Fear in OAU over ‘malaria epidemic’

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  • As UN plans to expand aid amid partial truce in Syrian war

There is fear among students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State.

Reason: Suspected malaria epidemic on campus.

It was learnt that more than 70 students “visited” the university’s health centre in the last three days to complain of similar symptoms.

Investigation revealed that they complained of headache, stomach ache, body weakness, irritation, fever, vomiting (in some cases), sore throat and loss of appetite.

Many students are raising the alarm over the disease and calling for an immediate intervention.

However, the school’s Acting Director, Medical and Health Services, Dr. Adedayo Irinoye, denied that there was an epidemic on campus.

According to him, “If there is any outbreak, we will be the one to first inform the public.

“Malaria is endemic on the campus but there is no epidemic. The cause of the students’ sickness is multi-facet.

“Some are caused by anxiety over examination coupled with poor nutrition, increase in stress and change of climate.

“We have doubled our manpower and adjusted our roasters.

“As we speak, we have not referred anyone to the OAU Teaching Hospital.

“The symptoms are those of malaria and the students are treated before leaving in good health.

There is nothing strange happening, there is only increase in traffic.”

Also, the school’s spokesman, Biodun Olarenwaju, said the situation was not peculiar to the school alone.

He noted that the increase in the number of sick students might be linked to climate change.

“It is just a kind of reaction to the climate change and it is not peculiar to OAU.

“We have competent medical doctors and researchers who would have detected if the complaints are unusual.

“That we admitted 150 students as being reported on  social media is propaganda.

“Our beds are not filled up yet. We have only 14 beds. Everything is under control,” he said.

Meanwhile, the UN is poised to begin delivering aid to people living in besieged areas of Syria. making use of a truce brokered by the US and Russia.

Its first deliveries are planned for Monday, with aid due to reach about 150,000 Syrians in besieged areas over the next five days.

The UN hopes to help an estimated 1.7 million people by the end of March.

Saturday’s long-awaited truce appears to be holding despite complaints of breaches from both sides.

A key Syrian opposition group said the situation was much better.

Before the truce, Western powers accused Russia of attacking moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; Moscow says it only targets UN-designated terrorist groups.

This is now a crucial window of opportunity for the UN to get food and aid to the besieged. The truce does, in general, remain intact despite both the Western-backed opposition and regime sides complaining of dozens of violations over the weekend, including air strikes around Aleppo.

But it is unclear whether the target was the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra front, which would not constitute a ceasefire breach since it and so-called Islamic State are not included in the deal.

A rebel spokesman talked of violations “here and there” but a situation much better than before. Moscow also complained of incidents but said on the whole, the ceasefire was being implemented.

That it has largely held for the weekend has defied expectations but there is still a lot of scepticism that it can continue for the full two weeks.

The UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in Syria, Yacoub el-Hillo, called the truce “the best opportunity that the Syrian people have had over the last five years for lasting peace and stability”.

The organisation plans to use the lull to deliver food, water and medicine to towns like Madaya, where residents have reportedly been starving to death.

It says it needs the approval of Syria’s warring parties before it can further expand its deliveries.

Efforts to deliver aid to Islamic State-besieged Deir al-Zour by air last week failed when several pallets were damaged, disappeared or landed in no-man’s land.

“Primarily we will try to deliver food by land because that is the most efficient way, it’s the way that we can deliver the largest amounts of food but there are some areas of the country where we can’t get across the front line,” Greg Barrow, a spokesman for the UN World Food Programme, told the BBC.

Almost 500,000 people are living under siege in Syria, the UN estimates.

The cessation of hostilities was agreed as part of a plan by the US and Russia, who have backed opposing sides in Syria’s civil war.

It does not apply to the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) or the Nusra Front, which is linked to al-Qaeda.

Nation with additional report from BBC