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Congo Start Trials For Drugs Against Ebola

This is Congo's tenth outbreak since the virus was identified there in 1976.

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Congolese and WHO officials prepare equipment before the launch of vaccination campaign against the deadly Ebola virus near Mangina village, DRC, Aug. 8, 2018. Congo has now begun the first-ever trial to test the effectiveness and safety of four experimental Ebola drugs. VOA

Congo has begun the first-ever trial to test the effectiveness and safety of four experimental Ebola drugs, the first time scientists have directly compared such treatments, the World Health Organization said Monday.

The U.N. health agency described the multi-drug trial as “a giant step” that would “bring clarity about what works best.”

“While our focus remains on bringing this outbreak to an end, the launch of the randomized control trial in DRC [Congo] is an important step toward finally finding an Ebola treatment that will save lives,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, center, speaks to a health official at a newly established Ebola response center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo. VOA
Since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in the North Kivu province in August, four therapeutic drugs have been used to treat patients, namely mAb 114, ZMapp, Remdesivir and Regeneron, according to Congo’s Health Ministry.

To date, more than 160 people have been treated with these experimental drugs. Patients won’t be treated much differently than before, but scientists will now have a clinical trial framework to collect data on the three antibody treatments and the antiviral.

Congo’s Health Ministry said the clinical trial began last week in Beni with Zmapp, mAb 114 and Remdesivir. The test could be extended to other sites and include the fourth medicine, it said. The number of patients who participate “will depend on the evolution of the epidemic and the willingness of patients to participate.”

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A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. VOA

Congo, with poor infrastructure, presents a difficult environment for administering these treatments. ZMapp is difficult to use; it takes three infusions, given over hours. If patients are treated with Remdesivir, their liver function must be analyzed regularly.

Because the data collected in the North Kivu epidemic is unlikely to be sufficient for a complete study, the ministry said that the clinical trial may extend over a five-year period to cover several Ebola outbreaks in several countries.

So far in the current outbreak in Congo, there have been 365 confirmed Ebola cases with 189 deaths, according to figures provided by the health ministry Sunday.

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– Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga, minister of health of the Democratic Republic of Congo, addresses residents at the town all of Mbandaka, May 21, 2018, during the launch of the Ebola vaccination campaign. VOA
“Our country is struck with Ebola outbreaks too often, which also means we have unique expertise in combatting it,” said Congo’s Minister of Health Dr. Oly Ilunga Kalenga. “These trials will contribute to building that knowledge, while we continue to respond on every front to bring the current outbreak to an end.”
Also Read: WHO Ships Vaccination For Yellow Fever in Ethiopia

This is Congo’s tenth outbreak since the virus was identified there in 1976. The outbreak has been plagued by security problems, with health workers attacked by rebels in districts where the virus has been spreading. (VOA)

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Focus on Menstrual Health Improving Education for Girls in Zambia

Chitentabunga Primary School, in rural Lusaka province, is one of the schools that has received reusable pads to distribute to its students

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Menstrual, Health, Zambian
FILE - Girls learn to make sanitary pads from imported water-proof materials in project sponsored by the Malawi NGO, Girls Empowerment Network (VOA / L. Masina) VOA

New health classes and government partnerships with not-for-profits focused on menstrual health are improving education for girls in Zambia.

In 2017, the government announced it would distribute free sanitary pads to girls in some rural and underserved areas. Two years later, menstrual hygiene management classes have been introduced in schools, and partnerships with organizations such as World Vision have brought reusable sanitary pads to rural communities.

Chitentabunga Primary School, in rural Lusaka province, is one of the schools that has received reusable pads to distribute to its students.

Educators at Chitentabunga say the pads have helped reduce absenteeism. In years past, 80 to 100 girls would miss classes at any given time due to menstrual issues across seven schools. Now, just five to 10 girls are out at any given time.

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In 2017, the government announced it would distribute free sanitary pads to girls in some rural and underserved areas. Pixabay

“We used to have a lot of absenteeism, especially in mature girls, that is, girls that have started their menstrual periods. At a time when they go on their menstrual periods, these girls used to stay away from school,” Tyson Hachilangu, head teacher at Chitentabunga, said.

Girls at the school say the pads have improved their quality of life.

“Before this program was introduced, we used ordinary clothes, which would cause bruises. But now, the school gives us pads, and we also have a special bathroom where girls can go and clean up, in case she soils herself at school,” Choolwe Susu, a pupil at the school, said.

She added that the new resources have reduced the shame and teasing associated with menstruation.

Also Read- Experts Emphasize the Need to Work with Nature to Save Asia’s ‘Disappearing Deltas’

“Previously, boys used to laugh at girls who soil themselves at school, and this used to [cause] girls on menses to stay away from school. But now we can come to school, even on menses, because menstruation is normal for women, and without it there would be no humanity,” she said.

The program has also helped teach girls about pads, and schools have instituted policies to give girls space to practice proper hygiene.

“We are taught about pads. There are two types of pads. A pad is one that you wear with a pant, while a padden is one you wear without a pant. And if you spoil yourself, you have the right to tell your teacher, who will give you a pad, water and soap to clean yourself in the special bathroom,” Cnythia Choono, another pupil at Chitentabunga, said.

Zambia’s president, Edgar Lungu, told VOA the country intends to keep advocating for girls. “We want to cut down on early marriages,” he said. “We went to avoid maternal death.”

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Two years later, menstrual hygiene management classes have been introduced in schools, and partnerships with organizations such as World Vision. Pixabay

So far, partnerships like the one with World Vision that brought interventions to Chitentabunga appear to be working. That could become a model for similar kinds of real-world impacts.

Also Read- Poor Posture can Lead to Chronic Pain

“We have a responsibility to work with members of the community,” Lungu said. (VOA)