Monday the 29th to Friday the 3
Ok, I’m a little behind but they have been keeping me really busy at work! The week of 29 September to 3 October week was the 24th session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG). I was able to listen as the delegates discussed to pass or not pass several reports. The most important to my department was the report concerning Peste des Petits Ruminants. For those of you unfamiliar with the UN process it would have seem really tedious, but it was really interesting listening to the different county representatives taking about how they saw the report impacting the world and themselves. One really cool thing was that this meeting is held in several different languages- the chair in fact spoke Spanish the entire time! There are 6 official languages of the UN; Arabic, Russian Chinese, English, French, and Spanish. Every delegate spoke in the language they were most comfortable in. That mean that everyone in the hall wore earpieces, and we selected our language of preference on the translator. The UN has many professional translators whose jobs are to translate the speeches while they are given. That sounds like an incredible tough job considering how long-winded some speeches get!
Here is the link to the official COAG website if you want to know more. You can even see some webcasts of the meeting itself. If you are interested in what COAG is doing I would suggest clicking this link to read COAG: Driving FAO’s agricultural agenda. This is a recent publication which talks about COAGs impact and accomplishments since its creation in 1971. The overview contains examples of how COAG guided FAO to give more emphasis to among other things: food standards, the seed sector and sustainable agriculture including livestock. It also covers COAG’s impact on the Organization’s strategic direction. All in all it is a very interesting read, and I was given a paper copy at the beginning of the meeting to help get me through some of the more redundant long-winded speeches. 🙂
Although I came here with just the most basic Italian, I feel that I am picking it up around the office some. Surprisingly my Spanish has been improving, as sometimes I can get away with using Spanish instead of Italian. I am really trying to make time to work on both!
My favorite thing this week however was being able to attend the Ebola Outbreak: Impact on Agriculture and Food Security in West Africa side meeting where the FAO representatives from Senegal and Liberia spoke along with the Minister of Agriculture from Sierra Leone. It was webcasted, however I do not know where you could find it if it is still up. The only information I can find right now on public domain is the agenda. It was a really interesting meeting because we were able to hear about the Ebola crisis from people who lived there and have been a part of it from day one.
So, on that note, the whole Ebola case in Texas… I am from Texas and have several friends and family who still live there so of course I have heard all about it. Part of my research does entail work with Ebola, as it has become a threat to food security in West Africa for the farmers have been badly hit and people are unable to work due to the quarantine. If you are interested on the impact of Ebola on the W African economy (I suggest being interested!!) this is a good video to watch, Ebola crisis: Toll on regional economies, and this is a good article to read, Ebola could wreck W Africa economies, warns World Bank. I even spent an entire day this week researching Ebola trends. If you yourself don’t know too much about this disease I would suggest watching this short video from BBC, In 60 seconds: What is Ebola?
Ebola is a crisis in W Africa, and the WHO estimates the number of cases may hit 40,000 before it is contained. This is horrible. There is no other way to describe it. Ebola has a 40-90% mortality rate depending on the strain and care and the death toll has been staggering. The heath care system in these developing counties just cannot handle the amount of patients they receive and have to send many home with their families, which increases the risk of infecting others, adding to the problem (See this video Ebola: UK medic on ‘mind-blowing’ deaths for more information). One of the reasons this disease has had such a hard impact is the amount of healthcare workers affected. According to the most recent WHO Situation Reports published on 3 October there have been a total of 382 health care workers infected in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia and 216 of them have died so far (for more information read this article, Health Care workers face Ebola Risks). The impact on the health care workers is neatly summarized in this Time magazine article, Ebola Healthcare Workers Are Dying Faster Than Their Patients. This people though are risking their lives every day. But still they fight on. These are our Heroes
Figure 1: Distribution of Ebola virus disease cases in countries with intense transmission from the 3 October 2014 Ebola WHO Situation Report.
“Data are based on official information reported by Ministries of Health up to the end of 1 October 2014 for Guinea and Sierra Leone, and 30 September 2014 for Liberia. The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the World Health Organization concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. Dotted and dashed lines on maps represent approximate border lines for which there may not yet be full agreement” 3 October 2014 Ebola WHO Situation Report.
At least while I was still in the US this was not treated as seriously as it should be by Americans. However, it is my personal option, and that of the CDC, that Americans really do not need to worry about a real Ebola outbreak in the US. Unlike Africa we are coming into this situation aware (before Ebola was diagnosed no safely precautions were being taken, which quickly spread the disease) and we have the infrastructure to handle this situation. Although there were several mistakes in the initial handling of this case, everything is under control. There were bound to be mistakes because it is the first time dealing with a case like this. All of the patients close contacts are under a 21 day quarantine and we can only hope for their sake that none of them come down with the disease (although it is highly likely at least his family members will). I would personally say that it is unlikely that this disease, due to the quickness and efficiently of the CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services, will spread past those initial contacts. I would however recommend that you regularly check the CDC Ebola website and the Texas Department of State Health Services websites for updates.
For the interested:
A new book is being published about ebola— Ebola & Poverty