Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio visited a youth skills training programme targeting about 1,540 young people learning road construction at the Bandajuma-Liberia border road project funded by the European Union, EU.
He thanked partners for this possible, among them, the EU Ambassador, Tom Vens, the head of National Authorising Office, Ambrose James, the National Youth Commissioner, Ngolo Katta and the construction company, CSE, for engaging able-bodied young men and women in the Pujehun District, southern Sierra Leone.
At Malema 2, en route to Jendema, President Bio addressed the youth and challenged them to form a ready workforce to work on future road construction projects in the country, adding: “Ours is a human capital development government. Therefore, people should be at the center of everything that we do”.
Commissioner Katta said the project would continue to help the young people with various skills in road construction, including welding, masonry, carpentry, steel bending, heavy-duty machine operators. He emphasised that the project separately targeted those community youths with no qualification and graduate youths who required hands-on training as engineers.
He added that most importantly, the project also provides stipends to keep them right through the training period and thanked all partners, including the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education, Sierra Leone Roads Authority, Sierra Leone Institute of Engineers, Sierra Leone Local Content Agency and the National Council for Technical Vocational and other Academic Awards.
The EU Ambassador expressed excitement at progress on the Bandajuma to Liberia road project, adding that about 80% of the 100-kilometer highway was already completed.
He remarked: “What a difference for Sierra Leone and the people along the 4,500-kilometre Trans-West African Coastal Highway from Nouakchott to Lagos”, a transnational highway project to link 12 West African coastal nations, from Mauritania in the north-west of the region to Nigeria in the east, with feeder roads already existing to two landlocked countries, Mali and Burkina Faso.
Four people have died of Ebola in Guinea in the first resurgence of the disease in five years, the country’s health minister said Saturday.
Remy Lamah told AFP that officials were “really concerned” about the deaths, the first since a 2013-16 epidemic — which began in Guinea — left 11,300 dead across the region.
One of the latest victims in Guinea was a nurse who fell ill in late January and was buried on 1 February, National Health Security Agency head Sakoba Keita told local media. “Among those who took part in the burial, eight people showed symptoms: diarrhoea, vomiting and bleeding,” he said. “Three of them died and four others are in hospital.”
The four deaths from Ebola hemorrhagic fever occurred in the south-east region of Nzerekore, he said.
The four deaths from Ebola hemorrhagic fever occurred in the southeast region of Nzerekore, he said.
Keita also told local media that one patient had “escaped” but had been found and hospitalized in the capital, Conakry. He confirmed the comments to AFP without giving further detail.
The World Health Organization has eyed each new outbreak since 2016 with great concern, treating the most recent one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as an international health emergency.
The epidemic, which began with the death of a two-year-old boy, was part of a larger Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa which spread through Guinea and the neighboring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone, with minor outbreaks occurring in Senegal, Nigeria, and Mali. In December 2015, Guinea was declared free of Ebola transmission by the U.N. World Health Organization, however further cases continued to be reported from March 2016. The country was again declared as Ebola-free in June 2016.
Liberian President George Weah took a major step to bring justice for atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil wars by endorsing a war crimes court, 10 Liberian and international groups said.T
legislature should promptly establish a court in line with international human rights standards, drawing on relevant international support and expertise. President Weah, in a letter to the legislature dated September 12, 2019, wrote: “I … do hereby call on the National Legislature to advise and provide guidance on all legislative and other necessary measures towards the implementation of the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] report, including the establishment of the Economic and War Crimes Court.”
“President Weah’s support for a war crimes court is an important step for victims and for helping to ensure the violence that brought so much pain and loss to Liberia will not happen again,” said Adama Dempster at CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia and the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia. “This decision benefits the victims, the country, and the rule of law in Liberia.”
During Liberia’s armed conflicts from 1989-96 and 1999-2003, Liberians suffered widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law such as mass killings, rape and other forms of sexual violence, summary executions, mutilation and torture, and use of child combatants.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which operated between 2006 and 2009, recommended creating a war crimes court – the Extraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia – to try those responsible for grave crimes committed. Many of the TRC’s recommendations, including for the war crimes court, have never been carried out.
The few cases involving civil wars-era crimes have all occurred outside Liberia before United States and European courts. Authorities have been pursuing cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows national courts to try international crimes committed abroad, as well as for crimes related to immigration, such as lying on immigration forms.
“In the past few years we have made significant progress in cases abroad to try alleged perpetrators of Liberia’s wartime crimes,” said Hassan Bility at Global Justice and Research Project and the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia. “But our people should have the chance to see justice at home. Liberia should work with the United Nations and other international partners to set up a court that can hold fair, credible trials.”
Liberians have held marches to campaign for a war crimes court, and petitioned the legislature to carry out the commission’s recommendations. Liberian, African, and international nongovernmental organizations have come together to campaign for justicein Liberia. In May several of the groups released a video appeal for the court, with statements from people of varied backgrounds who took part in a national conference on accountability in Monrovia in November.
The Liberian Bar Association added its support for a war crimes court in April. The Traditional Chiefs Council backed a war crimes court in early September. On September 6, the National Economic Dialogue, attended by 350 Liberians, including members of the government, political parties, youth, and civil society, recommended establishing the court.
In July, lawmakers attended a legislative conference on accountability organized by local and international groups. The joint committee of Liberia’s House of Representatives then put forward a resolution backing the court, which was immediately endorsed by nine lawmakers.
The groups urged the legislature to move ahead with a law to establish the court and request assistance from Liberia’s international partners in the effort, particularly the United Nations, as well as the European Union, African Union, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden. There should also be greater involvement from nongovernmental organizations with expertise in war crimes courts.
Governments and international organizations have supported war crimes courts and developed expertise in recent decades in addressing challenges that often arise with them. Such expertise includes protection and support for witnesses and victims, security for judges and staff, assuring fair legal process, and educating the local population about the court.
“All eyes now turn to our national legislature,” said Aaron Weah at Search for Common Ground-Liberia and the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia. “Some victims have been waiting more than two decades. The legislature should move ahead to establish the court without delay.”
The groups issuing this news release are: Advocates for Human Rights, Center for Justice and Accountability, Centre for Civil and Political Rights, CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, Global Justice and Research Project, Human Rights Watch, Liberia Massacre Survivor Association, Search for Common Ground-Liberia, Transitional Justice Working Group, and the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia.
Liberian citizens called on President George Weah in a video released today by an array of local and international groups to support a war crimes court to bring justice for atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil wars.
On May 15, 2019, Liberia’s Independent National Human Rights Commission will hold a conference to assess progress on the recommendations made by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which operated between 2006 and 2009, recommended creating a war crimes court – theExtraordinary Criminal Court for Liberia – to try those responsible for grave crimes committed during Liberia’s armed conflicts from 1986-96 and 1999-2003. That recommendation has never been carried out, and no one implicated in abuses has been prosecuted in Liberian courts.
“This video is an emotional appeal from Liberians for President Weah to back a war crimes court,” said Adama Dempster, on behalf of the Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia. “We hope that President Weah watches the video and acts in the interests of justice for the citizens of Liberia who are crying out for justice to be served.”
During the civil wars, Liberians suffered widespread violations of international human rights and humanitarian law such as mass killings, rape, and other forms of sexual violence, summary executions, mutilation and torture, and use of child combatants. Liberia is obligated under international law to ensure that serious abuses are investigated and that those responsible are appropriately brought to justice.
The video includes 10 people of varied backgrounds who took part in a national conference on accountability in Monrovia in November. They explain why a special court is needed and ask for Weah’s support
“We beg you that the war crimes court come to Liberia.” “Without justice and accountability in this country we could see Liberia going back to its dark days.” “You are now sitting in the right position to address the issue of accountability in our country.” “President Weah, we are calling on you to take justice as a priority.”
Momentum for a war crimes court continues to grow. Liberians held marches, most recently in November 2018, to campaign for a war crimes court, and petitioned the legislature to carry out the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.
Liberian, African, and international nongovernmental organizations have come together to campaign for justice in Liberia andpresented a submission to the UN Human Rights Committee in July on the need for trials of past crimes in Liberia. The Liberian Bar Association added its support for a war crimes court in April.
The UN Human Rights Committee in July 2018 called for the Liberian government to report back within two years on its progress to ensure that those accused of human rights violations and war crimes are prosecuted.
The video was released by Liberian and international nongovernmental organizations, including Advocates for Human Rights, Center for Justice and Accountability, Centre for Civil and Political Rights, Coalition for Justice in Liberia, CSO Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia, Flomo Theatre, Global Justice and Research Project, Human Rights Watch, Liberia Massacre Survivor Association, Rights and Rice Foundation, Search for Common Ground –Liberia, Secretariat for the Establishment of a War Crimes Court in Liberia, and the Transitional Justice Working Group.
“President Weah has an opportunity to stand with victims and their families by establishing a war crimes court in Liberia,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “He should support establishing a court and seek to work with the United Nations and other international partners to set up a court that can hold fair, credible trials.”
Survivors of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Liberia had a higher prevalence of certain health issues — including uveitis (eye redness and pain), abdominal, chest, neurologic, and musculoskeletal abnormalities upon physical exam — when compared to a control group of household and community members who did not have a history of EVD, according to findings from an ongoing study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, even participants in the control group experienced a relatively high burden of health issues overall.
The study began in 2015 and is following participants for five years. It is being conducted by the Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL), a collaboration between the government of Liberia and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. Additional partners in the study include the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), both part of NIH; the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis; and the Johns Hopkins University Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore. The research is led by principal investigators Mosoka P. Fallah, Ph.D., deputy director general for technical services at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, and Michael C. Sneller, M.D., medical officer at NIAID.
“The PREVAIL study has yielded novel insight regarding the health issues facing some survivors of Ebola virus disease in Liberia and their close contacts,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “We thank our partners in the Liberian government for their collaboration in the successful implementation of this study, and we thank the study volunteers for their selfless participation in this important research.”
PREVAIL initiated the study of Ebola survivors (called PREVAIL 3) in Liberia to determine the long-term consequences of EVD by comparing health outcomes in survivors (966 people) and a control group of uninfected household and community contacts (2,350 people). Participants in the study completed a baseline clinic visit in 2015 and are being reevaluated every six months for five years. Study sites include the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, and Duport Road Clinic in Paynesville.
The newly published report compares health outcomes in survivors and contacts during their first year of study participation. Both survivors and controls self-reported a range of symptoms. However, survivors reported certain symptoms at significantly higher rates than controls, and in both groups, adults reported more symptoms than children and adolescents. Survivors reported higher rates of: urinary frequency (14.7 percent vs. 3.4 percent), headache (47.6 percent vs. 35.6 percent), fatigue (18.4 percent vs. 6.3 percent), muscle pain (23.1 percent vs. 10.1 percent), memory loss (29.2 percent vs. 4.8 percent), and joint pain (47.5 percent vs. 17.5 percent).
Evaluations by healthcare professionals showed significantly more survivors than controls had abnormal findings on abdominal (10.4 percent vs. 6.4 percent), chest (4.2 percent vs. 2 percent), and neurologic (4.5 percent vs. 1.5 percent) examinations. With regards to abnormal musculoskeletal findings on examination, only muscle tenderness was observed significantly more frequently in survivors than controls (4.5 percent vs. 0.9 percent, respectively). Other musculoskeletal findings, such as joint swelling and decreased range of motion were not observed at a significantly higher frequency in survivors compared with controls. The prevalence of health issues declined in both groups over the one-year follow-up period.
The investigators observed that health issues identified with physical evaluations were much less frequent than self-reported symptoms. They note that the self-reported symptoms were like those seen in people with post-infection syndromes. However, they say more research is needed to understand the origin, development, and progression of these self-reported symptoms. Study neurologists are currently following a subset of survivors and close contacts to better understand and characterize post-infection neurologic issues.
“The results from this study have a far-reaching public health and clinical care importance for Liberia, Africa, and world,” said Dr. Fallah. “The study further demonstrates the commitment of our survivors to this collaborative research between Liberia and the U.S.”
A subset of 564 survivors and 635 close contacts received eye exams by ophthalmologists at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center. At the baseline visit, 149 survivors (26.4 percent) had evidence of uveitis in at least one eye as compared with 77 participants in the control group (12.1 percent). Uveitis refers to a group of inflammatory eye diseases that can cause pain, redness, swelling, tissue damage, light sensitivity, and vision loss. Unlike other symptoms, the prevalence of uveitis increased in both groups at the one-year follow-up visit, with a significantly higher incidence of new cases among survivors compared to controls.
“Ebola-associated uveitis was common among our patients. This study highlights how crucial ophthalmic care is to the care of Ebola survivors,” said Rachel J. Bishop, M.D., M.P.H., chief of Consult Services at NEI and co-lead on the eye sub-study.
The prevalence of uveitis is consistent with previous findings in Ebola survivors. However, PREVAIL 3 also shows a high prevalence of uveitis in the control group suggesting that some Ebola survivors may have uveitis due to other diseases.
Despite the higher prevalence of uveitis in survivors, no differences in corrected visual acuity or age-adjusted prevalence of cataracts — clouding of the eye lens — were noted between survivors and controls either at baseline or at the one-year visit. The median vison in both survivors and contacts was 20/20, and the incidence of severe decreases in vision or blindness was similar in survivors and controls.
“Our findings underscore the importance of including population controls in a region where there are other causes of uveitis and cataracts,” said Dr. Sneller. “Systematic evaluations of participants and inclusion of a control group of people exposed to the same environment are critical to defining the true clinical sequelae of survivors of Ebola virus disease.”
Previous studies have indicated that fragments of Ebola virus RNA can persist in the semen of male survivors. The detection of Ebola virus genetic material in semen could indicate the presence of viable and potentially transmissible virus; however, it does not necessarily mean infectious virus exists. Reports describing cases of survivors transmitting Ebola virus to a sexual partner are rare, and more research is needed to understand the risks. As part of PREVAIL 3, 267 male survivor participants provided 2,416 semen samples, with 252 men providing more than one sample. Investigators detected viral RNA in one or more samples in 81 men (30 percent). The longest recorded time from EVD to detection of viral RNA in a sample was 40 months.
Interestingly, more than 30 men had two consecutive negative tests followed by one or more positive tests for Ebola virus RNA in semen. The findings indicate the existence of Ebola virus RNA in semen may be intermittent and more persistent than previously reported.
Investigators will continue to examine Ebola survivors and contacts to collect and analyze data for the remainder of the planned five-year study period.
Liberian President George Weah should show leadership at the United Nations General Assembly by announcing his government’s endorsement of justice and reparations for victims of grave crimes during the country’s civil wars, 80 nongovernmental organizations said in a letter to the president released on Thursday.
Liberia’s civil wars, which spanned 14 years and ended in 2003, were characterized by widespread atrocities by all sides
Liberian, regional, and international groups sent the letter ahead of President Weah’s expected presentation on September 26, 2018 during the high-level segment of the General Assembly in New York. Liberian activists have scheduled a news conference regarding the letter in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, on September 25 at 11:30 a.m. at the iCampus location.
“When President Weah takes the international stage at UN headquarters, he should support justice for past crimes in Liberia,” said Hassan Bility, executive director of the Monrovia-based Global Justice and Research Project.
Liberia’s civil wars, which spanned 14 years and ended in 2003, were characterized by widespread atrocities by all sides, including summary executions and large-scale massacres. At Carter Camp and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, hundreds of civilians were killed in a single night.
Abuses also included widespread systematic rape, mutilation and torture, and forced conscription and use of child combatants.
“Liberia has not initiated a single prosecution for the widespread crimes committed against civilians during its wars,” said Nushin Sarkarati, senior staff attorney at theCenter for Justice and Accountability.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Liberia in 2009 recommended creating a war crimes court to investigate and try people responsible for grave violations of international law. But the Liberian government has never moved ahead with this recommendation.
“The few cases addressing civil war-era atrocities have occurred outside Liberia, in Europe and the United States,” said Alain Werner, director of Civitas Maxima.
The UN Human Rights Committee on July 26 said that the Liberian government should establish a process to bring about accountability for past war crimes. Thecommittee expressed “concern that none of the alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations and war crimes mentioned in the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] report has been brought to justice.”
“President Weah should take seriously UN concerns that no perpetrators of war crimes have been brought to justice,” said Adama Dempster, secretary general of the Civil Society Human Rights Advocacy Platform of Liberia.
Liberian officials pledged to the Human Rights Committee in July that it would soon issue a public statement about carrying out the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations. The government has yet to do so.
“The UN General Assembly is an ideal moment for the Liberian government to deliver on its pledge to speak up on implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations,” said Elise Keppler, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.
Scientists Call for Proactive Investments in Health Care Infrastructure
The Central Africa region is experiencing rapid urbanization and economic growth, and infrastructure development. These changes, while generally positive and welcome, also make the region more vulnerable to explosive infectious disease outbreaks, according to an international group of scientists.
Red circles indicate areas of primary human infections of Zaire ebolavirus; the green circle indicates the recently contained outbreak with its epicenter in the Bikoro region; and the yellow circle indicates the ongoing outbreak in the North Kivu region of the DRC. The density of road construction is shown in red.
Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the authors, all of whom have field research experience in the region, note that efforts to build up the health care infrastructure in Central Africa are critically needed to mitigate or prevent a large outbreak of Ebola or other infectious disease in the region. The authors represent 12 different organizations, including the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Citing the example of the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, they note that Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea all have large, urban and mobile populations. Among other factors, this enabled the Ebola virus to quickly spread through these countries and overwhelm their limited health care infrastructures, resulting in more than 28,000 cases of Ebola virus disease and 11,000 fatalities.
Through their Central Africa field work over several years—primarily in the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)—the researchers have observed what they describe as the world’s fastest rate of urbanization. By 2030, they write, half of the Central Africa population is expected to live in urban areas. They have seen the evolution of once-rutted jeep trails used to access remote villages now accessible by paved roads, typically related to the growth in logging, mining and hydroelectric industries. Road construction and similar disturbances in the jungle terrain alters ecosystems in which pathogens and their hosts reside, they note. This increases the opportunity for new infectious diseases to emerge and reduces the time it takes people to travel to and from urban areas, allowing outbreaks to spread quickly.
“Clearly, Central Africa is rapidly approaching a tipping point,” the authors state. “Africa’s economic development is a positive change that cannot and should not be stopped. At the same time, rapid economic and demographic transitions bring the challenges of emerging infectious disease outbreaks of increased frequency, size, and global impact.”
They believe that increases in population, income and educational attainment could spur demand for improved services, including health care. Moreover, directed investments in clinical research infrastructure could include training health care workers to identify, report and properly handle cases of unknown emerging infectious disease; diagnose patients; provide clinical care; and test new vaccines and therapeutics.