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The East African : Jan 5th 2015
28 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK JANUARY 3-9,2015 S CI E N C E Cheap contraceptive hits EA market Sayana P≥ess will be administe≥ed to women in 69 poo≥ count≥ies By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent K enyan and Ugandan women will soon benefit from a new inject- able contraceptive that will allow women to self-administer birth control. In an agreement signed be- tween the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, women in 69 globe will now access the Sayana Press device, which costs $1 per unit. The average cost of the injectable contraceptive in East Africa is $7 in public hospitals and higher in the private hospitals. Sayana Press (medroxyproges- terone acetate) will be issued to qualified health workers who will administer it to women in the target countries. There are two contraceptive in- jections — Depo-Provera, which lasts for 12 weeks, and Noristerat, which lasts for eight weeks. The most popular is Depo-Provera. Depo-Provera, the active contra- ceptive drug in Sayana Press, is a long acting synthetic hormone that is injected every three months. The injection contains pro- gestogen, which thickens the mucus in the cervix, stopping sperm from reaching the ovum. It also thins the womb lining and, in some women, prevents the release of an ovum. The delivery system for the Saya- na Press called “uniject” combines a long-acting, reversible, contraceptive with an all-in-one prefilled, single-use, non-reusable system that eliminates the need to prepare a needle and syringe. This method has also been used for immunisations. BRIEFLY poor countries across the The average cost of the injectable contraceptive in East Africa is $7 in public hospitals and higher in the private hospitals. Depo-Provera, the active contraceptive drug in Sayana Press, is a long acting synthetic hormone that is injected every three months The injection contains progestogen, which thickens the mucus in the cervix, stopping sperm from reaching the ovum. Burkina Faso was the first country globally to use it during the pilot phase The high number of unplanned pregnancies in Kenya and Uganda point to the need for increased use of family planning by women.” Chris Elias, president of global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation The use of this delivery system allows the contraceptive to be administered by either health workers to women at home or in other convenient settings or by experienced BRIEFS Ebola infection rates rise in Sierra Leone Over 7,000 people have died of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the three countries worst affected by the disease. The toll has increased by over 1,000 since the WHO’s report last month, but it includes unreported deaths from earlier in the outbreak. Experts say the infection rate is more significant than the death toll, as it reflects how the virus is spreading. Infection rates are decreasing in Liberia, but are high in Sierra Leone. The virus has so far killed 1,550 people in Guinea, 3,346 in Liberia and 2,477 in Sierra Leone, making a total of 7,373 deaths. ...As vaccine trial kicks off in Kenya A woman gets a tetanus shot at a clinic. The new contraceptive will be easy to administer and can even be self administered Picture: File women themselves. The training required is basic. The contraceptive is indicated for the prevention of pregnancy. Each subcutaneous injection prevents ovulation and provides contraception for some 13 weeks. However critics say that this par- ticular method of birth-control has also been reported to induce early abortions by making the lining of the womb hostile to newly-conceived embryos. Under the new agreement the three-month progestin-only contraceptive will be made available to women in Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda, as well as in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region. According to Chris Elias, presi- dent of global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Kenya and Uganda were selected among the first beneficiary countries because the use of modern family planning is still low there whereas teh two countries have the highest family planning needs. “The number of unplanned preg- nancies are high in Kenya and Uganda, pointing to the need for increased use of family planning methods by women,” said Dr Elias. Burkina Faso was the first coun- try globally to use the Sayana Press for contraception in a pilot scheme, introduced following the 2012 Family Planning Summit in London. Worldwide and especially among poor women, injectable contraceptives are among the most popular methods of birth control, but in too many places they are only available in a doctor’s office or clinic. The UNFPA statistics show that more than 200 million women in developing countries want to delay pregnancy or prevent undesired pregnancy but are not using any method of contraception. On November 3, Family Plan- ning 2020 (FP2020)— the global initiative that carries this commitment forward — released its second progress report, which found that, in 2013, the number of women using modern contraceptives in the 69 focus countries increased by 8.4 million to 273 million. Ugandan scientists to develop ‘sweet’ maize va≥iety BY ISAAC KHISA The EastAfrican UGANDAN SCIENTISTS are planning to develop a conventionally bred maize variety that preserves sweetness for a longer period. Lead scientist Dr Andrew Kigundu said that the new research to be carried out at the National Agriculture Research Laboratories, Kawanda, in collaboration with Makerere University, is aimed at ensuring that the green maize retains its fresh sweet taste for rather longer after being harvested. “There’s a complaint that once our maize is harvested, it has to be eaten immediately or else it loses its taste. So, we thought of developing maize varieties that can still be roasted or cooked on the cob but whose sweetness lasts for a long time like one or two weeks after harvest maize,” Dr Kigundu said. Dr Kigundu added that the three lines of sweet maize obtained from Florida and Hawaii in the US containing two genes — Sugary-1 and Sugary -2 — will be crossed with two local lines to transfer the sweet genes into the local maize variety. Sweet maize, or corn as it is called in the US is harvested when immature (milk stage) and prepared and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain. Since the process of maturation involves converting sugar to starch, sweet corn is eaten fresh, canned, or frozen, before the kernels become hard and starchy. The first sweet maize variety in Uganda dubbed Tropical Africa Sweet Maize is expected to be available to farmers in 2017. Maize is one of the staple foods in Uganda to ensure that people continue to enjoy the and the rest of East Africa and consumed as green maize fresh on the cob, baked, boiled or roasted. The grain is also dried, ground and boiled into porridge, fermented into beer or used as animal feed. However, farmers say they need to be involved in the research process for easy adoption of the final product. “We need as farmers to be consulted so we can ascertain all the effects of the new products -positive and negative, social and economical,” Charles Ogang, the president Uganda National Farmers Federation, told The EastAfrican. Currently, the price of green maize in Kam- pala City ranges from Ush500 ($0.18) to Ush700 ($0.25) per cob, depending on the size and location. Data from the Kilimo Trust, a regional agricultural development organisation, shows that maize production in Uganda stands at 2.4 million tonnes compared with an estimated 2.7 million tonnes in Kenya and 3.4 million tonnes in Tanzania. Taking Nsaids can lower the risk of skin cancer. Pic: File Exposure to air pollution cancause autism — study Scientists have suggested a link between autism and air pollution exposure during pregnancy. A Harvard School of Public Health team said high levels of pollution had been linked to a doubling of autism in their study of 1,767 children. They said tiny particulate matter, which can pass from the lungs to the bloodstream, may be to blame. Experts said pregnant women should minimise their exposure, although the link has still to be proven. Researchers at the Kemri Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kenya, have started testing a vaccine designed to protect humans against Ebola. The first dose of the VSV-Ebola vaccine was administered to a health worker on December 17 at the Kilifi County Hospital in Mombasa. The Phase 1 trials are part of a wider WHO led consortium (Vebcon) funded by the Wellcome Trust. These trials, and others that are taking place in the US, Germany, Switzerland and Gabon, will test the vaccine’s safety and its ability to generate an immune system response in healthy adults. Aspirin, Ibuprofen may prevent skin cancer Taking painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen regularly may help protect against some forms of skin cancer, research suggests. An Australian analysis of various studies found non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Nsaids) reduced the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 18 per cent. The drugs have previously been linked to a reduced risk of other cancers, including colon cancer. Experts said staying out of the sun and wearing sun cream were the most effective ways to avoid skin cancer.
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