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Global Fund Provides Emergency Services to 1.3 Million Afghan Returnees

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Global Fund...providing for world health

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (the Global Fund) said it has approved over US$4.7 million in emergency funding to provide HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria services to the 1.3 million Afghans who have been living in Pakistan and must return to their home country within the next year.

The US$4.7 million in emergency cash will be added to a US$66 million award that will last three years, beginning on January 1, 2024. The award is being handled by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“The anticipated 1.3 million people represent over 3% of Afghanistan’s population,” said Annelise Hirschmann, Head of the Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America & the Caribbean Department at the Global Fund. “This steep increase in population, especially in the rural and hard-to-reach areas bordering Pakistan, represents an epidemiological risk and cannot be accommodated without reinforcing essential HIV, TB and malaria services.”

The emergency funds will be used as follows:

▪ Malaria: Diagnostics, provision of long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) for people who settle in areas where malaria prevalence is high, and refresher training sessions for people living in low-risk provinces to avoid the spread of malaria from people arriving from high-risk areas in Pakistan.

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▪ TB: Establishment of point-of-care facilities at the border with testing equipment, expansion of active case finding, integrated sample transportation, prevention, and treatment.

▪ HIV: Voluntary testing at the border entry points, counselling, and continued treatment for displaced people.

“We already have systems in place to address the immediate needs of the returnees who are at increased risk of HIV, TB and malaria,” said Stephen Rodriques, Resident Representative of UNDP Afghanistan. “With this emergency funding from the Global Fund, we can help further minimize health risks to the returnees, who are already in a precarious situation. We welcome this decision and look forward to a continued partnership with the Global Fund.”

Malaria

The returnees from Pakistan are at risk of malaria and dengue because they are coming from malaria-endemic areas in Pakistan. The border areas between the two countries are also considered high-risk for malaria and other vector-borne diseases.

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It is estimated that 390,000 returnees will settle in provinces at high risk for malaria (Nangarhar and Laghman), and 910,000 will settle in provinces considered low-risk for malaria (Kabul, Kandahar, Kunduz and others).

The main malaria interventions will include the distribution of 216,700 LLINs through mass campaigns, 19,500 LLINs through continuous distribution for pregnant women in antenatal care, indoor residual spraying in the low- and high-risk provinces for the control of malaria outbreaks, and the provision of diagnostics.

HIV

A Global Fund-supported mobile clinic will provide key interventions including information and awareness of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at the Torkham and Spinboldak border crossing sites, as well as counselling for people living with HIV and people who use drugs.

The mobile clinic will also provide voluntary testing for HIV and other STIs, and the provision of antiretroviral drugs to people living with HIV and linkages to the antiretroviral therapy (ART) sites in the provinces.

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TB

Approximately 10,400 cases of TB are expected among the returnee population upon their arrival. In addition, the living conditions of the returnees are such that they may be at risk of developing TB once in Afghanistan.

The Global Fund’s investment through this emergency funding will focus on mitigating immediate impacts from the influx of returnees by providing early screening, diagnosis, treatment and linkages to care at or near the border crossing areas and in informal returnee settlements.

For those who are already integrated in the communities away from the border areas, most TB prevention, diagnostic and treatment services will be provided through the regular surveillance system and contact-tracing activities.

The establishment of point-of-care facilities at the border crossings with Pakistan, including chest camps equipped with GeneXpert machines and portable X-rays using artificial intelligence, and the expansion of active case finding within the informal settlements in Afghanistan, will go towards addressing TB prevention and treatment needs.

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Other activities include the provision of gender-responsive interventions with training on TB signs and symptoms to improve awareness and access to TB services, providing first-line TB treatment and introducing a digital adherence tool to support TB patients on treatment.

Since the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, the Global Fund has allocated over US$150 million to fight HIV, TB, and malaria, build resilient and sustainable systems for health, and respond to COVID-19 in Afghanistan. Within Afghanistan’s highly challenging operating environment, our grants, implemented through UNDP, support interventions designed to protect hard-won gains against the three diseases, foster continued progress and strengthen the country’s fractured health system.

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FOREIGN NEWS

ECOWAS Parliament Elects Ibrahima First Female Speaker

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Speaker Ibrahima

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has elected the first female speaker in its history.

Memounatou Ibrahima of Togo was elected as the new Speaker of the Community Parliament at the 2024 Second Extraordinary Session of the Sixth Legislature of the Community Parliament held in Kano.

She became speaker after the Speakership of the Community Parliament was ratified in alphabetical order in accordance with the provisions of the Supplementary Act on Enhancement of Power.

Sierra Leone served as the fifth ECOWAS Parliament Legislature.

Ibrahima served as the third Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament’s fifth Legislature, and she has been a member since 2021.

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She is taking up the baton from the Nigerian leader of delegation, Senator Barau Jubrin, who was elected the First Deputy Speaker at the inauguration of the Sixth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament on April 4th 2024, and had to act as the Speaker to avoid creating a leadership vacuum at the Community Parliament.

The Republic of Togo delegation was not present at the inauguration of the Sixth ECOWAS Legislature on April 4th, 2024, because the country had not held elections to send representatives to the Community Parliament.

Ibrahima was named Speaker after her Togo parliamentary colleagues proposed her as their country’s candidate. She was elected after being returned unopposed.

The Acting Speaker, Nigerian Senator Barau Jibrin, immediately presented Ibrahima with the instrument of authority, the gavel.

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Gender Balance: ECOWAS Parliament Set To Elect First Female Speaker

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament will elect its first female speaker.

Togo’s ECOWAS Parliamentarians have already arrived at the location where the 2024 Extraordinary Session of the Sixth Legislature of the Community Parliament is being held.

The Togo delegation is expected to be sworn in on Thursday, and the new Speaker will be chosen from among them, as the position has been allotted based on the parliament’s rotational system.

Statements emerging from the floor of the Parliament revealed that a female parliamentarian, Memounatou Ibrahima, will emerge as the speaker.

Ibrahima served as the third Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament’s fifth Legislature, and she has been a member since 2021.

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She is poised to take up the baton from the Nigerian leader of delegation, Senator Barau Jubrin, who was elected the First Deputy Speaker at the inauguration of the Sixth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament on April 4th 2024, had to act as the Speaker to avoid creating a leadership vacuum at the Community Parliament.

The Republic of Togo delegation was not present at the inauguration of the Sixth ECOWAS Legislature on April 4th, 2024, because the country had not held elections to send representatives to the Community Parliament.

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ECOWAS Parliament Proposes Mediation Committee For Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger

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Tuggar, Nigeria's Foreign Minister

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has proposed the formation of an Adhoc Mediation Committee to persuade Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, the region’s three member states, to reverse their actions and rejoin other member nations.

Barau Jibrin, the Acting Speaker of Parliament and Deputy President of the Nigerian Senate stated that the machinery has been set in motion to accomplish this.

Jibrin, speaking at the start of the 2024 Second Extraordinary Session of the Sixth Legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament in Kano State on Tuesday, stated that a strong united regional bloc is the only option.

He stated, “I will, in consultation with my colleagues on the Bureau, propose the appointment of an Ad hoc Mediation Committee whose mandate will be to work with all stakeholders in getting our brothers to rescind their decision and come home and work towards promoting dialogue to resolve conflicts in the region.” We are undoubtedly stronger, and there is no alternative to our collective aspirations for a united, peaceful, and secure ECOWAS.

Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in January of this year.

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The junta-led countries had been suspended from the regional bloc for coups and were urged to return to democracy.

However, in response to the suspension, the three governments decided to withdraw from ECOWAS, claiming that doing so was a “sovereign decision.”

Jubrin stated that the session will also allow the Community Parliament to deliberate and provide new perspectives on pressing issues in the ECOWAS region, as well as make recommendations on how to achieve peace, security, and stability.

“As the Parliament seeks to promote democracy, checks and balances, and accountability in the ECOWAS Community, a strong ECOWAS Parliament is essential. I have had the honour of leading this Parliament for only two months, and I have concluded that much more needs to be done to assert the Parliament’s independence in carrying out its important roles of parliamentary oversight and representation.

“There is also an urgent need to strengthen collaboration with the ECOWAS Commission and launch joint initiatives aimed at bolstering regional security and advancing development. While each institution has unique responsibilities, the fact remains that there are cross-cutting issues that are best addressed through increased collaboration among community institutions.”

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On Togo’s delegation to parliament, Jibrin stated that the delegation from that country, to which the speakership of the sixth legislature has been zoned, is expected to be sworn in as members of parliament before the session ends.

“I would also like to inform this house that a Parliamentary Fact-finding Mission has been dispatched to the Republic of Togo. The delegation investigated the circumstances surrounding the notable absence of the Togolese delegation, which is entitled to the Speakership under the Supplementary Act on the Enhancement of the Powers of the Parliament, and met with national stakeholders to discuss other political issues. I am pleased to report that we have received a very positive response from the Togolese authorities and that our Togo brothers will be inaugurated as soon as possible.

He stated that since the sixth legislature of the ECOWAS Parliament was inaugurated on Thursday, April 20, 2024, it has been able to achieve some notable accomplishments and participate in various regional, continental, and international programmes.

“Within this short period, the ECOWAS Parliament participated in the Third Parliamentary Policy Dialogue on the Protection of Vulnerable Targets against terrorism, which was hosted by the United Nations Office on Counter-Terrorism, a Capacity Building Training on Labour Migration Governance under the auspices of the African Union Commission, and the International Conference on enhancing the role, relevance, and effectiveness of the ECOWAS Court of Justice through the strain

“In addition, the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies invited members of the ECOWAS Female Parliamentarian Association to share their experience with the National Assembly of Nigeria on the modalities for establishing a multi-party women’s caucus in the Nigerian National Assembly. We look forward to more such engagements, particularly with our counterparts at the national level, to advance regional integration.”

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In an interview with journalists, Sen. Ali Ndume, perhaps the longest-serving member of the regional parliament, stated that the departing members’ time out is over now, as everything needed to bring them back into the fold has been completed.

He stated that the decision to leave the bloc if it could be recalled came after the Niger coup was condemned by all members, particularly Nigeria.

He insisted that the bad blood that led to the decision to leave has been drained and that Niger is no longer irritated by sister West African countries, particularly Nigeria, and that the country is, by all indications, ready to return.

In his speech, Kano State Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf emphasised the importance of addressing citizenship issues among ECOWAS member countries, regional security, integration, environmental and natural resource challenges, higher education, employment, poverty, and democratic volatility.

He warned against global powers using the region as a dumping ground for finished goods, emphasising that Africa is not a dumping ground for global markets.

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The Kano Governor urged the Regional Parliament to reconsider the idea of a common currency and passports, which would improve the region’s economic viability and global competitiveness.

Yusuf expressed concern about the spread of illegal drugs, arms, and light weapons, calling for a concerted effort to combat these threats.

He stated that, despite challenges, the West African regional GDP stood at $633 billion in 2023, highlighting the region’s potential to become a significant global economic player.

In a message, Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, assured the community of his government’s continued support while highlighting the ECOWAS Parliament as a critical institution in fostering regional integration.

Tuggar, represented by Ambassador Musa Nuhu, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, emphasised the importance of strengthening the ECOWAS Community’s democratic institutions for the region’s benefit.

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He stated, “We must collaborate with all ECOWAS organs and institutions. You have so many tools at your disposal to help you achieve this.”

The Minister urged the ECOWAS Parliament to use its various mechanisms to engage member countries that are currently undergoing unconstitutional political changes.

Tuggar stated, “As regional Parliamentarians, you have a role to play in harnessing our people’s cooperation.” Parliamentarians are closer to our people, which is why you must emphasise the importance of the role you play today, particularly in this period when our sub-regional organisation is facing numerous challenges.”

He emphasised the significance of hosting the regional meeting in Kano, stating that it would greatly bridge the gap between citizens and the regional community.

During this session, the regional parliament is expected to deliberate and adopt three critical instruments that will have a significant impact on the progress and effectiveness of our mandate.

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They are the Sixth Legislature’s Rules of Procedure, which were postponed from our inaugural session. The Sixth Legislature’s Strategic Plan, as well as the 2024 Work Plan.

The Rules of Procedure serve as a guide and direction for the parliament in identifying procedural flaws.

The Strategic Plan, on the other hand, is an essential tool for ensuring that the parliament’s programmes and activities are directly linked to ECOWAS’s overall strategic institutional objectives, whereas the Work Plan establishes the agenda for the year’s engagements.

Senator Jibrin, the acting speaker of the parliament, swore in five members of the regional parliament at the start of the session.

The ceremony was attended by the Emir of Kano, Allhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, the Emir of Bichi, Alhaji Nasiru Ado Bayero, the Emir of Karaye, Alhaji Ibrahim Abubakar II, and the Emir of Gaya, Alhaji Aliyu Ibrahim.

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