Health in Mediterranean Region: EpiSouth-Plus project

  • 25 January 2013

Health security and strategies to increase it (favoring and strengthening preparation to sanitary disasters and biological risks to health, to national and regional level) in Mediterranean and in the South-East of Europe, were the issue of the first Meeting Project EpiSouth-Plus, held in Rome from 5 to 7 December.

EpiSouth-Plus is an EU-funded project that aims to improve the ability to deal with threats in the field of health in Mediterranean area.

This meeting was attended by about 150 people, who discussed mains problems related to the issue of health security, including: opportunities and challenges for Mediterranean region coordinated actions, integration of epidemiological surveillance and rapid laboratory alert systems and epidemic intelligence for emerging infections; contribution to the network development of the World Health Organization guidelines for access points at the borders; organization of the network of a simulation exercise in response to an emerging problem.

The EpiSouth network includes 27 countries (9 European countries and 17 non-European countries of the Mediterranean, and one country candidate to the European Union membership). This is the largest collaborative sanitary effort in the region.

«EpiSouth-Plus is the continuation of the project EpiSouth started in 2006 on the initiative of nine European Union countries and focused on the control of infectious diseases in Mediterranean countries», explains the scientific coordinator of the project Silvia Declich, who works at the Superior Institute of Health. «During the first phase, the network has increased progressively, reaching the current 27 participating countries (including 18 Mediterranean countries, which are not European Union members, but that share similar ecosystems of the Mediterranean region). Since the beginning, Italy was the coordinator of the project and also the Italian Ministry of Health participated to the network activities and attended also financially, in harmony with the EpiMed project. Italy, in the field of epidemiology of infectious diseases, is the leader of the southern European countries and a bridge between Mediterranean countries and Balkans».

The scientific leader of the project declared: «EpiSouth Plus will end in 2013. The main challenge that awaits us now is how to further develop this project. Certainly, the participating countries have the intention of maintaining the viability of the key features of this network, at least with minimal activity, even when funds will end».

European Union finances new projects in Lebanon

  • 25 January 2013

The equilibriums in Lebanon are still uncertain, both because of internal tensions in the Country and because of international tensions among neighboring Countries.

In 2012, European Union allocated 122 million of Euros to develop new projects in this Country. The EU delegation chef in Beirut, Angelina Eichhorst, remembers how «Lebanon security, stability, sovereignty and unity continue to be our overall objectives». Moreover she «emphasizes the expectation in Lebanon observation of its international obligations». First of all, about international obligation, Lebanon should respect the famous UN resolution no. 1701 of 2006, which ended the war between Israel and the Shiite militia Hezbollah. The Lebanese government should also respect the obligation about the cooperation with the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The European Investment Bank approved two loans (of 125 million euro) in favor of Lebanon, which will be used to finance the modernization of the motorway network and to support private investment in field of renewable energy and of energy efficiency. Neighbourhood Policy of European Commission finances technical assistance to develop of these projects with an estimated cost of around four million of euro.

But Lebanese problems are not only link with internal tension. The neighbor Syria is a double threat to the fragile Lebanese democracy. Lebanon has become, in fact, the tenth Country for military donations from the United States, who fear a contagion of violence.

One of the consequences of Syrian civil war is the exodus of half a million of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. According to the EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, Kristalina Georgieva, «if this conflict will continue, in a few months, the number of refugees will become double». This dangerous situation prompted European Commission to allocate ten million euro to Lebanon in support of Syrian refugees’ issue. The new humanitarian operations financed by Brussels promote access to primary education, providing emotional support and specific childe assistance.

Tunisia: confirmed the negative forecasts for the economy

  • 18 January 2013

The negative previews about the Tunisian economy were confirmed by studies released by the National Institute of Statistics. The Tunisian trade deficit, in fact, continues to report alarming statistics, and in November 2012 it was negative and, for the first time, that exceeds the ten and a half billion of dinars. This information is even more alarming in relation with the values ​​of the deficit recorded in the same month of 2011 and 2010, where it was lower than three billion.
In 2012, moreover, the annual rate of inflation has increased over the previous year, by 5.6%. In particular, products that had the highest increases were tobacco (an increase of 10.6%), followed by prices for the catering and hotel industry (augmented of 8%). Dangerous are also the prices rise in the clothing sector (+7.7%) and food (+7.5%).

The data relating to import and export of Tunisia, however, appear to be slightly encouraging: in fact exports have increased from 9.283 to 7.757 billion (an augmentation of 19.7%), while imports grew by 21.8 %.

To support Tunisia in this difficult time at the international level have been allocated funds for development of the economic sector.

The interest of the European Union for the delicate situation of the Tunisian economy has led to the conclusion of an agreement for the delivery of 1 million and 200 thousand euro in support of development of banks without branches (an innovative system in Tunisia, which should give access to microcredit to other 400 thousand people in the country, over the next four years). This four-year project will enable the poorest people (especially those in remote rural areas) to have access to financial services through the development of telephonic applications to replace the traditional bank branch.

Undersecretary of State of USA, William Burns, in his recent visit to Tunisia, stated that in 2013 will be a fund for democracy and development in North Africa and the Middle East. This fund will be financed by the German Marshall Fund (of the United States), in collaboration with the governments of Tunisia, the United States, the Netherlands, and the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS). The fund will operate as an international center for service providers, experts and professionals on which the beneficiaries can rely on to meet their specific needs through a public-private partnership.