Progress in Benin
Despite a low unemployment rate of one percent and a GDP growth rate that increased from two percent to over five percent from 2015 to 2017, progress in Benin has been slow and it is still a poor country in West Africa. With more than a third of the over 11 million population living below the poverty line, it is difficult for Beninese to live without a feeling of unease. Three major reasons Benin has a rising poverty rate is because of over-reliance in Niger’s economy, the largest exporter, reluctance for Benin to modernize its own economy and climatic shocks, particularly massive floods.

Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project

The agriculture sector employs over 70 percent of Beninese. In an effort to boost the economy, the Republic of Benin is investing in improvements in the agriculture sector. The Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project began on March 22, 2011, with a budget of $61 million and ends on February 28, 2021. Its purpose is to repair major damage caused during Benin’s 2010 flood and improve productivity in certain export-oriented value chains, such as aquaculture, maize, rice, cashew and pineapple.

One component of this project is improving technology and restoration of productivity. The devastating flood in 2010 destroyed over 316,000 acres of cropland and 50,000 homes. The project began after the major flood and takes into account the need for drainage systems to stifle rising waters during floods. Small-scale irrigation infrastructure repair and improvement are issues that the project faces and hopes to correct in the timeframe. Climate-smart production systems are another investment that the country is developing to prevent widespread destruction to cropland when a natural disaster threatens to destroy homes and crops. The project is also set to create new jobs by investing in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially for youth and women.

Improving the Business Environment

Although flooding caused several Beninese people to lose their homes and cropland, there is one impediment that halts economic development: corruption. President Talon became the President of Benin in 2016 and stated in his inaugural address that he would “make the fight against corruption an ongoing and everyday struggle.” A 29 percent electricity access is another issue that prevents developmental progress in Benin, but since 2016 blackouts have reduced and electricity generation has improved significantly.

Economic Diversification

The last major impasse that prevents development in Benin is over-reliance in Nigeria, Benin’s major exporter. Current IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, announced a call for economic diversification in Benin. Lagarde believes diversifying is one way to reduce the high poverty level of 36 percent. Due to the country’s economic reliance on the agricultural sector and economic conditions in Nigeria, it is difficult to grow if a recession, such as the 2017 recession in Nigeria, occurs. In her speech at the Chamber of Commerce in Cotonou, Benin, Lagarde discussed how Benin could strengthen land tenure, increase food security in rural areas and invest more in education and health, and improve transparency in the government so that outside investors would find investing in Benin appealing.

Rate of Progress in Benin

There is room for growth, though the poverty-stricken nation has had success in certain areas, such as the average life expectancy that rose from 50 years in 2000 to 62 in 2018. With the creation of the Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project, improvements in agriculture and infrastructure are already underway. The estimated rate of urbanization is fairly high at 3.89 percent from 2015 to 2020. At this rate of progress in Benin and under the leadership of President Talon, the country will continue its headway in development so that the percentage of Beninese in poverty will gradually drop in the coming years.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Cocoa Farming
The Hershey Company is committed to achieving its goal of 100 percent sustainable cocoa farming by 2020, investing in two programs targeting small farmers and poverty in West Africa.

Learn To Grow Cocoa

The focus of this program — launched in 2012 — is to help farmers in Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire increase their productivity and improve their livelihoods. Currently, poverty rates in Nigeria are rising while Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are not on target to meet the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

In West Africa, where about 70 percent of cocoa is grown, most cocoa farms are only about two to four hectares in size. The Learn To Grow program empowers farmers by teaching them environmental, social and sustainable agricultural practices. Through Learn To Grow, Hershey offers a three-year training program that “can lead to UTZ certification as producers of sustainable cocoa.”

Farmers who meet the certification requirements will receive premium payments for their cocoa yields, providing a considerable boost in income. The program also provides greater opportunities for their communities to thrive as it, “encourages women and young cocoa farmers to take leadership roles in farmer organizations by leveraging training and knowledge sharing.”

One of the key features of the Learn To Grow Program is called CocoaLink. This is a mobile phone service that connects even the most rural farmers in West Africa. It shares practical information with these farmers, including things such as farm safety, information on good fertilization practices, pest and disease prevention, post-harvest marketing and more.

Learn To Grow also has plans to distribute 1 million higher yielding, drought and disease resistant cocoa trees to West African farmers.

Cocoa For Good

In April of 2018, The Hershey Company launched Cocoa For Good, pledging $500 million by 2030 to support farming communities. This initiative aims to help all cocoa-growing communities, with a focus on West Africa. The initiative targets four key areas:

  • Nourishing Families. People are most productive when they are healthy, and the Hershey Company provides increased access to good nutrition, enabling children to be more successful in school and adults to be more successful in their jobs. Of note, every day, 50,000 children in Ghana receive ViVi, a nut-based healthy snack, provided through the Hershey Energize Learning program.
  • Elevating Youth. Child labor is a side effect of poverty in West Africa, and children aged 14-17 are at the most risk. Hershey currently targets child labor by increasing access to educational opportunities for the most vulnerable children. So far, the company has built five schools and supported 31 education institutions.
  • Prospering Communities. The Hershey Company is investing in programs that support women farmers who make up 45 percent of the cocoa farming industry in West Africa.
  • Preserving Ecosystems. The Hershey Company encourages the use of sustainable agricultural techniques such as shade-grown cocoa farming in order to preserve the environment for future generations.

The Hershey Company recognizes its important role in the cocoa value chain and has repeatedly shown its commitment to improving sustainable cocoa farming practices, especially in West Africa.

– CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Rights in GermanyGermany is currently the most popular European destination for refugees from the Middle East and Africa. In 2016, Germany received 745,545 asylum applications, the most applications to any country in Europe that year. The reason that Germany still continues to receive a high number of asylum applications is a result of the generous refugee rights in Germany.

The overwhelming majority of refugees to Germany come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, countries whose citizens are confronted by war and extreme poverty. As of 2016, the German government granted refugee status to 42.1 percent of applicants, subsidiary protection to 25.3 percent of applicants, and humanitarian protection (asylum) to 4 percent of applicants. Only 28.6 percent of applicants were rejected. Though this may seem large, Germany still accepted over half a million refugees in 2016.

The procedure for refugees begins at the nearest reception center, whether refugees are found already in the country are allowed in by border security. Next, their application for asylum is submitted to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). As their application is under review, refugees are granted a certificate of permission to reside temporarily in the Federal Republic of Germany. Throughout the application process, refugees are housed in reception facilities, where they are provided with essential items such as food, clothing, heat and healthcare. Following the application process, BAMF caseworkers interview asylum-seekers with the help of an interpreter, questioning their reason for persecution and their intended travel route. The interview is transcribed, translated into the asylum-seeker’s language and given as a copy to the asylum-seeker. Decisions for refugee status are based on these interviews and asylum-seekers are notified immediately.

Refugee rights in Germany exist for several groups of people. The three types of status asylum-seekers to Germany can receive are subsidiary protection, asylum or refugee status. Subsidiary protection is given to refugees who prove they are seriously threatened or in imminent danger in their country of origin. Those refugees receive a residence permit for one year that can be extended for two additional years. Refugees who are granted asylum status are deemed to face serious human rights violations and political persecution in their country of origin. They receive a residence permit for three years, unrestricted access to the labor market and an opportunity for a settlement permit.

Refugee status allows the most refugee rights in Germany. Persons granted refugee status receive a temporary residence permit and are granted the same rights as Germans: social welfare, child benefits, child-raising benefits, integration allowances, language courses and other forms of integration assistance.

Refugees rights in Germany are generous as asylum is a constitutional right in Germany, making it a high priority. As the number of asylum-seekers to developed countries continues to increase, it is important to look towards positive examples, such as Germany, that provide safety, protection and justice for refugees.

Christiana Lano
Photo: Flickr

The Curse of Oil and its Effects on Poverty in Equatorial Guinea
The discovery of crude oil in the Gulf of Guinea during the mid-1990s resulted in the drastic increases of government revenue in Equatorial Guinea. Although the country is one of the wealthiest in Sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of citizens live on less than $1 per day, making the rate of poverty in Equatorial Guinea quite high.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is the longest to hold executive office in Africa since taking leadership after a military coup in 1979. Since then, Equatorial Guinea gained the status of the continent’s sixth-largest producer of oil. The country is home to Africa’s highest GDP per capita, while its 2014 rank on the U.N.’s Human Development Index landed at 144 out of 187 states.

Effects of government corruption extend far beyond the economic sector and continue to negatively impact education, child and infant mortality rates as well as access to sanitation. The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) reports that only 41 percent of individuals in the most populated areas have access to clean drinking water.

The CESR also notes that Equatorial Guinea has the third highest number of deaths of children under 1 year of age in Sub-Saharan Africa. The rate of children in Equatorial Guinea to finish primary school is under 60 percent, while the rate of boys enrolled in secondary school is double that of girls according to CESR findings.

Equatorial Guinea’s per capita income of $26,000 along with 76.8 percent of the country in poverty is exemplary of institutional inequalities that foster conditions for extreme poverty. High corruption, lack of natural resource revenue and support of regimes are vital contributors to poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

U.S. shift in energy policy during 2001 to focus on attaining oil from African countries without foresight for the future of local societies has been key in fostering the continuation of poverty.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, condemned former Vice President Cheney’s energy plans due to the lack of attention paid to the strategy’s impact on developing nations. The report specifies the potential of U.S. utilization of West African oil as the region was “expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market.” The Cheney Report’s main aim was to eliminate hurdles to increase attainment of foreign oil by the U.S., should they regard legal, economic, political or logistical obstacles.

In a study conducted by Elise Aiken, one-third of the planet’s civil wars are happening in countries where oil production dominates. Aiken attributes this to three main factors: “economic instability caused by fluctuating oil prices, support of insurgencies through black market sales or extortion and encouragement of separatism because of wealth imbalance.”

She also notes that oil rich countries are not guaranteed to have outbreaks of conflict and those governments that “limit corruption and put their windfalls to good use rarely face unrest.” African communities are more likely to face strife when oil production is prominent due to scarce educational backgrounds, unstable economies and in areas with minimal law enforcement and high corruption.

A report by Global Witness attributes the “curse of oil” to a lack of transparency of governments to enclose the amount of revenue from oil production. The report also recommends that the catalytic shift in increasing transparency would come from the implementation of U.S. legislation to enact corporate requirements to enclose revenue reports.

Tutu Alicante, native to the island of Annobon in Equatorial Guinea, is the founder of the first human rights advocacy and capacity-building initiative focused solely on the country called EG Justice. Alicante became passionate about taking action when the military came to his village on orders to eliminate young men in opposition to the regime.

The insurgents were arrested, tortured and publicly executed before the military burned down Alicante’s family home. Five months later he went to the U.S. with a mission to end the violence through his education. After earning a J.D. from the University of Tennessee and an LLM from Columbia University Law School he now works to increase transparency of income from natural resources and is a legal adviser for human rights organizations worldwide.

Strides made by activists like Alicante to secure human rights, while promoting natural resource revenue reform is vital to altering the infrastructure that fosters corruption and relieving extreme poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Tigui CamaraTigui Camara, a former model, is one of the youngest mining executives in Africa and the only woman in Guinea with her own mining company. Given that mining in West Africa is predominately run by middle-aged men, the magnitude of Camara’s success is remarkable.

Camara’s career began on the runway when she was only 14 years old — and soon after escalated into the business world. While living in Morocco, Camara was able to graduate high school early and earn a college degree in business management. Several years later, Camara moved to the U.S. and was hired by a modeling agency in New York.

During her time in the modeling field, Camara made friends with jewelers who had companies in Africa and was inspired to take action. Camara remembers thinking, “If he could do it, I could do it. He is not even from Africa or Guinea, but he has been successful at doing this. Being a native, why can’t I also be successful?”

Camara began saving in order to open her own mining company and she is now the Chairman and CEO of Camara Gold and Mining Network and the CEO of Tigui Mining Group. Her companies acquire and develop mining assets with a focus on gold, diamond and associated minerals.

However, Camara faced setbacks when she hired a business partner who was embezzling the company’s funds for the first year. She also set up her business during a time of political turmoil in Guinea. The country had just undergone a political revolt and 2009 was marked by violent protests and civil unrest.

To make matters worse, Guinea was hit by the Ebola crisis, which began in December 2013 and continued for around two years. It shut down the economy and businesses were hit hard. As a result, Camara stopped all activity until it was safe to return to work.

Finally in recent months, Camara has been able to stabilize the business with proper funding and investors. She claims, “While infrastructure and electricity shortages have created a challenging business environment in the mineral-rich nation, the government is taking steps to improve its industries and encourage foreign investment.”

This provides the U.S. a unique opportunity to purchase gold, diamond and other mineral materials from a deserving business leader. Tigui Camara had to overcome many obstacles in order to get where she is today. Her background in the fashion industry hindered her ability to succeed as an entrepreneur at first but now she has a well-established name and is respected in the mining industry in West Africa.

Megan Hadley

Sources: How We Made it in Africa, Tigui Mining Group, Black Enterprise

immunization_services
The first stage is underway in Gavi’s plans to rebuild immunization services wrecked by the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. These revived programs will ensure that hundreds of thousands of children who missed out, or are at risk of missing out, will now receive their vaccinations.

Because the Ebola outbreak destroyed the immunization services, Gavi will have a coordinated approach to ensure that these countries are stronger and more resilient to infectious diseases. Gavi is doubling their long-term support for their health systems until 2020.

Rumors in African countries have negatively impacted immunization services. These rumors have falsely claimed that childhood vaccines, such as those protecting against measles and pneumonia, are linked to Ebola. This has caused parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated. These rumors have caused a major setback for immunization services, leaving hundreds of thousands of children at risk.

Ebola has taken the lives of many healthcare workers in these three countries, and even forced some workers to abandon their posts as the crisis took hold. As the countries try to return to normal life, there is a lack of healthcare workers to provide vaccinations.

With this plan in place, Gavi will provide funds for civil society organizations to work with communities to hold meetings and brief village chiefs and religious leaders about the importance of immunizing children. Gavi is also focused on ensuring that there are enough trained healthcare providers to administer the vaccines to the children.

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, states, “As the initial Ebola epidemic recedes, we now face a race against time to prevent outbreaks of other dangerous diseases, by ensuring that children receive the vaccines the need to protect them. Rebuilding trust amongst parents and carers is critical, as is ensuring that they are provided with the services they need to protect their children.”

The package from Gavi will total $12.5 million and work to trace children who missed out on immunization and ensure they are enrolled in catch-up programs. There will be a nationwide drive to recruit new vaccinators and provide them with training.

A measles immunization campaign will also be held. It is estimated that because of the Ebola outbreak, as many as one million children were not vaccinated against measles.

But Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is not alone in rebuilding immunization programs. Since the beginning of 2015, UNICEF and WHO has supported the countries to undertake immunization campaigns to tackle outbreaks of childhood diseases, such as measles and meningitis.

With the support from Gavi, the training of healthcare workers will ensure that childhood immunization will continue after the Ebola crisis. By reestablishing trust in the parents, children will once again be protected against preventable diseases.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: Gavi Alliance 1, Gavi Alliance 2
Photo: Gavi Alliance

energy_poverty
West Africa has the highest levels of energy poverty in the world. The shortage of electricity has been a big barrier to the economic development and people’s wellbeing in Africa.

Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian-born business leader and philanthropist, makes the call for ending energy poverty in Africa and takes action to alleviate it.

Ranking 26th on the Forbes Lists of Africa’s 50 Richest in 2014, Tony Elumelu is one of Africa’s most revered business leaders. As the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Transnational Corporation of Nigeria (Transcorp), Elumelu fortune’s is estimated at $1 billion.

Approaching the latter period of his business career, Elumelu makes more effort on philanthropy. After retiring from UBA in July 2010, he founded the Tony Elumelu Foundation, intending to foster Africa’s economy by enhancing the competitiveness of the African private sector.

At the same time, Tony Elumelu has also been a significant member of many non-profit organizations, such as World Economic Forum’s Regional Agenda Council on Africa, the Nigeria Leadership Initiative and the Infant Jesus Academy in Delta State, Nigeria.

On 30 June 2015, Elumelu participated in African Energy Leaders Group (AELG) Summit. It was launched by Côte d’Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan with top-level political and business leaders, intended to make concrete plans for sustainable energy access in Africa.

According to Ivorian Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, in order to expedite the implementation of sustainable projects, the West African sub-group of the AELG intends to gather public and private sectors to mobilize finance. As a co-founder of AELG, Elumelu pledged to donate $150,000 over the next three years for its secretarial work.

Elumelu previously contributed to the fight against energy poverty before the Summit. In 2013, Tony Elumelu pledged to contribute $2.5 billion in President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative to support Africa’s power sector.

During the same year, Transcorp, where Elumelu served as Chairman, acquired the 600 MW Ughelli plant in Delta State. It is one of Nigeria’s largest gas-powered generating plants and will generate 1,000 MW by the end of 2015.

The discussion between Transcorp and General Electric has been ongoing, and Transcorp is likely to add another 1,000 MW soon after they reach the first quota.

“Providing access to electricity for schools, hospitals, businesses and industries is the single most impactful intervention that can be made to transform the continent,” said Elumelu during the Summit. “It has tremendous implications for job creation, health, food security, education, technological advancement and overall economic development.”

Shengyu Wang

Sources: Forbes, Sustainable Energy for All
Photo: Forbes

Cashews-Côte-d’Ivoire

In central and northern Côte d’Ivoire, cashew nut farming has drastically improved the lives of small scale farmers.

Since the 1960s, cashew farming has replaced other popular West African cash-crops like cocoa beans, rubber and cotton since cashews generate a much larger profit. Local farmers say that their farms are where “money grows on trees,” according to How We Made It in Africa.

“These farmers don’t grow cocoa like elsewhere in the country. Cashew nut is the only cash crop they can rely on all-year-round. So, it is understandable that they would refer to their orchards in this way,” explained Ga Kone of the Conseil du Coton et de l’Anacarde, the Council of Cotton and Cashew (CCA), in an interview with Africa Renewal.

In 2014, Côte d’Ivoire was responsible for the production of 550,000 tons of raw cashews, or 22% of the total global production of cashews. At the end of the 2015 harvesting season, experts expect that Côte d’Ivoire will produce 600,000 tons.

CCA, the cashew farmer’s marketing board made up of government representatives, farmers and bankers, estimates that Côte d’Ivoire’s annual production has grown at a rate of 11% per year. A combination of factors have enabled Côte d’Ivoire’s recent success. The hardiness of the trees and the increase in global demand for cashews are two main reasons.

Cashews were initially introduced to Côte d’Ivoire and West Africa in the early 1960s to prevent desertification and soil erosion. The evergreen tropical trees can grow up to 12 meters high and are able to survive in harsh weather and soil conditions. Environmentalists often recommend cashew trees for reforestation programs, and the trees were planted to create protected forest areas.

When Côte d’Ivoire first began to produce cashews, the country only generated around 300 tons of cashews annually, and production remained at this rate for around 30 years. In 2002, production reached 100,000 tons.

“The growth is more than impressive. It’s astounding. We’ve never seen a country grow its production in the way Côte d’Ivoire has over the past decade,” said Jim Fitzpatrick, a cashew expert, to Reuters last year.

Despite the country’s cashew-driven economic boom, Côte d’Ivoire still has room for even greater improvement and the potential to generate much more income. The processing of raw cashews enables farmers to sell the cashews for a significantly higher price. Côte d’Ivoire currently only processes 40,000 tons of cashews locally, while it has the potential to process 65,000 tons.

African countries produce 45% of the total global production of cashews, or 1.2 million tons each year. Only 10% of this production is processed locally, says the African Cashew Initiative, which is funded by the German government, private companies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If Côte d’Ivoire begins to process its cashews, there is the potential to increase profit by $127 million—if it processes 100,000 tons by 2020.

Currently, the processing that does occur is rudimentary; it usually is simply sorting whole nuts and broken nuts and then placing them into separate sacks for export.

If this West African nation begins to process all of its cashew nuts and then export them, the economic potential is immense. A study by CCA found that for every 100,000 tons of processing the country implements, 12,300 factory jobs and 10,000 other jobs will be created.

Many regions of Côte d’Ivoire remain entrenched in harsh poverty. In the Zanzan District in the northeastern region of the country, the poverty level is among the highest in the country. Six out of 10 people live below the poverty line—they cannot afford a daily kilogram of rice while 75% do not have access to sanitary drinking water.

Côte d’Ivoire has experienced incredible economic stimulation with its recent cashew boom—by committing to process its cashews locally, the country has the potential to alleviate regions still entrenched in poverty.

– Margaret Anderson

Sources: How We Made It in Africa, Reuters, African Cashew Alliance
Photo: African Business Magazine

ebola_impacts_poverty
Poverty is defined by a lack of possessing shelter, food, water, money, sanitation, and health care. Without some of these basic rights, Ebola is a powerful enemy of the poor.

Ebola, a rare and deadly disease contracted through bodily fluids, still continues to effect parts of West Africa. In March of 2014, Ebola ravished Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, which resulted in 15,065 cases and 11,207 deaths.

So far, the outbreak shows no sign of slowing. The upcoming October election in Guinea has become increasingly concerning, especially because contraction is easier in overcrowded city environments.

Furthermore, Ebola impacts more than just patients; it impacts their families and the lives of others. With the outbreak in West Africa, food prices increased and food supplies dwindled. Sickness resulted in less work and less pay.

So how can the spread of Ebola be reduced? While medical quarantine has been used during the outbreak, many experts say that attacking poverty is the only true solution.

This being said, sanitation and hygiene are key. This includes clean and safe water. When a patient first contracts Ebola, scientists have discovered that replacing the liquids lost can successfully treat the disease. However, without a substantial supply of water for the number of patients, Ebola quickly weakens its victims.

Also necessary are protective and sanitary shelter, as well as greater accessibility to quality health care, even for those with struggling incomes.

Experts have also recently discovered that the disease can remain in semen up to five months after a successful recovery from Ebola. This suggests that education about safe sex and abstinence, as well as access to condoms, is crucial to the decline of patients with Ebola.

As of late, Ebola treatment research may offer hope to reducing the spread of the disease.

In April 2015, members of the Sierra Leone college of health services, sanitation, and centers for disease control teamed up to create a vaccine trial. This study, called the Sierra Leone Trial to Introduce a Vaccine against Ebola (STRIVE). The study will assess safety and effectiveness of the RVSV-ZEBOV vaccine. For more information on the details and successes of this study, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/strive/qa.html.

For even more good news, on June 24, 2015, researchers reported in MBio that generic heart disease medications might also have the potential to improve the immune systems of patients with Ebola. After a trial in Sierra Leone last fall, researchers were pleased to see improvements in the patients.

While these medications would not prevent or cure the disease, “it could allow individual patients to survive long enough to develop an immune response that eliminates the virus. These agents could be used in combination with anti-virals if they are available,” says David S. Fedson, MD.

Scientists plan to move forward with their research by performing more studies in West Africa. For more details, visit: http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2015/06/generic-heart-disease-medications-offer-promise-for-ebola-treatment.aspx.

While these scientific discoveries offer hope, it is important that all people have access to vaccinations. Only then will able-bodied people be equipped to fight off poverty.

– Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: ABC News, CDC 1, CDC 2, Huffington Post, Infection Control Today, Scientific American, WSWS,
Photo: Inhabitat

Remember-Ebola
The buzz surrounding Ebola started to die down after an update declaring a ten-month low of a reported nine cases, and as transcontinental infection was scarce. Although newer and flashier news stories have taken over, and Ebola started to disappear from the public eye, Ebola may be making a harsh comeback in coming months. With the onset of the rainy season in West Africa, new challenges arise in controlling the Ebola outbreak.

Since the ten-month low, transmission intensity and geographical span have increased despite rigorous efforts to control the disease. The main challenges have been identifying sources and community engagement, where there is still widespread resistance to the efforts. Officials are not largely concerned with the rainy season bringing increased transmission rates and more reported cases, but are concerned with the complications in their efforts at combating the disease.

The rainy season in West Africa brings with it higher prevalence of diseases, such as Malaria, that induce similar symptoms to Ebola. As more people exhibit these symptoms, more people need to be treated as though they may have the Ebola virus, meaning that more people will need to be tested for it. The rain also creates concern over infrastructure and travel, which could hinder efforts in the fight against Ebola.

Many experts in the field had hoped for and urged efforts to get the Ebola outbreaks under control before the rainy season began, and it seemed feasible to do so. The recent increases in transmission come as a disappointment and as a source of well-founded worry. While the public may have shifted gears and moved on from Ebola, health-care workers are shifting gears to be even more vigilant and intense to find those last strains of transmission. The World Health Organization has faced new challenges in the fight against Ebola, and will prevail through the challenges that the rainy season brings.

Even more fear arises from the fact that after reports of low transmission, and as the countries largely affected by the outbreak started to regain normalcy, many international actors backed out of the area. With new causes for concern and a need for increased testing coming with the rainy season, the foreign aid and international health workers are needed again, and soon.

Ebola infections are still more concentrated and more under control than at the start of the outbreak in December 2013, and with the new rainy season perhaps the increased testing will finally bring the last of the transmission chains to light.

– Emma Dowd

Sources: Sierra Leone Times, CIDRAP, UN
Photo: Mirror