Top of the Morning

Top stories from today’s edition of the DAWNS Digest. Sign up to receive the full digest of global humanitarian news delivered to your inbox each morning.

Liberian Elections: Smooth So Far

The international community bestowed the Nobe Peace Prize on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last week, but that does not mean she is in for an easy re-election at home. She faces more than 15 opposition candidates as Liberians go to the polls on Tuesday. Her main opponent is Winston Tubman, who chose international soccer sensation George Weah for his number 2 spot. Weah ran unsuccessfully against Sirleaf in 2005 and they have had a contentious rivalry ever since. The good news is that for country that spent much of the last 15 years in civil war, early voting has been smooth. “Passions have run high in a contest some forecast will go to a second-round run-off between Johnson-Sirleaf and Tubman, and many voters recall how a dispute over the outcome of the 2005 election led to days of rioting in the capital Monrovia. But observers said the vote so far had been peaceful. ‘So far so good. The reports that we are getting up to now shows that everything is going smoothly,’ former Nigerian president General Yacubu Gowon, leading the monitoring team of the US-based Carter Center, told Reuters in Monrovia. (Reuters

And the Mo Ibrahim Prize Goes To…

…former president of Cape Verde, Pedro Pires! The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, named after the billionaire Sudanese entrepreneur, is awarded to democratically elected African heads of state who leave their country better than when they first took power…and actually respect constitutional term limits in the process. Needless to say, it is not necessarily awarded every year. The prize comes with a $5 million check plus $200,000 annual pay out for the rest of the recipient’s life. “Salim Ahmed Salim, former secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity and chairman of the prize committee, said Cape Verde had won international recognition for its record on human rights and good governance. It was also the second African country to improve its position and rise above the United Nations category of the world’s least developed countries.” (All Africa

Lancet Study: India Prevented 100,000 New HIV Infections By Targeting High Risk Groups

A new study published in the Lancet shows that an Indian program to focus HIV intervention projects in high risk groups like men-who-have-sex-with-men, sex workers and injecting drug users has dramatically reduced infection rates. “The so-called Avahan project was launched in 2003 in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, along with the northeastern states of Manipur and Nagaland, using a massive grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These states, with a total population of 300 million, had the highest prevalences of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in India at the time. Avahan’s goal was to boost prevention among prostitutes and their customers, gays, injecting drug users and truck drivers to stop HIV from leaping from high-risk groups to the wider population. Tactics included one-on-one safe-sex counselling, free condoms, exchanging used needles for sterilised ones, clinics to treat sexually-transmitted disease and advocacy work within the community. ‘Overall, we estimated that 100,178 HIV infections were averted at the population level from 2003 up to 2008 as a result of Avahan,” says the study.’” (AFP

“One of the Biggest Cholera Epidemics in History”

More than 85,000 people in central Africa have been infected and over 2,500 killed in a fast spreading Cholera outbreak. “’The size and the scale of the outbreaks mean the region is facing one of the biggest epidemics in its history,’ UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told a news briefing in Geneva. Chad is experiencing its largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, 9 out of 10 districts in Cameroon are reporting cases and the case fatality rate in western Democratic Republic of Congo is above five percent, she added…Five countries — Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria– account for 90 percent of overall cases and deaths in more than 20 countries, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic of the World Health Organization (WHO) said…UNICEF said that many outbreaks had begun outside of the typical cholera season and now affected countries where the disease is not endemic. It feared further spread in coastal areas of central Africa where higher than normal rainfall was expected till year-end. It identified three major cross-border cholera outbreaks: the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger), the West Congo Basin (Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic) and Lake Tanganyika (Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi).” (Reuters