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Northern Ireland Office may directly instruct trusts to offer abortion services

abortion services

Northern Ireland Office may directly instruct trusts to offer abortion services

Brandon Lewis could override the Northern Ireland executive and directly instruct the nation’s health trusts to provide abortion services, warning leaders in a leaked letter that the continued delay is unacceptable conduct in public office.

The Northern Ireland secretary wrote to the first minister, Paul Givan, and his deputy, Michelle O’Neill, warning he would soon “have no alternative but to take further steps to ensure that women and girls have access to abortion services as decided by parliament, and to which they have a right”.

The Northern Ireland Office could explore working directly with health trusts to implement the abortion provision if Stormont does not take steps to ensure they do so. Lewis warned in his letter that continued failure could leave Stormont in breach of the European convention on human rights.

In a separate letter to the health minister, Robin Swann, Lewis demanded to see a detailed assessment of progress to date and a roadmap to meeting the March 2022 deadline. He said NIO officials had been blocked from attending meetings with the department – which he called “unacceptable.”

Abortion was decriminalised in Northern Ireland in October 2019 after a Westminster vote led by the Labour MP Stella Creasy. But since Northern Ireland’s Department of Health has not commissioned or funded any services, leaving some trusts to try to provide a service without funding or a framework.

Previously in Northern Ireland abortions were allowed only if a woman’s life was at risk or if she was at risk of permanent damage to her mental or physical health. It meant in most cases that women seeking the service were forced to make sometimes traumatic journeys to England, risking prosecution.

Earlier this year, Lewis said he would take unprecedented action and use parliament to give himself new powers to commission the services. Stormont has been formally directed to commission the services before the end of March 2022, but there has been little material improvement.

A high court judge ruled this month that Lewis had failed to uphold his duties to provide full abortion services in Northern Ireland after a judicial review was brought by a woman told to travel to England for an abortion during the pandemic.

Lewis said earlier he was disappointed in the ruling, adding that he had been the only party to take steps to try to force the executive to provide the services.

In the letter Lewis warned Givan and O’Neill he was prepared to take further unprecedented intervention in Northern Ireland’s health service, saying it was “entirely unacceptable” to attempt to block a legal duty.

“I firmly believe that there is also a moral duty to women and girls to ensure they are afforded their fundamental human rights – the same rights afforded to women and girls in the rest of the UK,” he wrote.

“The executive cannot continue to delay in this matter and the court could well conclude that a decision not to agree to proposals for the commissioning of services breaches article 8 of the ECHR.”

Lewis said he agreed with the judge who called the delay “dispiriting”.

“In fact, I would go further. Those in public office must comply with their legal obligations whether or not they agree with the law in question,” he wrote in the letter.

Lewis said if it became “clear to me” that the Department of Health or executive were “not making sufficient progress, or are intent on blocking this issue, I will have no alternative but to take further steps to ensure that women and girls have access to abortion services as decided by parliament, and to which they have a right”.

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Health

AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Health

Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Health

Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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