, let alone have enough to sell.

And as climate change affects the ecosystem, the end of the drought is uncertain, making the old methods of irrigation unsustainable.

But Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that by investing in smarter irrigation, crops and their farmers can not only survive, but do it without wasting precious water:

Under a five-year-project supported by Catholic Relief Services, a global development agency, farmers in Kikavu Chini village are being trained to use drip Irrigation and other water management techniques as a coping strategy for drought.

Drip irrigation is well known in areas like California’s Napa Valley, where high-end wineries use it to deliver precise amounts of water to their pampered grapevines. In Tanzania, the same method delivers water directly to thirsty plants – depositing only what is needed and losing little or none to evaporation.

Farmers using the systems say they’ve cut water use by 75 percent, the story says.

The technology has huge potential in Tanzania, the story says, but it also requires a large investment. The government, however, is spending up to $400 million in these efforts, and in a new initiative is letting farmers expand their operations onto government land if they use sustainable irrigation practices.

Remember, links, tips and accounts of the response to any crisis anywhere in the world are always welcome at dstockman@ncronline.org.

[Dan Stockman is national correspondent for Global Sisters Report. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.]

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