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Shiites resume protest in Abuja after deadly clash with police

Police opened fire in clashes outside the parliament building on Tuesday, leaving at least three demonstrators dead

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Shiites resume protest in Abuja after deadly clash with police
Hundreds of Shiites demonstrate in Abuja, on July 10, 2019, to demand the release of their jailed leader, a day after clashes with police left several protesters dead. (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

Hundreds of Shiites demonstrated in the Nigerian capital on Wednesday to demand the release of their jailed leader, a reporter saw, a day after clashes with police left several protesters dead.

Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), a radical pro-Iranian group, chanted slogans and danced with yellow bandanas on their heads in front of the national human rights commission in Abuja.

On the wall, a message written in red paint read;

“Nigerian police shooted shi’ites members @ national assembly on 9/7/2019.”

READ: Police and protesters injured after violent Shiites demonstration in Nigeria

IMN leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky has been in custody since December 2015, when hundreds of his supporters, including women and children, were killed by the security forces, according to a toll established by rights watchdogs.

His detention has led to repeated protests in Abuja and several northern cities.

Police opened fire in clashes outside the parliament building on Tuesday, leaving at least three demonstrators dead, including a 14-year-old boy, while 11 others were injured, according to the protesters.

Shiites resume protest in Abuja after deadly clash with police
Hundreds of Shiites demonstrate in Abuja, on July 10, 2019, to demand the release of their jailed leader, a day after clashes with police left several protesters dead. (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)

Police said the use of weapons had been defensive. They said two officers had been shot in the legs after a rifle had been snatched from a police officer manning the main entrance to the parliament.

This version was contested by the IMN.

“They (the police) just opened fire,” said the organisation’s spokesman, Ibrahim Musa.

“Of course, in some situations some of our members may have been throwing stones and such but the police statement that we were trying to steal their weapon is simply not true.”

With few exceptions, the Nigerian press headlined with the picture of a wounded policeman and typically described the protest as an attack on the National Assembly.

Musa said there was deep concern in the Shiite community over Zakzaky’s health. At the weekend, his son appealed for help, saying his father’s detention was an “assassination”.

“We are really agitated because we don’t want a situation whereby our leader will die in the hands of the federal government,” Musa said.

Zakzaky has been at odds with Nigeria’s secular authorities for years because of his call for an Iranian-style Islamic revolution. Northern Nigeria is majority Sunni Muslim.

In October, the IMN and human rights groups said more than 40 people were killed when the security forces opened fire on crowds on the outskirts of the capital. According to an official toll, six died.

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West Africa News

ECOWAS leaders agree $1 billion fund to fight jihadist violence

The plan, to be funded from 2020 to 2024, was announced at end of the Economic Community Summit of West African States in Ouagadougou

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ECOWAS leaders agree $1 billion fund to fight jihadist violence
(From L) Presidents Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Idriss Deby of Chad, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, Faure Gnassigbe of Togo, Macky Sall of Senegal and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria (R) pose after the opening ceremony of ECOWAS G5 security summit in Ouagadougou, on September 14, 2019. - West African leaders meet in the capital of Burkina Faso on September 14, 2019 for a summit expected to lead to an overhaul of the flailing attempt to roll back jihadism in the Sahel region. Most of the heads of ECOWAS, a grouping of 15 countries on West Africa's coast and hinterland, are expected to attend the special one-day meeting, which will also be attended by Chad, Cameroon and Mauritania. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

West African leaders on Saturday announced a billion-dollar plan to fight the rising problem of jihadist violence in the region, at a summit in Burkina Faso.

The plan, to be funded from 2020 to 2024, was announced at end of the Economic Community Summit of West African States in Ouagadougou, where the ECOWAS nations were joined by Mauritania and Chad.

ECOWAS had decided to mobilise “the financial resources of up to a billion dollars for the fight against terrorism”, said Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou.

The money, paid into a common fund, would help reinforce the military operations of the nations involved — and those of the joint military operations in the region.

Full details of the plan would be presented to the next ECOWAS summit in December.

The fight against the rising tide of jihadist violence in the region has so far been hampered by a lack of funds.

The G5 Sahel, a joint taskforce, was created in 2014 to try to tackle the problem, backed by former colonial power France.

From July 2017, it pooled troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in a bid to drive back the jihadist groups.

But a lack of finance, training and equipment, limited their effectiveness and their numbers. For the moment, the force numbers 4,000 troops, when 5,000 were originally planned.

ECOWAS — the Economic Community of West African States — brings together 15 countries whose economies range from regional heavyweights Nigeria and Ivory Coast to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are non-coastal states.

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Telemedicine revolution saving lives in Ivory Coast

The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.

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Telemedicine revolution in saving lives in Ivory Coast

Every time Catherine Coulibaly’s 19-year-old son had to make a routine appointment with the cardiologist for his heart condition, she gritted her teeth as she silently counted the financial cost.

It wasn’t just the hospital fee — there was the transport, food and accommodation, too, all of it amounting to a hefty burden for an Ivorian family on a modest income.

But thanks to telemedicine – consultations that doctors conduct through the internet or by phone – this cost is now a fading memory. 

Her son can book an appointment at a telemedicine facility in a nearby town in northern Ivory Coast.

There, he is attached to monitoring machines which send the data sent to Bouake University Hospital in the centre of the country, where it is scrutinised by a heart doctor.

The fledgling technology has long been championed by health advocates for rural economies.

Ivory Coast has become an African testbed for it, thanks to a project linking the Bouake hospital’s cardiac department with health centres in several northern towns, some of which are a four-hour drive away. 

Telemedicine “caused a sigh of relief for the population of Bouake, Boundiali, Korhogo, everyone,” says Auguste Dosso, president of the “Little Heart” association, which helps families with cardiac health issues.

Some 45 percent of the Ivorian population live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank’s latest estimate in 2017. And the minimum monthly wage — not always respected — is only around $100, or 90 euros. 

Heart disease surging

The pioneer behind the scheme is cardiologist Florent Diby, who set up an association called Wake Up Africa.

In Ivory Coast, heart disease, diabetes and other “lifestyle” ailments are surging, Diby explained. 

“Urbanisation is making people more sedentary, and there’s the rise in tobacco consumption, changes in diet, stress,” Diby said.

Three decades ago, only around one in eight of the Ivorian population had high blood pressure — now the figure is one in four, on a par with parts of Western Europe.

But in Ivory Coast — and across Africa — well-equipped cardiology units are rare.

“Ninety percent of heart attacks can be diagnosed by telemedicine, so for us cardiologists it’s a revolutionary technology,” said Diby.

The beauty of the telemedicine scheme is that neither the doctor nor the patient has to travel far. 

The cardiac patient is hooked up to the electrocardiogram (ECG) and other diagnostic machines with the help of a technician in a local health centre, which is connected to a computer in Bouake’s University Hospital. 

The cardiologist there can then see the results in real time, provide a diagnosis and prescribe treatment. 

The five-year-old project has already linked 10 health centres to the seven cardiologists at Bouake, enabling 4,800 patients in other towns to receive consultations by telemedicine each year. The goal is to expand this to 20 sites, doubling the intake.

Expertise France, the French public agency for international technical assistance, subsidises up to 185,000 euros of the network, which pays for equipment such as computers, artificial intelligence software and internet connections. 

Diby is now calling for telemedicine to be expanded in other medical fields such as neurology and psychiatry, not just in the Ivory Coast, but across West Africa too. 

That opinion is shared by other experts. Sixty per cent of Africans live in rural areas, where shortages of doctors are usually acute.

But numerous hurdles need to be overcome, especially investment in computers and access to the internet, according to a 2013 analysis published by the US National Library of Medicine. 

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West Africa News

Niger unveils measles vaccination plan for 4 million children

Since January this year, 9,741 suspected cases have been documented in Niger resulting in 53 deaths, she said

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Niger unveils measles vaccination plan for 4 million children

Niger launched a campaign on Friday to vaccinate more than four million children against measles, one of the biggest causes of child mortality in the country, the health ministry said. 

The one-week nationwide vaccination programme aims to “eliminate measles by the end of 2020”, Health Minister Illiassou Mainassara said, adding, it “will reach 4.254 million children” aged from 9 months up to the age of five.

“Despite all the efforts made in the fight against communicable diseases, we still note the persistence of localised measles epidemics (in Niger),” Mainassara said on his way to the capital Niamey to launch the campaign. 

But some experts say the vaccination programme should have kicked in sooner.

“The delay of this campaign which should have happened in 2018 has resulted in…the emergence of epidemics in several health districts,” said Niger’s UNICEF representative, Felicite Tchibindat.

Since January this year, 9,741 suspected cases have been documented in Niger resulting in 53 deaths, she said.

“Measles is a serious and extremely contagious viral disease and remains one of the leading causes of early childhood death, while it can be prevented by vaccination,” TchibiNdat said.

She believes the children of migrants, refugees and displaced people will especially benefit from the campaign.

Niger’s vaccination programme is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and the Gavi vaccine Alliance.

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