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Death toll for Lassa fever reaches 72 in Nigeria.

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Nigeria is suffering its worst outbreak of Lassa fever, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday, as local health officials said 72 people had died since the start of this year.

Lassa fever, named after the town in northern Nigeria where it was first identified in 1969, is endemic but the number of confirmed cases “has never reached” this level before, it added.

“Nigeria’s Lassa fever outbreak has reached record highs, with 317 laboratory confirmed cases,” the WHO said in a statement, quoting figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

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On February 6, 31 people were reported to have died from the disease, which is caused by a virus of the same family as Marburg and Ebola.

But in an update, the NCDC said: “Since the onset of the 2018, 325 cases have been classified as: 317 confirmed cases, eight probable cases with 72 deaths.”

Fourteen health workers have been affected by the virus in six states.

The WHO said a total of 2,845 people who have come into contact with patients have been identified and were being monitored.

Worst-hit by the virus is Edo state, in the south, where Crusoe Osagie, a media aide to the state government, said mostly rural areas were affected.

“Edo state is the only state with Lagos to have a special treating hospital for this disease, which is in Irrua,” he told AFP. “People come here from all over. ”

The federal-owned facility usually deals with about a hundred cases each year but has already handled that number in the last two months, he added.

WHO said it was supporting the NCDC effort to contain the disease and treat those affected in treatment centres across the country.

“The ability to rapidly detect cases of infection in the community and refer them early for treatment improves patients’ chances of survival and is critical to this response,” said the world body’s representative in Nigeria, Wondimagegnehu Alemu.

Lassa fever is spread through contact with food or items contaminated with rats’ urine or faeces or after coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

It can be prevented by enhanced hygiene and avoidance of all contact with rats.

More than 100 people were killed in 2016 in an outbreaks affecting 14 of the 36 states, including Lagos and the capital Abuja.

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Ghanaian government boost Agric sector lending with GHC400m provision.

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The Ghanaian Government has set aside GH¢400 million, with an additional funding of $14.0 million from the Africa Development Bank, towards the establishment and operationalisation of the Ghana Incentive Base Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (GIRSAL) next year.

This system would to help manage the risks and stimulate private sector lending to the agricultural sector by providing guarantees to promote commercial bank lending.



Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, Minister of Finance, announced this when he presented the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government to Parliament, The Budget is on the theme: ‘A Stronger Economy for Jobs and Prosperity’.

He said the Government would launch the livestock model of Planting for Food and Jobs dubbed: “Rearing for Food and Jobs” (RFJ) with the objective of increasing the production of selected livestock, especially poultry.

The Government, he said, believed that the country could leverage the PFJ and RFJ programmes and other efforts in agriculture to reduce the large food imports.

He said following a year of implementation of the PFJs Programme, the agricultural sector witnessed a growth rate of 8.4 per cent in 2017 and this was after almost a decade of erratic sector performance with an average growth rate of 3.4 per cent.

Mr Ofori-Atta said on account of this massive success, the Government implemented an expanded version of the PFJ in 2018, with more ambitious targets.

He said compared with a target of 500,000 farmers, a total of 577,000 farmers were supplied with subsidised fertilisers and seeds for the 2018 cropping season. ‘We expect another highly successful year and in 2019, we plan to expand the programme to cover a million farmers.’

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The Minister said as a country, ‘we spend over $2 billion every year importing food, for example, we import over a billion dollars of rice, $ 320 million of sugar, and $374 million of poultry.’

He said most of these the country could produce here in Ghana; creating jobs and saving foreign exchange.

It was, therefore, a key goal of the Government, he said, to replace a significant fraction of these imports with domestic production in the medium-term.

He said in the case of rice, the strategy was to increase volumes through increased yields of rice by expanding production areas in irrigated schemes, valleys and low lands around the country.

Mr Ofori-Atta said this strategy would be underpinned by making available to farmers, improved and certified seeds, subsidised fertilizers, enhanced access to mechanised harvesters to reduce post-harvest losses due to traditional labour-intensive threshing, and encourage private sector investment in milling facilities.

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‘This will ensure that the quality of locally processed rice will be at par with imported rice,’ he added.

In the case of poultry, the Minister said about 70 per cent of the cost of production was from feed, which in turn was primarily determined by the cost and availability of maize and soya bean.

He said in order to bring down the cost of feed and make poultry production competitive, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was working on a programme to sustainably boost soybean production through the provision of improved and certified seeds, subsidised fertilisers and harvest equipment to reduce field losses.

The Minister said adequate good storage for agricultural produce was a challenge that the country must address to avoid a situation, where the increased agricultural production arising from the support to farmers would end up going to waste.

‘In 2019, Government expects to increase its warehouse storage capacity by around 80,000 metric tonnes,’ he said.

On World Cocoa prices, he said the prices remained low after declining by about a third in the 2017/2018 season.

However, despite the significant decline, the Government maintained the producer price at GH¢7,600.00 per tonne to ensure that farmers did not suffer loss of income and purchased 904,000 metric tonnes of cocoa in the 2017/18 season.

He said Ghana needed to add value to its Cocoa output and Ghana, adding that, together with Cote d’Ivoire, they produced about 60 per cent of the world’s Cocoa.

‘But we earn only $6 billion of the world Cocoa value chain earnings of $125 billion—just about five per cent,’ he pointed out.

Through the Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire Cocoa Initiative, the Government, he said, was working on several fronts to increase the value they gained from Cocoa.

They include: Vigorously promoting both domestic and international cocoa consumption; and initiatives for market expansion for exports of cocoa products to Asia; and provision of incentives to the private sector to set up cocoa processing factories.



The Minister said the Government, had also as part of its strategy, to revamp the agricultural sector by placing focus on the tree crop subsector.

‘Cabinet has approved the formation of a Tree Crop Development Authority (GTCDA) to regulate and create a favourable environment for the growth and development of that sector,’ he said.

The Authority will initially regulate the cashew, sheanut butter, oil palm and the rubber crop sub-sectors, with other tree crops being added as and when necessary.

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Madagascar presidential election credibility in doubt as electoral body face charges.

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Madagascar’s presidential election result is likely to face stiff legal challenges, following accusations of electoral fraud and corruption against the electoral body.

Report says appeals have already been lodged with the country’s High Constitutional Court.



Madagascar’s electoral commission announced results on Saturday, confirming an expected presidential election run-off after neither of the candidate obtained the 50% of votes needed to win outrightly.

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According to the Independent electoral commission, former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, will contest the second round having secured 39.19% and 35.29% respectively.

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The outgoing president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, placed third in the polls with only 8.84% of the vote.

The commission said turnout was 54. 3%.

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