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Below is a round up of news from or about Sub-Saharan Africa for the period 30 July–12 August 2009

Pfizer pays out in meningitis drug settlement
The drug company Pfizer has given a settlement of up to US$75 million to Kano State in Nigeria following a meningitis drug trial there in 1996. Kano State sued Pfizer for US$2 billion in 2007, claiming the drug, Trovan, had killed 11 children and disabled dozens more. The settlement will finance several healthcare initiatives, a fund for trial participants and reimbursement of Kano State's legal costs. Pfizer has not accepted responsibility for the deaths, saying they were caused by meningitis. More>>

TB vaccines tested in South Africa
Two tuberculosis vaccines — developed with the support of the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation— are being tested in South Africa. The MVA85A/Aeras-485 vaccine, developed by the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative, is being tested for safety in healthy babies, while a collaboration with The Aurum Institute will test the AERAS-402/Crucell Ad35 vaccine in HIV-infected adults.  

Science teaching important for developing countries
Teaching science is more important than scientific research in many parts of the developing world, according to George Philander of the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Writing in the South African Journal of Science, he stresses the need to prioritise science teaching at all levels, rather than trying to attract scientists to specific institutions and emphasising the importance of publishing in scientific journals. More>> [134kb]

Ugandan scientists to develop GM cassava for biofuel
A regional study to assess using genetically modified cassava to produce bioethanol is underway at the Namulonge National Crops Resources Research Institute, Uganda. The US$94,000 project is being implemented by NaCRRI along with the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa. It will also focus on ways to increase the nutritional value of cassava. More>>

Intel to support solar-powered computer labs
The Intel Corporation — the world's leading computer chip maker – is helping to bridge the digital divide in East Africa by supporting an initiative to provide access to a mobile solar computer classroom for schools without electricity. The US$40,000 project, run by the nongovernmental organization Kageno, will initially target five schools in Rusinga Island in Kenya. More>>

South African government asked to use early-stage HIV drugs
Recommendations have been forwarded to the South African government to allow HIV-positive patients to be given antiretroviral (ARV) treatment earlier in the development of the disease than at present. If approved, the decision would bring South African treatment standards in line with WHO guidelines introduced in 2006. More>>

Efforts to save African cassava
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Agronomic Research Institute of Guinea have stepped up efforts to save native African cassava varieties from genetic erosion by collecting 73 local cassava varieties from Guinea Conakry, West Africa. These varieties have been conserved at the IITA's Genetic Resources Center in Ibadan, Nigeria. More>>

Developing countries to receive disaster guidelines
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will produce a "how to" manual for policymakers and disaster officials on managing the risks of extreme weather events in vulnerable regions, including southern Africa. This appears in a special IPCC report called 'Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation'. More>>

Sand wall proposed to stop desertification
A wall made of solidified sand dunes stretching from Mauritania to Djibouti could be used to halt the march of desertification in Africa, a conference heard. Speaking at the TED Global conference in the United Kingdom, architect Magnus Larsson said that sand could be flooded with Bacillus pasteuriibacteria that bind sand grains together into a natural cement. More>>

Sub-Saharan Africa 'lacks healthcare providers'
A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, with collaborators from the WHO and the World Bank has highlighted the large amounts of money needed to bring healthcare up to standard in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, says the continent needs to spend US$2.6 billion on 800,000 workers before 2015 to meet needs. More>>

Compiled by Kimani Chege. Additional reporting by Christina Scott and Lexy Abutu.

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