Monthly Archives: March 2019

Delayed Congo Legislative Vote Begins in Ebola Areas

BENI, CONGO Long-awaited legislative elections are underway in three towns in Congo after authorities postponed them because of Ebola and violence.

In the town of Beni on Sunday, voters were washing their hands before entering polling centers as a protection against Ebola, which is transmitted by the bodily fluids of sick people.

Voters in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi were not allowed to vote in January when Congo chose a new president. Officials said the Ebola virus posed too great a threat at the time in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo.

Elections were delayed in Yumbi because of intercommunal violence.

Voting turnout was expected to be low. Albert Somo, a teacher in Beni, said people were disappointed and discouraged because they were not permitted to participate in the presidential vote.

Source: Voice of America

Delayed Congo Legislative Vote Begins in Ebola Areas

BENI, CONGO Long-awaited legislative elections are underway in three towns in Congo after authorities postponed them because of Ebola and violence.

In the town of Beni on Sunday, voters were washing their hands before entering polling centers as a protection against Ebola, which is transmitted by the bodily fluids of sick people.

Voters in Beni, Butembo and Yumbi were not allowed to vote in January when Congo chose a new president. Officials said the Ebola virus posed too great a threat at the time in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo.

Elections were delayed in Yumbi because of intercommunal violence.

Voting turnout was expected to be low. Albert Somo, a teacher in Beni, said people were disappointed and discouraged because they were not permitted to participate in the presidential vote.

Source: Voice of America

Some Conservative States Easing Access to Birth Control

AMES, IOWA Several Republican-led state legislatures are advocating for women to gain over-the-counter access to birth control in what they say is an effort to reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions.

State legislatures in Arkansas and Iowa, for example, are working on legislation that would allow women older than 18 the ability to receive birth control from a pharmacist rather than going first to a doctor for a prescription. The measures are seeing bipartisanship support in those states and come after similar laws have passed in nearly a dozen other states.

Arkansas state Representative Aaron Pilkington, a Republican, said he started working on the bill after seeing about a 15 percent decrease of teen births after other states passed similar legislation. Arkansas consistently has one of the highest birth rates among teenagers in the country.

Pilkington said support for the bill in many ways, it’s very generational. … I find that a lot of younger people and women are really in favor of this, especially mothers.

According to the Oral Contraceptive (OCs) Over the Counter (OTC) Working Group, a reproductive rights group, more than 100 countries, including Russia, much of South America and countries in Africa, allow access to birth control without a prescription.

Women are required to get a doctor’s prescription to obtain and renew birth control in most of the U.S., much of Europe, Canada and Australia, according to the reproductive rights group.

Pilkington, who identifies as a pro-life legislator, said he brought the bill forward partly as an effort to counter unwanted pregnancies and abortions. The bill would require a doctor’s visit about every two years to renew the prescription.

Rural residents

Arkansas has a population of about 3 million people, a third of whom live in rural areas. Pilkington said the bill would likely benefit women who reside in rural areas or those who have moved to new cities and aren’t under a doctor’s care yet.

A lot of times when they’re on the pill and they run out, they’ve gotta get a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor says, ‘I can’t see you for two months,’ he said. Some people have to drive an hour and a half to see their PCP (primary care physician) or OB-GYN (obstetrician-gynecologist), so this makes a lot of sense.

What Pilkington is proposing is not new. In 2012, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorsed the idea of making birth control available without a prescription. Today, at least 11 other states have passed legislation allowing for patients to go directly to the pharmacist, with some caveats.

In October, ahead of a tight midterm race, Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds raised a few eyebrows when she announced she would prioritize over-the-counter access to birth control in her state. Like Pilkington, she cited countering abortion as a main driver behind the proposed legislation. The bill closely models much of the language used in another Republican-sponsored bill In Utah that passed last year with unanimous support.

The planned Iowa legislation comes after the Republican-led state Legislature passed a bill in 2017 that rejected $3 million in federal funds for family-planning centers like Planned Parenthood.

The loss of federal funds forced Planned Parenthood, a nonprofit organization that provides health care and contraception for women, to close four of its 12 clinics in the state.

Since then, Jamie Burch Elliott, public affairs manager of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Iowa, said that anecdotal evidence shows that sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies have gone up.

With family planning, it takes time to see the impacts, so there are long-term studies going on to really study the impact of this, said Burch Elliott. Right away, we saw STI (sexually transmitted infections) and STD (sexually transmitted diseases) rates go up, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea. As far as unintended pregnancy rates, we are hearing that they are rising, although the data is not out yet.

Pro-life pushback

So far the Iowa legislation has received some pushback, mostly from a few pro-life groups.

The Iowa Right to Life organization has remained neutral on the issue of birth control, but the Iowa Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the bishops of Iowa, and Iowans for LIFE, a nonprofit anti-abortion organization, have come out against the bill, citing concerns that birth control should not be administered without a visit to a physician.

Maggie DeWitte, executive director of Iowans for LIFE, also pointed out that oral contraception can be an abortifacient [that] sometimes cause abortions, challenging Reynolds’ motivation for introducing the bill.

On the other hand, Iowa family-planning organizations and Democratic legislators are mostly on board.

Policywise, I think this is really good, said Heather Matson, a state representative of a district located just outside the state capital, Des Moines. She appreciated that insurance will still cover birth control, but took issue with the age restriction, saying she would like to see an option for people younger than 18. Is it exactly the bill that I would have written, if given the opportunity? Not exactly.

While Matson represents one of the fastest-growing districts in the country, she pointed to the number of health care deserts in rural Iowa, where a shortage of OB-GYNs is leading to the closure of some maternity wards.

Like Planned Parenthood’s Burch Elliott, Matson agreed that this bill would be just one step in providing more access to birth control for women in rural parts of the state.

Even before Planned Parenthood was defunded, there wasn’t great access to birth control in Iowa to begin with, Burch Elliott said. Having said that, [this bill] is not a solution. Pharmacists are never going to be a replacement for Planned Parenthood, for example, where you’ll get STI and STD screenings, and any other cancer screenings or other preventive care that you might need.

Regardless of whether the bills pass in Des Moines or Little Rock, Arkansas Representative Pilkington expects other states to follow suit.

As the times have changed and you have a lot of conservative states like Tennessee, Arkansas, Utah (pass this legislation), I think it makes it way less of a partisan issue and more of a good governance issue, he said. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see other states kind of pushing this as well. Especially when they see the success that other states are having with this.

Source: Voice of America

Teacher from remote Kenya village is world’s best, wins $1 mn

A maths and physics teacher from a secondary school in a remote village in Kenya’s Rift Valley has won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2019, organisers have said.

Peter Tabichi, who organisers say gives away 80 percent of his monthly income to the poor, received the prize at a ceremony Saturday in Dubai hosted by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman.

“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter… This prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi said.

“This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything,” he added after beating nine finalists from around the world to claim the award.

The Dubai-based Varkey Foundation, which organises the event and handed out the prize for the fifth time, praised Tabichi’s “dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his students’ talent”.

All this combined, it said in a statement, “has led his poorly-resource school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions”.

Tabichi, 36, teaches at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani village, in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, where drought and famine are frequent.

Around 95 percent of the school’s pupils “hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home,” the statement added.

“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common.”

To get to school, some students have to walk seven kilometres (four miles) along roads that become impassable during the rainy season.

The school, with a student-teacher ration of 58 to 1, has only one desktop computer for the pupils and poor internet, but despite that Tabichi “uses ICT in 80 percent of his lessons to engage students”, the foundation said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated Tabichi in a video message, saying “your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent”.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

Teacher from remote Kenya village is world’s best, wins $1 mn

A maths and physics teacher from a secondary school in a remote village in Kenya’s Rift Valley has won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize for 2019, organisers have said.

Peter Tabichi, who organisers say gives away 80 percent of his monthly income to the poor, received the prize at a ceremony Saturday in Dubai hosted by Hollywood star Hugh Jackman.

“Every day in Africa we turn a new page and a new chapter… This prize does not recognise me but recognises this great continent’s young people. I am only here because of what my students have achieved,” Tabichi said.

“This prize gives them a chance. It tells the world that they can do anything,” he added after beating nine finalists from around the world to claim the award.

The Dubai-based Varkey Foundation, which organises the event and handed out the prize for the fifth time, praised Tabichi’s “dedication, hard work and passionate belief in his students’ talent”.

All this combined, it said in a statement, “has led his poorly-resource school in remote rural Kenya to emerge victorious after taking on the country’s best schools in national science competitions”.

Tabichi, 36, teaches at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani village, in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley, where drought and famine are frequent.

Around 95 percent of the school’s pupils “hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home,” the statement added.

“Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common.”

To get to school, some students have to walk seven kilometres (four miles) along roads that become impassable during the rainy season.

The school, with a student-teacher ration of 58 to 1, has only one desktop computer for the pupils and poor internet, but despite that Tabichi “uses ICT in 80 percent of his lessons to engage students”, the foundation said.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated Tabichi in a video message, saying “your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent”.

Source: Seychelles News Agency