All posts by Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu

An Industrial Chemist- heading for a PhD. A self-trained Science Communicator. Huge interest in Food Chemistry and Technology, and Information Technology....a social entrepreneur...

How Africa is Becoming the World’s Testing Ground for Commercial Drones

The world’s first commercial drone delivery service operates from Rwanda. The drone service is operated by Zipline, a San Francisco-based robotics company. It delivers blood by drone to almost half of all Rwanda’s blood transfusion centers. Orders are made online, by text, phone, or WhatsApp. 
A technician sits in a refrigerated room where the blood are stored, communicating with his team over Slack. An order has come in for a hospital about two hours away by car. The drone delivers the package in 20 minutes.

“To have a proven model here first in Rwanda is amazing,” says Maggie Jim, who manages global operations and communications for Zipline. She says the company is talking with other governments in Africa, including Tanzania’s, as well as in Latin America about launching drones services there.

That African countries are emerging as a test bed for new ideas that Western countries—bogged down by strict regulations or antiquated systems—are too slow to try has become something of a popular narrative. 

Foreign investors and companies are still wary of setting up on the continent while local startups, especially those outside of Nigeria, South Africa, or Kenya, struggle to get funding.

Drones are one area where African countries are proving more accepting and innovative. The commercial drone industry has been slow to start in most other parts of the world. The United States prohibits drone flights that leave the line of sight of a human pilot. 

In contrast, African countries like Rwanda, Cameroon, Malawi, South Africa, and Kenya are increasingly open to the use of drones in tourism, health services, and e-commerce.

Kenya recently said it would allow the commercial use of drones. In Malawi, drones have been deployed to transfer HIV tests to and from rural parts of Malawi. Elsewhere they’re being used to combat poaching or to augment safaris. 

A Cameroonian start up named Will & Brothers recently raised $200,000 to begin assembling and producing within the country parts for drones. In Rwanda, another drone company has plans to build what would be the world’s first civilian “drone port” for commercial deliveries and ferrying health supplies.

A Morocco-based startup Atlan Space has developed software to use drones for monitoring illegal maritime activity (video) like illegal fishing or oil spills. 

Ugandan authorities have also been open-minded, according to Moses Gichanga, founder of Autonomous Systems Research, a Kenya-based tech consultancy. With consent from the country’s aviation regulator and local authorities, his company has been doing aerial drone tests in the Uganda’s eastern districts as well as in Malawi.

“There are countless use cases for Africa,” says Gichanga, listing agriculture, mineral exploration, security surveillance, and conservation as some of the top areas where drones could be deployed on the continent.

Drone deliveries make sense especially in countries with poor roads and disconnected communities. During the rainy season, many of Rwanda’s roads are wiped out and getting health services in an emergency can take hours because of the country’s hilly terrain. Mapping and deliveries would also be useful for quickly expanding African cities. 

By 2050, as much as a quarter of the world’s population will be living in Africa, more than half of them in cities.
“If we think about Africa in 2050, it won’t be the same story. More people, more security needs, more urbanization, more connectivity [mean] more need of accurate data for maps,” says William Elong, who founded Will & Brothers, which already uses drones for agricultural surveys. Elong says the company has been getting more requests for their drone services in e-commerce and healthcare.

Elong and Gichanga both cite Rwanda as an example of the continent’s increasing openness to drone technology. At Zipline’s operation in Muhanga, a few hours south of Kigali, the drones sit in rows on a wall. More like small airplanes than quadcopters, they fly at 100 km an hour, about 60 miles per hour, and can reach any clinic or hospital within 75 kilometers.

The drones follow predetermined routes that trace the ups and downs of Rwanda’s terrain. Instead of landing, the drones drop the package at the hospital, in a biodegradable paper box attached to a parachute, and then return to Zipline’s headquarters.

But even in a country like Rwanda where technology has been a core part of the government’s plans for growth, it’s not clear that drones have the most effective impact on its healthcare improvements. 

Rwanda has expanded access to healthcare across the country and dramatically improved maternal mortality rates, but is still dealing with a shortage of health workers. The country has 0.06 doctors per 1,000 people, well below the World Health Organization’s recommended rate of 2.5 health workers per 1,000 people. In 2011, there were nine anesthesiologists and 17 surgeons serving a population of more than 10 million.

Zipline and the government won’t disclose the costs of the service. Jim says that the healthcare system overall will save money by reducing waste and inventory costs.
In a country with a government known for keeping an eye on its citizens—and accused of disappearing rivals and critics—Zipline has also had to earn the trust of the communities their drones fly in. 

The team introduced themselves at town hall-like events, showing the residents photos of the drones and assuring them that they are solely for delivery. The only time cameras are installed on the drones is during test flights to map out routes. “We want to make sure that every citizen in Rwanda understands what it means when a drone flies over them,” say Jim.

Source: Quartz Africa

Science Has the Power to Boost Agriculture in Africa

The agricultural sector is the world’s largest single employer. It provides jobs for more than 40% of the global population. It’s also the largest source of income and jobs for poor, rural households.

It is, by and large, a successful sector. There have been huge improvements in yields and food production over the past five decades. 

More cereals have been produced annually during the past 40 years than in any earlier period. It is also predicted that more grain will be harvested in 2017 than in any year in history. This is as a consequence of scientific advances, increased fertiliser use and favourable rainfall patterns.

Many of these gains have been felt in Africa. Improved seed varieties, new fertilisers and pesticides, improved credit and market access have all played a role. So have scientific innovations such as improved and more reliable weather prediction, improved drought tolerance and increased resistance to extreme climatic conditions, and cross-breeding for improved efficiency.

And yet hundreds of millions of people in Africa are going hungry every day. Globally, 800 million people are categorised as chronically hungry. Around 30% of them – 227 million people – live in Africa.

So where is the disconnect between food production and food security in Africa? Why does the continent spend about US $40 billion a year importing food when so many of its own residents are farmers? And how can this situation be changed?

At least part of the answer lies with science. There are already several excellent examples of ways in which science has led to dramatic increases in food production and moved farmers in some countries closer to self-sufficiency.

Science at work

A project in Uganda provides an excellent example. Ugandan scientist Robert Mwanga won the 2016 World Food Prize for his work in addressing Vitamin A deficiencies. Without Vitamin A, children are more likely to develop entirely preventable blindness. Working with people in Uganda’s poor, rural areas, Mwanga set about substituting, at scale, white sweet potato – which is low in Vitamin A – with a Vitamin A-rich alternative.

In Ethiopia, Gebisa Ejeta was awarded the 2009 World Food Prize for his work on improving the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa by increasing the production of sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the parasitic Striga weed.

None of these projects would have been possible without governments supporting the research that lay behind them. But much more needs to be done. Research shows that investing an extra US $88 billion in agricultural research and development globally over the next 15 years could increase crop yields by 0.4% each year.

This could save 80 million people from hunger and protect five million children from malnourishment.

Africa is behind the curve on investing in research to improve agriculture outputs. Even though all 54 countries of the African Union have signed up to successive commitments – starting with the Maputo Declaration in 2003 – to increase their agricultural research budgets to at least 10% of their national budgets, few have actually done so.

At the last count only 13 had met or exceeded the 10% target in one or more years since 2003.

There’s an added problem. Africa relies on external capacity for most of its scientific research in agriculture. This has undermined its capacity to use science to deliver solutions for problems unique to Africa. This needs to change. Scientific research should be Africa-based, owned and led. Investment will be key – and so will solidarity among African scientists and governments.

Using science to benefit people

In 2014 African heads of state renewed their commitment to the agriculture sector when the signed the Malibu Declaration. The core of its agenda is to connect science to benefit society by:

  • Identifying broad areas of science that can be developed in partnership
  • Strengthening national science and technology institutions
  • Building human capacity
  • Diversifying funding sources to support science
  • Facilitating partnerships between African institutions at a national and continental level
  • Sharing information, technologies, information, facilities and staff for common challenges and opportunities, and
  • Creating a favourable policy environment for science

In addition to this, governments need to step up to the plate and increase their research budgets. Combined with the commitment to work together, the hope is that science will increasingly be used to create a more productive, efficient and competitive agriculture sector across the continent. This is critical to improve rural economies, where most people in Africa live.

Source: The Conversation

Microsoft to Open its First Data Centers in Africa

Microsoft today announced that it will soon open two data center regions for its cloud-based services in Johannesburg and Cape Town South Africa. This marks Microsoft’s first data center expansion into Africa, and the plan is to get these new regions online in 2018.

Like most of its other data centers around the world, these new regions will offer both Azure’s suite of cloud computing tools for developers as well as productivity tools like Office 365 and Dynamics 365. With no data centers in the region, developers and other Microsoft customers currently have to connect to data centers in Europe and accept the increased latency that entails.

“Few places in the world are as dynamic and diverse as Africa today,” Microsoft’s executive vice president for its Cloud and Enterprise group Scott Guthrie writes in today’s announcement. “In this landscape, we see enormous opportunity for the cloud to accelerate innovation, support people across the continent who are working to transform their businesses, explore new entrepreneurship opportunities and help solve some of the world’s hardest problems.”

The addition of these two new regions brings Microsoft’s total number of regions to 40, significantly more than its biggest competitors. As far as competing cloud platforms go, Google currently offers its developers access to eight regions (but has a plan to aggressively increase this number over the course of this year) and Amazon’s AWS currently operates 16 regions and 42 availability zones.

It’s worth noting that neither Google nor Amazon currently operate regions in Africa, though the number of data centers in the region that are being operated by other companies continues to increase rapidly.

Source: TechCrunch

​How Africa Led the World in Science and Technology

Credit: 123RF

“When Europeans first came to Africa, they considered the architecture very disorganized and thus primitive. It never occurred to them that the Africans might have been using a form of mathematics that they hadn’t even discovered yet.”

Africa has the world’s oldest record of human technological achievement: the oldest stone tools in the world and evidence for tool production by our hominin ancestors have been found in eastern Africa and across Sub-Saharan Africa respectively.

Despite notable African developments in medicine, mathematics, metallurgy and technology in the past, today Africa lags far behind other regions of the world and gives too little or no attention to science and technology.

Let’s take a look at some historic technological achievements in Africa:

Mathematics

Ancient Egyptian mathematicians had a grasp of the principles underlying the Pythagorean theorem. They were able to estimate the area of a circle by subtracting one-ninth from its diameter and squaring the result.

Timbuktu in Mali was a major centre of the sciences. All of the mathematical learning of the Islamic world during the medieval period was available and advanced by Timbuktu scholars: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry.

The binary numeral system which lead to the development of the digital computer was widely known through Africa before it was known throughout much of the world.

Astronomy

Egyptians were the first to develop a 365-day, 12-month calendar. It was a stellar calendar, created by observing the stars.

Even today, South Africa has cultivated a burgeoning astronomy community. It hosts the Southern African Large Telescope, the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere.

South Africa is currently building the Karoo Array Telescope as a pathfinder for the $20 billion Square Kilometre Array project.

Metallurgy

Iron use, in smelting and forging for tools, appears in West Africa by 1200 BCE, making it one of the first places for the birth of the Iron Age.

Besides being masters in iron, Africans were masters in brass and bronze. Ife in Nigeria, produced life like statues in brass, an artistic tradition beginning in the 13th century.

Benin also in Nigeria mastered bronze during the 16th century, produced portraiture and reliefs in the metal using the lost wax process. They also were a manufacturer of glass and glass beads.

Medicine

The knowledge of inoculating oneself against smallpox seems to have been known to the Akan of Ghana and Ivory Coast. A slave named Onesimus explained the inoculation procedure to Cotton Mather during the 18th century; he reported to have gotten the knowledge from Africa.

In Djenné, Mali, the mosquito was identified to be the cause of malaria, and the removal of cataracts was a common surgical procedure. Based on Timbuktu manuscripts, the dangers of tobacco smoking were known already to African scholars.

Ancient Egyptian physicians were renowned for their healing skills, Herodotus remarked that there was a high degree of specialization among Egyptian physicians, with some treating only the head or the stomach, while others were eye-doctors and dentists.

Ancient Egyptian surgeons stitched wounds, set broken bones, and amputated diseased limbs. Around 800, the first psychiatric hospital in Egypt was built by physicians in Cairo.

Around 1100, the ventilator was invented in Egypt.In 1285, the largest hospital of the Middle Ages and pre-modern era was built in Cairo, Egypt, by Sultan Qalaun al-Mansur.

Tetracycline was being used by Nubians, based on bone remains between 350 AD and 550 AD. The antibiotic was in wide commercial use only in the mid-20th century.

The theory is earthen jars containing grain used for making Nubian beer contained the bacterium streptomycedes, which produced tetracycline. Although Nubians were not aware of tetracycline, they could have noticed people fared better by drinking beer.

Successful Caesarean section was performed by indigenous healers in Kahura, Uganda, as observed by R. W. Felkin in 1879. European travellers in the Great Lakes region of Africa (Uganda and Rwanda) during the 19th century observed Caesarean sections being performed on a regular basis.

The expectant mother was normally anesthetized with banana wine, and herbal mixtures were used to encourage healing. From the well-developed nature of the procedures employed, European observers concluded that they had been employed for some time.

A South African, Max Theiler, developed a vaccine against yellow fever in 1937. The first human-to-human heart transplant was performed by South African cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital in December 1967.

During the 1960s, South African Aaron Klug developed crystallographic electron microscopy techniques, in which a sequence of two-dimensional images of crystals taken from different angles are combined to produce three-dimensional images of the target.

Today

The coming of the Europeans to Africa hindered further scientific and technological advancement in Africa.

The continent still has great scientific minds: Ahmed Zewail, an Egyptian won the 1999 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in femtochemistry, methods that allow the description of change states in femtoseconds or very short seconds; but 40% of African-born scientists live outside Africa because African countries invest too little or nothing in science and technology Research and Development.

Sub-Saharan African countries spent on average a meagre 0.3% of their GDP on Science and Technology in 2007. North African countries spend a comparative 0.4% of GDP on research.

Notably outstripping other African countries, South Africa spends 0.87% of GDP on science and technology research. Although there are many technology parks in the world there is none in Africa.

There are over 500 Science and Technology centres in the world but only two in the whole of Africa. This is how far Africa has fallen in Science and Technology.

Today, Africa is shadow of herself. The continent can hardly even show the remains of her glorious era of scientific and technological advancement, net even science or technology museums to showcase whatever remained.

Google’s Bunmi Banjo is Giving One Million Africans a Digital Future

Bunmi Banjo: Google’s Brand and Reputation manager

Africa’s youth population is expected to double to a staggering 830 million by 2050, such rapid growth has led to questions about how the continent will keep up in terms of resources and jobs.
A report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) into World Employment paints a dire picture of the state of youth unemployment and working poverty on the continent.

According to the 2016 report, North Africa has the second highest rate of youth unemployment in the world, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of working poverty.

So how do you tackle a rapidly growing population burdened with high rates of unemployment?

For Google Brand and Reputation manager Bunmi Banjo it’s teaching millions of Africans digital skills, for free.

How to train a million

After a career in banking, Banjo said she saw a need to create economic opportunities for Africans, which led her to Google.

She joined the team in 2012 and under her leadership, the company has trained a million youths in sub-Saharan African in just eleven months.

“We have trained hundreds over the years but we decided that in Africa we really needed skill,” Banjo told CNN.

“A lot of them [youth] coming online only know about social and are using the web primarily as a communication tool which is great, but [they are] not realizing that there is a lot more they can do with it especially in Africa where the jobs are not there.”

Soon after the Digital Skills for Africa program launched in April last year Banjo found it necessary to raise the bar higher, and the company decided to train one million people.

“You can connect with people, grow your skills and potentially get jobs from across the world,” she explained. “This is what we want to make sure large numbers of young people are aware of.”

‘ Not a quick fix’

The training, a free crash course in digital marketing, was delivered in classrooms, online and offline for areas with limited Internet access. Training happens in over 27 countries According to Banjo, the course will give participants a 70% chance of becoming more employable.

“We know people across the region are ingenious, with a little they do a lot and they are thirsty for knowledge,” she said.

“All our classes are oversubscribed because they are eager to learn. If they had the right tools and information they will be able to.”

While she acknowledges this training is no ‘quick fix’ for the continent’s high unemployment numbers, she stressed the importance of teaching African youth about less traditional paths to job creation.

“A lot of young people will have to figure out how to create income and opportunities for themselves and we feel very strongly that the web is a way to do that.”

Getting value out of the web

According to Banjo the program is already yielding positive results.

” 67% of the people we have trained have said they have either gotten a job or they feel better prepared for jobs because of the training,” Banjo shared. “If only a few million people are impacted by 67% that is significant.”

But Banjo is not stopping there.

“I know a million on its own sounds big but we are talking about a continent that has 500 million people that have the potential to contribute to the economy,” she said. “A million doesn’t look so big anymore.”

Google plan to train at least another million by the end of 2017 and to offer courses in local languages including Hausa and Swahili and Banjo has no plans of slowing down.

“Every aspect of my job is about helping people get value out of the web…” she said.

“Young people [in Africa] are ingenious and all they need is a little support to connect to the tools they need to improve their future.”

“It’s not every time you get to do something where you get to meet the beneficiaries of the work you do. It’s the most rewarding feeling to point at the work you do and the impact it’s having at the level of the individual.

Source: CNN Africa

Owner of OperaMini Browser Plans to Invest $100m in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya

Top image from Opera’s media roundtable in Lagos, Nigeria

Opera, the Norwegian browser-maker that was sold to a Chinese consortium last year, is doubling down on the African market after it announced plans to invest $100 million to grow its business in the emerging region.

The company is well known for its reach in emerging markets, and Africa in particular where it recently reached 100 million users. This $100 million budget is principally for the business in its three strongest African markets — South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — where it plans to strengthen its product, grow its ecosystem of partners and bring more users aboard. Further down the line, it could apply the same approach to other countries in the region.

“We are definitely interested in more markets,” Jan Standal, head of global marketing and communications, told TechCrunch in an interview. “There’s nothing preventing us from initiating an extension at any time.”

Standal, who said the budget is expected to last for “the next couple of years,” explained that Opera’s marketshare in the three chosen countries is between 40 and 60 percent and, with that base, it is looking to make a major push into content.

“We’re stepping up [because] the purpose of the browser is evolving,” he said. “Particularly around news publishing, the browser is one of the main gateways to consumption. If you want to reach people [in African countries] you have to work with web browsers… and we’re changing our role from being a browser to content aggregator.”

Opera has long put a focus on media with its web browsers — both mobile and desktop — but earlier this year it revealed that Chinese parent company Kunlun Tech had developed a team to bring AI to the core of its services. News and content distribution is high on the order for its AI tech, which will be increase the personalization of news that the company’s browser surfaces for users. In Africa, the company said it wants deliver “personalized and localized content” to users.

Beyond working with content producers — Standal stressed a focus on “premium content” — Opera plans to ramp up its work with OEMs and operators to bring more users on to its platform, and double down on its data optimization technology to help offset the comparatively expensive cost of data in Africa. It also began running TV ads in Africa to raise awareness of the service, and what users can do besides just browsing the web.

Beyond those established gatekeepers, Opera has its eye on startups that fit with its mission of growing digital audiences in Africa. Standal hinted that technology around payments is one area of interest, but he declined to provide specific details around plans for investments or acquisitions.

“This is the direction we’re interested in but we don’t have any announcements at this point,” he added.

Opera is already working on widening its content reach in Africa — it initially began on general news and sports — and it has adopted a similar approach in other parts of the world. In India, for instance, it introduced Cricket alerts earlier this year.

While Opera has given any targets for its $100 million investment in Africa, Standal said the company “expects to see good growth.”

“We’re going after this investment plan because we have a very strong position in Africa,” he explained. “We want to continue to grow the internet base.”

Operationally, it has an office in South Africa already and is in the process of opening similar bases in both Kenya and Nigeria in line with this push. The company said it plans to hire 100 people across its workforce in all three countries.

Source: TechCrunch

Why it is Dangerous for a Nursing Mother to Take Codeine or Tramadol

I know a young woman who was so addicted to codeine. Even when she was pregnant she was always high on codeine. She carried her pregnancy without experiencing any complication and her baby was delivered with ease, and then her abuse of codeine increased. I don’t know how much of the drug got to the baby while in the womb but after birth it was obvious that the baby was getting this drug through breast milk. The baby hardly cried and was always asleep. This nursing mother couldn’t stop or slow down her intake of codeine so the baby had to be taken away from her.

A lot of young people abuse codeine and tramadol to get a euphoric high, low, slow or strong feeling. This has become a societal problem because the abuse of these drugs like other opiates has many adverse effects more especially on babies and young children.

Codeine is a moderately strong opiate drug that is used in pain relief and for the suppression of coughs. Tramadol is an opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain But strong or weak, these drugs are addictive with many symptoms of use in common with other opiates.

According to the New York Times, the United State Food and Drug Administration announced that any child younger than 12 should not take the opioid codeine and that those 18 and younger should not take tramadol, another painkiller, after certain types of surgery. In addition, nursing mothers should avoid both opioids because they pose dangers to breast-feeding babies.

The agency said, drug manufacturers will be required to update their package inserts to reflect the new contraindications, the strongest kind of warning, to alert doctors and parents that children can have trouble breathing or die after taking these drugs. Some over-the-counter cough or cold remedies contain codeine, so parents should read all labels to avoid accidentally giving it to their child.

Teenagers with certain conditions like severe lung disease, obesity or obstructive sleep apnea that can impair breathing may be at particular risk, the agency cautioned.

According to New York Times, these warnings were prompted by a recent review of rare but alarming reports of life-threatening side effects from the drugs. Between January 1969 and May 2015, the F.D.A. identified 24 deaths and 40 cases of serious breathing difficulties in children younger than 18 worldwide tied to drugs that contain codeine. Of the 24 deaths, 21 occurred in children under 12.

The use of tramadol was linked to three deaths and six cases of respiratory troubles in children under 18 between January 1969 and March 2016. All of the deaths occurred outside the United States and involved tramadol given in oral drops, a formulation not available in this country. One case in the United States involved a 6-year-old who became unresponsive after a third dose of tramadol and fully recovered after two doses of naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdose.

The problem with both codeine and tramadol is that some people are “ultrarapid metabolizers” whose livers metabolize the drugs much too quickly, causing dangerously high levels of opioids to build up, said Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, the deputy director for regulatory programs at the F.D.A.’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. No test can identify who might metabolize the drug too quickly, and that is why the agency issued blanket warnings for children by age.

Certain ethnic groups may be especially sensitive to the drugs. Up to 10 percent of whites, for instance, are fast metabolizers, compared with up to 4 percent of African-Americans and up to 2 percent of East Asians. And more than 10 percent of people of Puerto Rican and Middle Eastern descent may be fast metabolizers.

Any breast-feeding mother could also be an ultrarapid metabolizer and not know it, and unwittingly pass on high levels of opioids to her nursing baby through breast milk. Excessive sleepiness, limpness, breathing troubles or even death can result.

“Because we can’t easily determine which children or nursing mothers specifically are at greater risk of ultrarapid metabolism of codeine and tramadol, today we are requiring manufacturers of prescription codeine and tramadol products to make important labeling changes to protect those children who are at greater risk,” Dr. Throckmorton said.

Meet Ugandans Who Invented a Better Way to Diagnose Pneumonia

L-R Brian Turyabagye and Besufekad Shifferaw, both telecom engineering graduates who invented the Smart Jacket-mama’s Hope to diagnose Pnuemonia, April 5, 2017. (H. Althumani/VOA)

Three university engineering graduates in Uganda are taking on one of the leading killers of young children in Africa – pneumonia. They say the prototype of their invention, a “smart jacket” they have named Mama’s Hope, can diagnose the illness faster and more accurately than the current medical protocol.

Four-month-old Nakato Christine writhes on a hospital bed, breathing fast. On the other end of the bed is her twin sister, in the same condition. Nakato coughs as Senior Nurse Kyebatala Loy adjusts the nasal gastric tube.

“They have been put on oxygen because they have difficulty in breathing and the feeding is also difficult because of their fast breathing,” Kyebatala said.

Since January, 352 babies have been admitted with pneumonia to pediatric ward 16 at Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala.

Pneumonia is the leading infectious cause of death for children under five years of age in Africa and south Asia, according to the World Health Organization. In 2015, pneumonia killed nearly a million children worldwide.

A key problem is the challenge involved in diagnosing the disease. The sooner the sick children start receiving antibiotics, the better their chance of survival. But health workers armed with stethoscopes and thermometers can miss the infection in its early stage. Dr. Flavia Mpanga of the U.N. Children’s Fund in Kampala says other methods, like the respiratory timer, can lead to misdiagnosis.

“If you see the respiratory timer, it’s got a ticking mechanism that confuses the community health workers. When they are taking the breathe rates, they confuse the ticking sound of the respiratory timer with the breathe rates and every child is almost diagnosed with pneumonia,” said Dr. Mpanga.

She says over-diagnosis means some children are taking antibiotics they don’t need, which is also a public health problem.

A trio of recent university engineering graduates in Uganda think they have an answer. They have been working with the Mulago School of Public Health to test a prototype of their invention, the smart jacket, called Mama’s Hope.

Two of the inventors, 26-year-old Beseufekad Shifferaw and 25-year-old Brian Turyabagye, gave VOA a demonstration.

“Ahh so…[zipper sound]… the jacket…is placed on the child…first, this goes around the child and then the falcon fastening is placed, and then the flaps are placed…[fade out]”

“This jacket will simply measure the vital signs of pneumonia. That is the breathing rate, the state of the lungs and the temperature,” said Turyabagye. “Now those signs are transmitted to our unit here, through which a health worker can read off the readings, which include cough, chest pains, nausea or difficulty in breathing. With those additional signs and symptoms, they are coupled with the result that has been measured by the jacket and it gives a more accurate diagnosis result.”

For now, it is just a prototype. But the inventors say their tests have shown that the smart jacket can diagnose pneumonia three times faster than traditional exams.

UNICEF has put the team in touch with its office in Copenhagen in charge of innovations to help them advance in the pre-trial stage. Dr. Mpanga sees potential.

“My only hope is that this jacket can reach a commercial value and be regulatory-body approved so that it can help the whole world,” said Dr. Mpanga.

Dr. Mpanga says taking the guess work out of pneumonia diagnosis could save countless lives in the developing world.

Source: VOA

​Catch Them Young and Train Them to Be Guardians of their Environment

Source: Screen Rant

Our planet – our home is dying because we have never cared enough for our environment. In Nigeria we have not cared enough individually and therefore as a country. Most Nigerians do not know that our existence as humans greatly depends on our environment and also do not understand how our ecosystem works. Many do not know, for instance, how a bad farming method can cause desertification, how pipeline vandalism can expose people to cancer or how Illegal mining can lead to infant mortality. They don’t know our environment can determine our health, how long we live and the quality of life we live. Many Nigerians still connect diseases, abnormalities or disasters caused by human activities to the doing of an angry supernatural being mainly because they do not understand how our ecosystem works.

Our education system was designed before the independence of Nigeria and has not been updated or reviewed to properly educate young people on the importance of protecting the environment. Young people are not trained at home either to consider their environment when making daily decisions or when carrying out their daily activities. This way of life has been passed from generation to generation and has influenced our mentality as individuals and culture as a people. We now have a culture and value system that does not encourage the conservation or protection of the environment. In this country, everyday, animals and plants are wiped out from their natural habitat due bad farming and mining practices, pipe vandalism and bad waste disposal methods. Our rivers and oceans are heavily polluted, and our forests are steadily disappearing. Our non-eco-friendly culture and mentality to a large extent are a major part of the fundamental environmental problem in Nigeria.

To improve the environment in Nigeria, there must be a cultural change in the way Nigerians view and interact with the environment. The holy book says, “my people perish for the lack of knowledge”. The cultural change in the way Nigerians interact with the environment can be driven by proper education and reorientation of the populace. The people must become knowledgeable of their environment and must imbibe values and practices that protect the environment. A strategic education and a radical reorientation of Nigerians are required to cause the cultural change that will sustainably improve our environment.

The strategy is to mould the young and upcoming generation, and the generations after them to become environmentally conscious and educated using the concept “catch them young”. We must inculcate an eco-friendly lifestyle into our young people. To do so extracurricular activities that promote eco-friendly values, culture and practices will be introduced in primary and secondary schools, religious centres and our neighbourhoods by establishing clubs, associations and community development groups. 

Knowledge and skills on environmental protection, environmental conservation, ecosystem, biodiversity, waste management, and recycling will be passed on to children starting from primary school age through play classes, storytelling, toys, pictures, videos, songs, poems, essays, art works, debates, projects, craftworks, games, competitions, summer camps, excursions etc. These young minds will be trained to be Guardians of the Environment: to create awareness on environmental protection and participate in environmental policy debates and advocacy at all level. They will also be taught waste-to-wealth and waste recycling skills and mentored to be waste-to-wealth and waste recycling entrepreneurs. They will be mentored and exposed to careers and income earning opportunities in the green sector of the economy.  

This project will be planned and executed by a team of volunteers in collaboration with schools, communities, religious organisations, government agencies and NGOs.

This App Let You Buy About to Expire Food at a Discount in Nigeria.

Growing up Oscar Ekponimo was familiar with hunger. After his father had a partial stroke, he was temporarily ill and unable to work, leaving the family struggling to make ends meet.

“I remember most times there was little or no food [in the house],” he told CNN. “I had to go to school without food and got by with snacks friends shared with me.” .

“I always said in the future I would do something to ensure others wouldn’t go through what I went through.”

Fast forward to 2017 and Ekponimo, now a software engineer, is doing exactly that through his web app Chowberry.

The app connects supermarkets to NGOs and low-income earners, allowing them to buy food that’s about to expire at a discount.

Ekponimo says the response to the project has been encouraging and he’s been able to see first hand how it’s transforming lives.

“We met one lady who has six children and survives on 400 naira ($1.05)a day,” he said. “She sells firewood and kunu (a local drink). One day the task force seized her kunu for hawking in the street, and she had nothing. She had to feed her family on what she made. So it’s nice to see the impact of what we’re doing.”

A three-month pilot involving 20 retailers reached about 300 people in Lagos and Abuja, feeding 150 orphans and children at risk.

He is hopeful that more national retailers will join the scheme as demand for the service continues to grow in the face of Nigeria’s recession.

“We went from about 1,500 daily visits to double that. There have been requests and demand, people tell me we really want this, we’re relying on what you guys are doing because things are expensive.”

Hunger and food insecurity are problems still plaguing the continent. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 223 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry or undernourished in 2014-2016, the second largest number of hungry people in the world.

According to the World Food Programme, Nigeria is a ‘food deficit’ country, meaning that it cannot provide enough food for its population.
Widespread poverty, inflation and insecurity have been cited as contributing factors to Nigeria’s hunger problem.

Last year, the UN revealed 14 million in the northeast of the country need urgent humanitarian assistance because of the ongoing Boko Haram conflict and warned that 75,000 children could starve to death in months.

Last year, Ekponimo won a Rolex Award for Enterprise for his work and has hopes to expand.

“It’s been a wonderful journey,” he said. “We’re expanding our work and working on scaling to other parts of the country and to other regions and possibly replicating it in other parts of the world.”

Source: CNN