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Print article < GINKS, ASEPA Organise Workshop for Information Support Staff of Parliament >

A two-day workshop on strategic approaches to evidence for information support staff of parliament has ended in Accra.

The workshop, which started on Wednesday, aimed to increase the knowledge of the parliamentary staff—drawn from Research, ICT, Hansard, Committees and Library departments—to overcome organizational obstacles that affect the use of evidence.

It was organized by the Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS) and African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA) with support from International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), an international development organisation.

The workshop was also to assist the parliamentary staff to understand the factors affecting evidence in the various departments of parliament and approaches to handling these issues.

GINKS is the lead agency for the VakaYiko Consortium in Ghana—a consortium of five organisations working in Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Uganda to build capacity for the use of research evidence—while ACEPA builds the capacity of African parliamentarians and elected representative bodies at all levels of governance.

Throwing more light on the training, Dr Rasheed Dramani, Executive Director, ACEPA, said the collaboration with INASP and GINKS is a six month extension phase of the VakaYiko programme, adding that the phase, called the learning and exchange phase, is a peer learning phase where the different parliaments—Ghana, Zimbabwe and Uganda—which is part of the VakaYiko Evidence Information Policy Making (EIPM) learning programme, share the knowledge they had gained from EIPM training, learn together and if there are challenges, the rough edges are smoothen.

Over the last three years the information support staff of parliament of Ghana has learnt to generate evidence to support the work of parliament through training programmes organized by GINKS.

According to Dr Dramani, the workshop took participants through practical experiences by choosing strategic issues and examining how evidence could be used to solve those issues. Hence, it was hypothesized that if the genetically modified organism (GMO) bill, which has been on the debating table since 2013, came back to parliament next year, how would the information support staff of parliament help parliament to generate evidence so that parliamentarians argue on the basis of evidence rather than speculation?

Base on this, a working strategy has been developed to guide this thinking, using the information and knowledge the participants already have. 

Source: ISD (Sule N. Jotie)

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How Two Junior Professional Officers Showed Their Skills Amid Ebola Outbreak

More than 50 Junior Professional Officers play a vital role in helping WFP carry out its work across the world, and since the Ebola emergency struck in West Africa two of these colleagues have played vital roles in helping Sierra Leone's people and aiding the recovery process. Here, Daniel Ham of Luxembourg and Fortune Maduma of Zimbabwe tell their stories and we see how their skills have seen them taking on increased responsibility. 

DANIEL'S STORY: WFP and the Rice Bag

A WFP rice bag hanging on the wall of Luxembourg's foreign ministry where he worked was enough to develop Daniel Ham's interest in the agency and his wish to gain field experience in international development.

Five months later, he found himself supporting the Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit at WFP's Regional Bureau for West Africa, under the JPO programme. 

Held Out for Job with WFP

"I'd already been offered a civil service job, but I was holding out to get the job with WFP instead," Daniel says. "So when I heard that I'd been offered the JPO position in Dakar I was thrilled."

After joining in October 2013, he went on missions to several West African countries to help with training, review preparedness measures for natural disasters and disease, and work on mock-emergencies. 

Then a real emergency struck that was unique and unprecedented for WFP – the Ebola outbreak – and Daniel headed to Sierra Leone to lead food distributions under the Emergency Operation.

Oversaw Efforts to Get Food to Sick People

"I was finally doing ‘real' WFP work on the front lines of an operation," he recalls. "The first time I was involved in a food distribution, I remember hearing an audible sigh of relief from people waiting for their rations when they saw the WFP trucks pull up."

But the scale and devastation of the crisis really hit home as he flew over a vast Red Cross treatment centre in eastern Sierra Leone: "Seeing the neat rows of graves of Ebola victims really struck a chord about the seriousness and complexity of the response."

Working as a Team Player

Colleagues praised his collaborative spirit. "He was awesome – we never wanted him to go," says Senior Programme Assistant Betty Cooper. "He was committed, hard-working, and his listening skills made him the best team player."

After spending two months in Sierra Leone, Daniel has now moved to WFP's New York office, where he is part of policy discussions with humanitarian partners and follows high-level talks among UN Member States on humanitarian access.

He hopes to continue working with WFP as a Programme Officer once his time as a JPO ends.

"It's been nearly three years since that empty rice bag in Luxembourg inspired me to work for WFP," Daniel adds. "The JPO programme has granted me so many rewarding opportunities."

FORTUNE'S STORY: Entering WFP Amidst Ebola Outbreak

Fortune Maduma clearly remembers his first days at WFP's Country Office in Sierra Leone. That was in November 2014, when the country was in full throes of the Ebola outbreak.

"I was afraid to go out, even to go shopping for food in the supermarket," he says of a time when there was widespread fear about Ebola's transmission.
So began Fortune's job as a Nutrition Officer, under the JPO programme.

Fortune Maduma. Photo: WFP/Anna Soper 

Opportunity to Save Lives

"It was an exciting opportunity to be part of a committed humanitarian organization that is dedicated to saving lives and preventing suffering," says Fortune.
"I already had experience working with NGOs in Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Uganda," he says. "I wanted to look at new opportunities to widen my skill set."

Fortune spoke daily by phone with his worried family, assuring them he was OK. He needed to remain positive, especially for his wife who was nursing their infant daughter in South Africa.

Hard Work is Rewarded

His hard work has seen him become WFP's Head of Nutrition in Sierra Leone. As WFP looks ahead to post-Ebola challenges, Fortune is putting in place a National Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programme, aimed at over 40,000 moderately malnourished children aged between 6 and 59 months.

"I want to strengthen WFP's role as a key nutrition partner," Fortune says. "I want WFP to take a leading role in helping the government fight child and maternal malnutrition."

Fortune has worked with partners to extend nutritional support for HIV and Tuberculosis patients. He also plans to resume WFP's treatment of malnutrition for pregnant and nursing mothers in Sierra Leone. 

"Sierra Leone has improved the nutritional statistics for women and children in recent years," Fortune says, "I want to ensure the Ebola outbreak does not reverse that."

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Training Future Managers Today for Controlling the Insect Pests of Tomorrow

An insect pest birth control to manage many insect pests

SIT has been successfully used on different insect pests including fruit flies, tsetse flies, moths, screwworms and, to some extent, disease-transmitting mosquitos for which the technique is being developed and validated through several field pilot tests. To help participants learn more about the broad applicability of SIT, the course covered a variety of insect pests and brought together scientists with different specializations and different regions, to foster information exchange among experts and participants.

“Even though insect biologies are very different, the technology is the same, and management-wise is the same. I think you can apply what you do with fruit flies to what you do with tsetse, and vice versa,” said Cardoso Pereira. “Looking at a range of insect pests gives the big picture and can help increase management skills because you learn from other examples, other participants, and other situations. It gives you a lot of background for the future.”

Participants had backgrounds in, respectively, fruit flies, tsetse flies, moths, screwworms and mosquitos, and came from Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Guatemala, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Senegal, Sudan, Thailand, Uruguay, Viet Nam, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

One participant, Suwannapa Ninphanomchai, a project manager at the Center of Excellence for Vectors and Vector-Borne Diseases in Thailand, explained how one fruit fly expert shared an awareness raising video that she thought could help her address local people as part of her project on mosquitos.

“Mosquitos are a main carrier of dengue fever and malaria in Thailand. Last year, we had about 10,000 cases of dengue in our country and it happens all the time so it is very important that we implement the right measures to deal with this insect,” said Ninphanomchai. “We need cooperation from the local people, and sometimes local people don’t understand why it is their responsibility. A video like this can help.”

The training course was organized by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, in conjunction with the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme, and is expected to reoccur every two years for the next four years. The next course will be held again in 2017.

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