A doctors’ strike in Zimbabwe has not been called off, a representative said on Friday, after state media said the action had ended following a meeting between medical staff and first lady Auxilla Mnangagwa.
The nationwide strike, now into its second month, is to demand better pay and conditions in a country grappling with severe dollar shortages and spiralling inflation.
Mthabisi Bebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, told Reuters that contrary to reports in the state-owned newspaper, the Herald, the association had not yet consulted members after the meeting.
“Members of the executive met with (Auxilla Mnangagwa) but no agreement was reached,” Bebhe said. “The strike has not been called off.”
Auxilla Mnangagwa is an advocate on health issues.
The doctors’ first strike in March last year marked the first major labour dispute faced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is under pressure to repair an economy suffering after decades of missteps by his predecessor Robert Mugabe.
Public hospitals have been left short of drugs and reliant on patients to buy them, while pharmacies have stopped accepting insurance policies for purchases and demand payment in U.S. dollars.
Mnangagwa said in a video posted by the Information Ministry on Friday that the doctors had shared their concerns during the meeting and expressed their willingness to return to work.
“I will ask the relevant authorities to handle their demands,” he said.
The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) said on Friday an audit shows mining companies owe the government more than the state is due to pay them in tax refunds.
Mining companies have been demanding Zambia pay the $550-$600 million due to them in Value Added Tax (VAT) refunds.
“When we put together what we owe the mining companies compared with what they are owing, you find that on the balance of numbers they are actually owing more,” ZRA Commissioner-General Kingsley Chanda said at a media briefing.
Chanda did not say how much mining companies owed the state but said it included penalties and interest. Mining companies pay government royalties and tax.
Qatar Airways, the national airline of Qatar, is expected to soon complete arrangements to fly Ghana, by next year.
“We have already gone far with talks with the Aviation Authorities in Ghana and will be flying to that country by middle of 2019”, Abkar Al-Baker, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Airline, told journalists in Doha.
He was answering questions after a press briefing on the sidelines of the 2018 Doha Forum, held at the weekend in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
The annual forum, the 18th in the series, created the platform for business executives, academia, and world leaders among other groups, to discuss policy guidelines to propel global growth and development.
“Shaping Policy in an Interconnected World”, was the theme chosen for the event, which deliberated on issues about security, peace and mediation, economic development and trends and traditions.
Akbar Al Baker said though the initial negotiations with Ghana bordered on the need for his country’s assistance to run a national airline for Ghana, Qatar planned to make Ghana one of its destinations, from next year, to begin with, while further discussions continued.
According to him, Qatar Airways had targeted to add 15 new destinations to its network, next year, and to also procure 36 new aircrafts for that purpose.
Beaming with smiles and backed by the confidence of his government, Akbar Al Baker was optimistic that the projections of the airline would be achieved, and said the “blockade on Qatar has failed to stop the growth of Qatar Airways”.
He added that the blockade did not have a toll on the airline because “We quickly developed new routes and though 18 routes were blocked, they were replaced with 24 destinations in Europe, Africa and Russia”.
The destinations, he said, had now increased to 30 and “We are still searching and networking to reach our target of 250 destinations as planned and also to send the message to the world that we will keep on marching forward and nothing will stop us”.
He said African countries including Ghana were underserved but had huge potential and therefore Qatar Airways was looking at Africa in a positive way by giving incentives to new entrants and other assistance to those who wanted to do business with Qatar.
“The world will see the rapid progression of Qatar Airways as we have lined up more than 15 destinations to be announced step by step, next year, while we wait for airport slots”, he said, adding that, the 36 new aircrafts would be received in the next 12 months.
There are now 23 universal banks operating in Ghana, following the recapitalisation exercise that ended at the close of business on 31st December 2018, the Bank of Ghana has announced.
Speaking at a press conference, Dr Ernest Addison, the Governor of the Central Bank, said these banks had all met the new minimum paid-up capital of GH¢400 million ($82 Million).
Sixteen out of them met the minimum paid-up capital requirement mainly through capitalisation of income surplus and a fresh capital injection.
He said the Bank of Ghana approved three applications for mergers. Consequently, First Atlantic Merchant Bank Limited and Energy Commercial Bank had merged, so had Omni Bank and Bank Sahel Sahara, as well as First National Bank and GHL Bank.
“The three resulting banks out of these mergers have all met the new minimum capital requirement,” he said.
Dr Addison said some private pension funds in Ghana also injected fresh equity capital in five indigenous banks through a special purpose holding company named the Ghana Amalgamated Trust Limited (GAT).
In addition to the state-owned banks (ADB, NIB) benefiting from the GAT scheme, the merged Omni/Bank Sahel Sahara, Universal Merchant Bank, and Prudential Bank were selected by GAT on the basis of their solvent status and good corporate governance.
He said to ensure that the capital provided by banks, indeed, represented quality capital in the amounts required to meet the Minimum Capital Directive, the Bank of Ghana adopted and implemented a rigorous capital verification process.
In the process, it undertook comprehensive due diligence on new investors in banks and verified the sources of funds for the recapitalisation.
The verification process, he said was on-going and would be validated by external auditors of the banks, as part of the 2018 external audit.
On the recapitalisation of state-owned banks, Dr Addison said resources from GAT would be used to recapitalise the two state-owned banks (ADB and NIB) to help drive and promote long-term sustainable financing for agricultural and industrial expansion.
He said the Government had notified the Central Bank that it intended to restructure NIB through governance and management reforms, as well as streamlining its business model to help refocus it as a bank to support industrialisation.
To help ensure that these reforms succeeded, the Bank of Ghana had appointed an advisor for NIB, pursuant to section 101 (1) of the Banks and Specialized Deposit-Taking Institutions Act of 2016 (Act 930), to advise the management of the bank with a view to helping to improve its affairs.
The Advisor would hold office until otherwise advised by the Central Bank and it would furnish it with a status report on the bank in three months and as frequently as the Central Bank may require.
Food and nutrition security exists when everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life all the time. In many communities in sub-Saharan Africa, food insecurity levels remain high.
The latest food security and nutrition report shows that sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, affecting at least 22.7% of the population. The situation is especially urgent in Eastern Africa where one-third of the population is estimated to be undernourished.
In Kenya, 3.4 million people are food insecure. And those that live in the country’s arid and semi-arid regions, which are often affected by droughts, are particularly affected.
Maasai people – nomadic pastoralists who live along the Great Rift Valley – are particularly affected by food insecurity. For several months of the year the semi-arid and arid lands they occupy face acute water shortages for domestic and livestock use.
We set out to understand how food and nutrition insecurity affected Maasai women and children. And we wanted to see if there were ways this could be changed.
Our research established that one of the main problems for Maasai women was that men in the community made all the major decisions about food. Women were left with very few choices when it came to decisions that affected their nutrition and that of their children.
Our project was implemented in Kajiado County, a semi-arid area in Kenya, among two specific communities: Oloika and Linkobei. Our focus was on women who fell into three categories: pregnant, breastfeeding and mothers of children under the age of five.
To fully understand the women’s stories we used photovoice which involved collecting data by teaching women – most of whom couldn’t read – to use cameras to document their own stories and then to get them to discuss what they had recorded.
The stories the women told us showed that a number of factors had a significant impact on the variety, quality and quantity of food they and their children ate.
The Maasai people’s diets consist predominantly of meat, milk, and blood from cattle. Vegetables and fruit are virtually absent. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, as nomadic pastoralists, the Maasai have not adopted crop farming. And fruit and vegetables are also not their preferred choice because of their limited shelf life. They also live great distances from the food markets.
The women explained that food and nutrition insecurity was aggravated by a range of factors, including societal, cultural, historical and environmental.
For example, they said they were constrained in making decisions about selling or slaughtering livestock when their husbands were away looking for pastures for their livestock. Often the men would be gone for two to three weeks at a time. If the family ran out of food in this time, they would have to go hungry, unless it was possible to borrow food from a neighbour.
But even when the men returned, the women faced difficult choices because the men expected to receive the most nutritious meals in the family. They would receive properly cooked ugali (maize meal) while the women and the children ate much less nutritious versions.
Another problem was a belief in the community that women should be underfed and overworked during pregnancy so that they delivered smaller babies. This in turn would ensure that they did’t suffer complications during labour. This often meant that the women were undernourished during pregnancy and engaged in hard labour during their pregnancies.
Translating the stories
As part of our research, we shared our findings with community leaders as well as sub-county and county officials. The hope was that collective discussions would lead to improvements for the Maasai women and children.
For many of the women we had interviewed this was the first time they’d had an opprtunity with officials to explain their daily challenges.
The outcome was a plan of action supported by the communities as well as officials in the county and sub-county governments.
Agreed interventions included:
An awareness campaign for the women on the importance of food and nutrition. This could be done by getting community health volunteers to visit households to teach the women and gatherings of chiefs to educate the men.
Initiatives that support income generating activities for the women. This could be, for example helping women get micro enterprise loans, getting county governments to provide a water source so that the women can be involved in income generating activities like community gardens. It could also include helping them set up markets to sell Maasai ornaments.
Programmes that can empower women and girl children. These would include taking girls to school and getting older women to complete courses on finance accessibility and management and business skills.
* Teresia Njoki Macharia, a research assistant at the African Population Health Research Centre, contributed to this article.