Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Facts about HIV/AIDS & the role of the media

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that causes AIDS. A member of a group of viruses called retroviruses, HIV infects human cells and uses the energy and nutrients provided by those cells to grow and reproduce.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease in which the body’s immune system breaks down and is unable to fight off certain infections, known as ‘opportunistic infections,’ and other illnesses that take advantage of a weakened immune system.
When a person is infected with HIV, the virus enters the body, lives and multiplies primarily in the white blood cells.
The white blood cells are the immune cells that normally protect us from diseases. The stamp of HIV infection is the progressive loss of a specific type of immune cell called ‘T-helper or CD4’ cells.
As the virus grows, it damages kills these and other cells, weaken the immune system and leaves the individual vulnerable to opportunistic infections and other illnesses, ranging from pneumonia to cancer.
Some common myths and misunderstandings about HIV/AIDS
There are many myths about HIV/AIDS. Most of these myths are based on incorrect information or lack of sufficient knowledge about the disease on the parts of most of our nurses, doctors, health workers, relatives and even the media while some are related to the stigma that is often associated with HIV/AIDS and ignorance.
It has been widely believed among other things that a person with HIV or AIDS looks sickly; that only promiscuous person gets infected, that having HIV is the same as having AIDS, that HIV is a death sentence that an HIV positive person can not bear child….
In dealing with myths, misunderstanding and ignorance about HIV/AIDS, what can the media do?
The media has a pivotal role to play in all aspects of the HIV/AIDS response.
With its wide reaching infrastructure, the media’s ability to change the course of HIV/AIDS is practically unparalleled.
Besides the dissemination of information, the media has the potential to influence attitudes, behavior and even policy making in many ways through greater coverage of the epidemic.
The media also has vital role to play in disabusing the mind set of the public and even those living with the virus about its positives and negatives of the epidemic.

Dealing with myths….

In dealing with myths, misunderstanding and ignorance about HIV/AIDS, we must firstly begin to change mind sets and attitudes of our professionals (nurses, doctors, health workers, journalists, lawyers etc) about the epidemic that information about the virus are not misconstrued amongst the public.

The fact remains that most professionals, including the media have not had sufficient knowledge about the HIV/AIDS epidemic thereby causing panic in the public about the virus.

The truth remains among other things that people with HIV infection often don’t look or feel sick and they may not even know that they are infected.

In some cases, even those with a very low T-cell or CD4 cell count may look healthy.
When the epidemic began in the early 1980s, the first cases of HIV an AIDS were found among men who had sex with men (MSM) in major cities. Today, however, the picture of the epidemic is changing. Many new cases of HIV are occurring among heterosexual women of color, ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas.

While the number of new cases is still high among MSM, it is important to note that HIV is transmitted primarily through risky sexual and drug-taking behaviors and anyone engaging such behavior risks HIV infection, regardless of the gender their partners.

Being HIV positive and having an AIDS diagnosis are not in any way the same.
AIDS occurs only after a long period of HIV infection, during which the body’s immune system has been badly damaged and it is diagnosed when certain opportunistic infections are present.

Another aspect in the HIV/AIDS response that requires massive attention and the necessary awareness is the issue of stigma and discrimination.

In our subsequent edition, we’ll explore how individuals and organizations around the world can help reduce stigma and discrimination and what the National HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy says.

‘Death trap’!

The lives of thousands of people (women, children, students, street peddlers, motorcyclists and other residents) roaming the overcrowded streets of Monrovia, especially the Johnson Street area are being threatened by an opened sewage closed to the sidewalk of the street.
The ‘death trap’ situated on Johnson and Carey Streets that is usually seen crowded during school hours with students, mainly from the J. W. Pearson Elementary School and other students.
The sidewalk meant for pathway for pedestrians is evidently seen occupied by shoe-shine boys, money exchangers, and other peddlers at the detriment of those roaming the street daily.
Despite the danger that the opened sewage system is posing to the lives of people roaming street, residents of the community are also taking advantage of the situation to dispose of their wastes and other garbage.
The pit according to one of the street peddlers who only referred to himself as Jerry was left open by the Chinese Company CICO upon the completion of the road late April.
Jerry who was, himself seen with assorted goods in a wheelbarrow standing just next to the pit was endangering the lives of many pedestrians mainly at night.

Sea erosion threatens Buchanan city

Residents of the Port City of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County are living in total fear for the raging sea erosion that is said to be gradually encroaching on the city.
“We are living here in Buchanan, especially those of us residing in this Fanti Town only by the Grace of God; at night when we are going to bed, we only give our lives to God, because we don’t know when the sea will clear us from here. All the other houses that were in front of us have already been cleared by the sea, and we don’t have money to relocate,” 70 year-old Anthony Nimley told our reporter.
Mr. Nimley who is said to have resided in the Fanti Town community for over 30 years told our reporter that the community has for the past years been lacking safe drinking water and toilet facilities.
He said as a result of the lack of safe drinking water and toilet facilities, the residents are being constrained to drink from wells water and use the beaches for latrine.
“We are calling on the government and other none-governmental organizations in the country to come to our aid, our children are dying every day of different kinds of sicknesses, especially cholera and diarrhea and the waste of all is the sea that is coming to clear us from here, we do not have money to fine place to another place. We can’t sleep sound in the night because we are afraid that the sea doesn’t take us away|,” Mamie Morton, mother of three children said.
Fanti Town is considered by residents as one of the many slum communities in Buchanan.
Our reporter who visited the community observed that entire community was covered with an unpleasant odor perhaps from the beach.
It was also observed that group of people, including men; women and children were seen along the beach apparently defecating while others were confidently relaxing and carrying on normal activities on the beach that is just next to the community.
According to our reporter, most of the houses on the right side of Preston Street lift form the ever busy Tubman Street is gradually being encroached on, as the sea is seen just a stone throw from the road.
In 2009, local authorities in Grand Bassa County, led by Superintendent Julia D. Cassell launched $3 Million United States dollars fund drive aimed at generating funds that will help remedy the sea erosion that is gradually encroaching on the City.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

“Free the people, if…”

-JPC warns govt.

The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) has warned that the government of Liberia stands the chance of setting free dozens of potential rapist and other alleged criminals due to their (government) inability to provide sufficient evidence for prosecution.
JPC’s National Director, Cllr. J. Augustine Toe said if the government seeks to life in conformity with the constitution of the Republic of Liberia it must ensure that those arrested and in detention at the Monrovia Central Prison and prison facilities are speedily prosecuted in accordance with the law.
Article 21 (f) of the Liberian Constitution states, “Every person arrested or detained shall be formally charged and prosecuted before a court of competent jurisdiction within forty-eight hours. Should the court determine the existence of a prima facie case against the accused, it shall issue a formal writ of arrest setting out the charge or charges and shall provide for a speedy trial.”
“I was recently in a meeting at Justice Ministry and the Chief Prosecutor of the special unit set up by the government of Liberia to speedily prosecute sexual and gender based violence cases in country, the SGBV Crimes Unit, confirmed that there are currently over 90 rape cases at the Monrovia Central Prison that the government is finding very difficult in getting sufficient evident to prosecute; this I say is human rights violation. The JPC has no interest in seeing potential rapists being set free, but if you do not have evident to prosecute the people than set them free because that’s what the law says,” Cllr. Augustine Toe said.
He made the statement on Friday, February 12, 2010 at the Ministry of Gender and Development during the celebration of the first anniversary of the Journalists Against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (JASAGBV).
Cllr. Toe told partners in the fight against sexual and gender based violence in Liberia to go beyond mere workshops where according to him ‘people will only come to get the setting fees that will be provided and leave without understanding the dynamics of sgbv in their communities and homes’ but rather fine means of sustaining program that will help provide the needed education and training for families especially young people to understand the issue of sgbv in the country.
Also speaking, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Rule of Law, Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu said the establishment of the media group to join the fight against sgbv indicates that the wine of change is blowing over the Liberian media.
“I am convinced that the simple but profound theme-Together We Will Report Gender Based Violence- is a powerful indicator of your commitment to eradicate our societies of the kind of behavior that dehumanizes the women and children in our homes, in our families and in our communities,” the UNMIL Deputy boss said.
Madam Mensa-Bonsu recounted that in January & February of 2008 out of the over 200 rape cases that were reported for those months, 17 cases involved infants (babies) from 5 years and below.
She said rape and other forms of SGBV are still most frequently committed serious crimes in the country and the tendency to quietly settle these cases out of court offers sanctuary to perpetrators and inhibits the willingness of victims to seek redress which is factors that best promote the continued commission of SGBV in the country.
The UNMIL Deputy boss said a recent report on rape sponsored by the UN Response to Rape Group (December 2009) underscored that there is serious distinct divide between the urban and rural communities in reporting rape cases.
The report indicated that during the period under review, 68% of rape cases were reported in the urban areas while 34% were reported in rural areas, which indicate the need for more awareness in the rural parts of the country.
Serving as guest speaker, the Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), T. Nelson Williams challenged the media to go beyond reporting the issue of SGBV in the country.
For his part, JASAGBV’s President, Lawrence Fahnbulleh stressed the need for support to the media group to enable it take the SGBV awareness to every parts of the country.
The Journalists Against Sexual and Gender Based Violence (JASAGBV ) formally the Anti-Rape Reporters Association of Liberia (ARRAL) was established on February 12 2009, by the Government of Liberia in collaboration with the United Nations Mission Liberia (UNMIL) to join the fight against gender based violence, especially rape that continue to be on an alarming rate in the country.

Wetlands conservation involves everyone

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the conservation of wetlands in Liberia should not only remain squarely in the hands of the EPA, Ministry of Lands Minds and Energy and the Monrovia City Council (MCC) but should rather involve every well meaning Liberian.

EPA Executive Director, Dr. Alfred Armah said the benefits of conserving wetlands needs to be underscored as a priority and well understood by all government ministries, agencies and community members.

Speaking at programs marking the celebration World Wetlands Day (WWD), under the theme: “Wetlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change,” on the Samuel K. Doe Boulevard, Dr. Armah encouraged every Liberian to avoid the misuse of wetlands in their various communities.

He said the RAMSAR Protocol adopted 1974 in Uren, and the first celebration in 1997 is intended to raise awareness around the world about the importance of wetland conservation.

For her part, the WWD Focal Point, Cecelia Kollie said wetlands serves as key ecosystems for biodiversity conservation of various endangered, rare and native species and ease global warming impacts by absorbing carbon-dioxide from the air.

Madam Kollie said mangroves within the wetlands remove and store green house gases from the earth’s atmosphere slowing the onset of global warming and helps to reduce floor impacts and act like giant sponges slowing the fow of surface water thus reducing the impact of flooding.

Stay in your bobble

-don’t deceive our people
An executive of the former ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) has warned members of the ruling Unity Party (UP) of Africa’s first democratically elected female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to stop deceiving the international community that all is what he ‘rosary’ as hardship has engulfed the entire country.

“I don’t care how distance the Unity Party government wants to be from the truth, our people are catching hard time; if you want people to sing songs of praises, go to your party headquarters let your partisans do that, but do not deceive our people,” Mr. Lewis Brown said.

Speaking at debate organized by the Students Unification Party (SUP) of the University of Liberia under the theme: “A Critical Look at the Unity Party Led Government after Four Years down the Read, Where are we”? said it is not enough for the government to boast of the number of school buildings that been or are being constructed across the country, but the standards and quality of education that are being offered in those buildings is what matters.

“Save the buildings and teach me under the trees or kitchen but up to standard that I can compute with other students in the region and other parts of the world and represent my-self, my family and the country,” the NPP executive noted.

He said the World Bank recent report rated Liberia very poorly in human resource capacity building or development, adding, that 50% of teachers in Liberia are untrained and if the educational sector must be revamped to allow Liberian students to compute with other students in the region and other parts of the world, the government should place more priority on the educational sector in its budget.

Mr. Brown said the Unity Party led government should rather applaud the oppositions for the level of constructive engagement or criticisms on issues of national concerns being experienced in the country, unlike in the past that oppositions including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and others choose to oppose or disagree with issues by supporting and raging war on the country.

He however commanded the government for the level of enrolment in the primary schools between girls and boys of school going ages.

Defending the other side of the coin, Maryland County Senator, John Ballout said the UP administration inherited what he called ‘a fail state’ that was of no significance and has transformed it into a beacon of hope for the continent of Africa and the world at large.
“Shame on those opposition politicians who have got nothing to offer but to take up the microphones and air waves to confuse the ordinary people by deception and lies,” Senator Ballout said.

He said the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government has provided the platform and the space for oppositions and others to freely express themselves which was never experienced under past administrations.

Monitor reporter wins human rights reporting award

A reporter of the Equal Chance Communication Limited, publisher of The Monitor Newspaper has been named amongst winners of just ended human rights reporting competition of the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR).
Sam Zota, Junior was on Thursday, February 11, 2010 presented a certificate and a Panasonic mini-cassette recorder in the honorable mention category for his excellent investigation and publications on the condition under which ice were been produced for consumption in the densely populated commercial district of Paynesville by the First United Business Incorporated (FUBI), also known as “Johnson Compound”.
Back in April 2009, seeking to get better understanding of the condition under which ice were been produced in Liberia particularly FUBI, Zota launched thorough investigation at which time it was discovered that ice produced at the FUBI were produced in filths and other unsafe conditions.
The investigation was carried out and the necessary follow ups made to the appropriate authorities concern and the necessary actions taken that brought the needed change to the company and the consuming populace.
Sam Zota is the environment and human rights reporter of the Monitor Newspaper and editor of an environmental blog, (
Journalist for Human Rights (jhr) is a Canadian media training organization partnered with the Liberia Media Center in Liberia for five years.
JHR also based in the Sierra Leone and the Congo, had media trainers placed at print, radio and TV media houses throughout Liberia in 2009, to encourage journalists to produce human-rights based feature stories covering the diverse, critical issues confronting their post-war country.
The 2009 Human Rights Reporting Awards competition was inclusive of all media houses and journalists throughout Liberia, and was intended to bring out best of human rights reporting produced by journalists and over 75 journalists participated in the competition.
The ceremony held at the Liberia Media Center (LMC) was graced by the United Kingdom Political Officer, Gillian Dare, the Managing Editor of the Inquirer Newspaper, Philip wesseh, LMC’s Lawrence Randall, an array of Journalists for Human Rights trainers including the Country Director, K. Abdullai Kamara among others

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sanquin bridge collapse

In less than a month, the newly constructed Sanquin Bailey Bridge linking Rivercess and Sinoe counties including the southeastern region of Liberia has collapsed.
According to informed sources the 190' Sanquin Bailey Bridge was the longest free spanning panel bridge in Liberia and the first bridge launched by a private company (West Construction (Liberia), Inc.) in 30 years.
The bridge collapsed Tuesday, December 22 evening when a truck carrying a huge consignment of timbers apparently destine for Monrovia reached the middle of the bridge.
“The damage done to the bridge is too extensive”, according to McDonald Wrengmous Sinoe County Assistant Superintendent for Development. He told our reporter that the truck also had eight occupants on board including the driver.
Superintendent Wrengmous said it was sad to note that the bridge got damaged in less than a month after it was constructed by a joint team of the Liberia Community Infrastructural Project (LCIP), the Engineering Battalion of the Armed Forces of Liberia supervised by the Ministry of Public Works.
He told The Monitor in a telephone interview Wednesday, December 23, that the appropriate representations have been made to the Ministry of Public Works and the relevant agencies concerned.
The Sinoe County Development Superintendent said the situation has set extreme difficulty among commuters on both sides of the divide especially during the peck of holiday. He said commercial vehicles from the southeast and that of Monrovia have stated exchanging passengers and along with goods.
He said the collapse of the bridge has made traveling to that part of the county extremely difficult due to the impassable condition of alternative route via Grand Gedeh County.
Describing the situation as “a state of emergency” the Development Superintendent expressed hope that those responsible for the construction of the bridge will move in swiftly to ensure that a diversion is created for the smooth flow of traffic and pedestrians.
He however added that most of the travelers are currently walking across the old bridge, but not fit for vehicles.
LCIP Information Officer, A. Trokon Tarr confirmed that the Bailey bridge had collapsed and added that an engineering team comprising the Ministry of Public Works and LCIP had been dispatched to assess the level and cause of damage.
Quizzed about the cost of the bridge, the LCIP information officer said he was not aware; but informed Ministry of Public Works sources hinted The Monitor that the bridges cost not less than US$1million.
In a press statement released late last evening states: “the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Liberia Community Infrastructure Program (LCIP) and the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) announces to the public that on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 there was an accident on the Sanquin River Bridge, Sinoe County.
“The bridge is located between ITI junction and Nyuefueh Town, approximately 2 hours from Greenville. No fatalities were reported. LCIP is working closely with the MPW engineers to determine the next steps to regaining road access to Greenville”, the statement concluded.

Dr. Kpoto faces indictment?

In Jarwalay’s death
Mr. Ziama Kpoto, son of a renowned Liberian politician, Kerkura B. Kpoto, has accused the Liberian National Police (LNP) of hiding Dr. Robert Kpoto from facing justice in the case involving their sister, Jarwalay Kpoto-Wisseh who was killed in a tragic motor accident in Oldest Congo Town, outside Monrovia, last September.
According to investigation conducted by our reporter, Dr. Kpoto and the late Jarwalay were in the back of an unmarked vehicle on that fateful early morning of September 14 at about 1:30 am when a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) vehicle marked 025 heading to the Paynesville, Jacob Town ran into the parked vehicle where the girl was later pronounced dead on arrival (DOA) at Du-side hospital in Firestone.
Mr. Kpoto, who walked into our newsroom to express the family frustration over the delay to investigate the case, noted that it was rumored within the family that Dr. Kpoto was constantly having an affair with the late Jarwalay and was warned on several occasions by some family members to discontinue such illicit affair.
According to the investigation, Mr. Ziama Kpoto said the family is of the strongest opinion that the police allegedly received bribe from either Dr. Kpoto or UNDP for which the case has been entirely buried.
He is, however, appealing to the Ministry of Justice and rights organizations in the country to come to the assistance of the family which is seeking justice in death of their sister and daughter.
When Dr. Kpoto was contacted to comment on the issue, he simply replied our reporter: “My brother the case is with police and I will advise you to please contact the police for any information relating to this matter.”
However, the police confirmed that there is pending investigation into the matter, but Dr. Kpoto who is principal suspect in the case was out of the country for several months.
The police investigator, who begged for anonymity, said now that Dr. Kpoto was back into the country, the case would resume. He, however, failed to state the exact date for the hearing, but noted that he could be indicted.
Despite reports by the police that Dr. Kpoto was out of the country, independent investigation conducted revealed that he (Dr. Kpoto) had all along been in the country and that he was only out of the country for three days following the accident.
Meanwhile officials of the UNDP have remained tightlipped on the issues. Investigation into the matter continues.