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The East African : May 17th 2015
34 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK MAY 16-22,2015 S CI E N C E “We want to ensure every new- born baby boy is circumcised early in life as this will be a cheaper option in the long run,” said Dr Nanteza. She added: “No donor wants to put money into circumcising children. So, at the moment, we are looking for a child-friendly donor who will take on the programme at the end of the pilot project,” she said. Uganda’s medical male circum- cision programme is largely funded under the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief. Although the country’s Safe Doctors perform a male circumcision in Molo, Kenya. Uganda is trying out a new method. Picture: FILE Uganda tests new method of circumcision for infants The non-su≥gical method is cost-e≠ective, ≥equi≥es less expe≥tise and manpowe≥ By EVELYN LIRRI Special Correspondent A non-surgical circumcision method for infants using a Gomco clamp is being tested under a pilot project in Uganda and will be available nationwide by the end of the year. A Gomco clamp is a metal de- vice with a bell-shaped end. During circumcision, the baby’s foreskin is stretched over the bell and the clamp is tightened over his skin. The skin cuts away and the clamp is removed a few minutes later. The pilot project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is being undertaken in Rakai district in central Uganda. At least 200 infants between the age of 1and 59 days have already been circumcised, with an additional 300 expected to undergo the procedure by the end of July. Currently, only adults are being circumcised using a non-surgical method called prepex, a medial device used to carry out non-surgical medical male circumcision for adults. The device comprises two rubber rings. During circumcision, one ring is fixed inside the foreskin and the other outside to block blood from flowing to the foreskin. Gradually, this process removes the foreskin and the rings are removed after sev- en days. Infants and young children have to use the surgical method. Dr Barbara Nanteza, the co-ordi- nator of the National Safe Male Circumcision Programme at Uganda’s Ministry of Health, said the nonsurgical method for both infants and adults is cost-effective because it takes a short time to carry out, requires less expertise and manpower and uses minimum anaesthesia. The Gomco clamp procedure, ac- cording to Dr Nanteza, takes between five and seven days to heal. We want to ensure every newborn baby boy is circumcised early in life as this will be a cheaper option in the long run.” Dr Barbara Nanteza Male Circumcision Policy of 2010 states that children and adults can all benefit from the government’s free circumcision programme, the focus has largely been on those between the ages of 15 and 45. This is also the age group considered most at risk of HIV infection. But Dr Nanteza said uptake of cir- cumcision in the targeted age group remains low. “Our target was men who are between the ages of 15 and 40. Then we found that it was people younger than 15 who were coming for circumcision, so we decided to lower the age,” said Dr Nanteza. Under the policy, the government set a target to circumcise up to 4.2 million men between 2010 and 2015. Figures from the Ministry of Health show that about 2.1 million have undergone the cut so far. At least 878,109 mostly young adolescents were circumcised in 2014 alone. Circumcision has been wide- ly favoured for the prevention of HIV/Aids in countries with generalised epidemics and where uptake remains low. This follows studies conducted in Uganda, South Africa and Kenya that showed that circumcision could reduce a man’s risk of contracting the HIV virus by about 60 per cent. Health experts also say circumci- sion has a lot more benefits beyond reducing the risk of men contracting HIV/Aids. These include improved genital hygiene and reduced risk of cancers such as penile in men and cervical cancer in women. G≥eenpeace pushes fo≥ ≥etu≥n to o≥ganic fa≥ming By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent SCIENTISTS ARE encouraging ecological agricultural practices such as agroforestry, water harvesting and organic farming, “Financial Benefits of Ecological Farming,” based on research in Kenya and Malawi shows that ecological farming provides substantial financial benefits to small-scale farmers when compared with agro-chemicals. “The chemical-intensive practices of the Green Revolution are increasingly unsustainable. Ecological farming is not only good for the planet, but provides superior economic benefits to farmers,” said Greenpeace Africa executive director Michael Onyeka. The report also states that if these practices were adopted by all the countries, incomes from farming would substantially increase. Malawian farmers would get an income of $209 million if they adopted agroforestry, while Kenyan farmers would earn a total of $2.7 billion each year if to protect soil and water resources, conserve biodiversity and adapt to and mitigate climate change. Findings in a new Greenpeace report titled expensive for the continent’s farmers because 90 per cent of them are imported. It also preserves and enhances the soil in a region where land degradation and expanding deserts are a serious concern. The farming method relies primarily on locally available renewable resources, shielding farmers from price shocks associated with external farming inputs. “We urgently need a shift of public research Dry banana leaves used as fertilisers. Organic farming encourages use of natural fertilisers. Pic: File they switched to push–pull techniques. “Expanding Africa’s shift towards organic farming will have beneficial effects on the continent’s nutritional needs, the environment, farmers’ incomes, markets and employment,” said Wanjiru Kamau, Kenyan Organic Agriculture Network (Koan) policy manager. Organic agriculture avoids the use of artificial fertilisers and other chemicals, which are towards ecological farming to support farmers in moving away from the current reliance on synthetic chemicals. It is time to adopt biodiversity-based tools to control pests and enhance farmlands, ecosystems and our farmers’ health”, said Ms Kamau There is strong evidence that exposure to these chemicals is linked to a number of cancers. Some evidence suggests that certain pesticides (e.g. synthetic pyrethroids) can disrupt the immune and hormone systems and are a significant additional risk factor for particular chronic diseases like asthma. Pesticide exposure is also a significant addi- tional risk factor in many chronic diseases and certain people have an increased risk to their harmful effects due to their genetic makeup. Anopheles mosquitoes carry the malaria parasite Pic: File Poor lifestyles to blame for rise in cases of stroke There is a rise in the number of working-age men and women having strokes, a UK charity has warned. Experts said unhealthy lifestyles were partly to blame for the rise, though the growing population and changes in hospital practice also played a part. Researchers from British Heart Foundation say their findings show that strokes should not be considered as a disease of the old. These findings highlight the importance of ensuring your blood pressure and cholesterol are under control, as well as having health checks. BRIEFS Diseases to get socially accepted names—WHO New human diseases should be given socially acceptable names that do not offend people and countries or mention animals, the WHO said. The WHO said Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Spanish Flu are examples of what to avoid because they mention specific locations. Instead, names should contain generic terms that are “easy to pronounce.” The WHO said several new human infectious diseases had emerged in recent years and some had stigmatised certain cultures, regions and economies. Smartphone app used to detect parasites in blood A smartphone has been used to automatically detect wriggling parasites in blood samples. The CellScope system films a drop of blood and an app then automatically analyses any movement in the sample to detect the parasites. The results, published in Science Translational Medicine showed the app was successful in small trials in Cameroon. Experts said it marked a fundamental advance in tropical diseases. Rather than attempt to identify the shape of the worm, the software in the phone looks for the movement. Malaria vaccine trials in Kenya post good results The trials of a malaria vaccine that targets the most dangerous variety of the malaria parasite have shown some positive early results. The vaccine, developed at Oxford University, was 67 per cent effective in a study of 121 men in Kenya. Encouraging results have now been recorded for two malaria vaccines, after 20 years of research. The Oxford researchers are now testing the safety of the vaccine in children and babies in Burkina Faso.
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