AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Death Toll; Boko Haram Ceasefire and Kidnapped Nigerian Girls
Ebola Death Toll
The death toll in the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has risen to 4,493, according to the latest situation report by the World Health Organization.
The WHO said there have been 8,997 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of what the U.N. agency calls Ebola virus disease (EVD) in seven affected countries: countries (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America) up to the end of October 12.
Today (October 17) the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in Senegal over. The U.N. agency commended the country’s authorities for their “diligence to end the transmission of the virus.” The WHO said it has been 42 days since any new cases had developed in Senegal.
However, the WHO said the situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone “is deteriorating, with widespread and persistent transmission of EVD.” The situation report said an increase in new cases in Guinea is being driven by a spike in confirmed and suspected cases in the capital, Conakry, and the nearby district of Coyah.
“In Liberia, problems with data gathering make it hard to draw any firm conclusions from recent data.” The the report stated, adding that it suspects “almost certainly significant under-reporting of cases from the capital, Monrovia.” While there does appear to be a genuine fall in the number of cases in Liberia’s Lofa district, the WHO said a concerted effort will be needed to confirm that drop and whether it means EVD has been eliminated in that area.
In Sierra Leone, intense transmission is still occurring in the capital, Freetown, and the surrounding districts.
Back in the United States, President Obama has appointed Ron Klain, “a seasoned Democratic crisis-response operative and White House veteran,” to manage the U.S. government’s response to the deadly virus as public anxiety grows over its possible spread, the New York Times reported. The new Ebola czar is a former chief of staff for Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, is known for his ability to handle high-stakes and fast-moving political challenges, according to the Times.
Hundreds of U.S. military personnel are already in Liberia assisting in the construction of Ebola treatment centers and training local personnel. They include Marines helicopter crews, Navy SeaBees and lab technicians, Air Force cargo handlers and Army engineers.
The Pentagon says between 3,000 and 4,000 military personnel may be sent to Liberia to help with logistical, construction and administrative tasks. Obama has authorized the Pentagon to call up reservists, if necessary. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby says no U.S. military personnel will be involved in treatment of Ebola patients during the mission, which is called Operation United Assistance.
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Nigeria: Kidnapped Girls
Nigeria’s military says it has agreed to a ceasefire with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and that the militants will release hundreds of schoolgirls it kidnapped earlier this year.
Nigeria’s chief of defense staff, Alex Badeh, announced the truce but Boko Haram has yet to make a public statement, according to the BBC.
Boko Haram, which seeks to create an Islamic state governed by a severe interpretation of Sharia law, requiring beheadings, whippings and limb amputations for crimes launched an insurgency against the Nigerian government in 2009. Thousands have been killed in the struggle, including some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year, the BBC said.
The group, whose name translates roughly into “Western education is fraudulent” and by implication, forbidden, has bombed police stations, churches and bus terminals and attacked high schools and colleges, killing students and teachers. It sparked worldwide outrage in April when it raided a high school in predominantly Muslim northeast Nigeria and carried off hundreds of teenage girls.
Many in the country have been critical of the government’s slow response to the kidnappings and the counterinsurgency in general. They remain skeptical about the ceasefire announcement.
Clement Nwankwo, the executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja, says the negotiations in Saudi Arabia and Chad between the government and Boko Haram will only increase the stature of the group.
“It has acquired its own status that puts it on its own pedestal. But the reality is there [are] a lot of people in northeastern Nigeria who have an incentive to join Boko Haram because of the failures, corruption and the inability of the government to exercise transparency and good governance,” Nwankwo tells the Voice of America.
He’s also worried that Abuja’s willingness to negotiate with Boko Haram may reflect the government’s “desperation” bring the abduction crisis to a close.
Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, News Developments. Tags: Boko Haram, Counter Insurgency, counter terrorism, Ebola czar, Ebola outbreak in West Africa, kidnapped Nigerian girls, Nigeria, soft power.