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Lanka signs agreement to receive EU grant for agriculture modernisation



The Ministry of Finance and the World Bank recently signed a new agreement to receive a grant from the European Union to support the Agriculture Sector Modernization Project (ASMP).

 This grant is part of the EU’s EUR 25 million support to the US$ 125 million project and will be administered by the World Bank.

Since its inception in 2016, the Agriculture Sector Modernization Project has supported the Government of Sri Lanka’s efforts to increase agriculture productivity, boost the value addition of smallholder farmers and agribusinesses and to improve their access to markets. The project also supports agricultural diversification and technology improvements. The project has so far benefitted more than 48,000 smallholder farmers across the country and has created more than 1500 new jobs through investments in agribusiness organizations.

The World Bank has said in a media statement: “Sri Lanka is blessed with an agricultural sector with deep historical roots, which will continue to underpin rural livelihoods and enable the country to rise to future challenges,” said Faris. H. Hadad-Zervos, World Bank Country Director for Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “Agriculture is important for Sri Lanka’s economy, and we continue to work with all our partners to promote inclusive and resilient growth, through increasing agricultural productivity, farmer incomes and creating jobs in the sector.”

This additional investment will help prepare Sri Lanka for COVID-19 recovery by contributing to export revenues and creating high quality jobs in agro-processing. It will also help expand opportunities for inclusive livelihood support in rural areas, and providing essential food items.

The additional grant funding from the European Union will support the expansion of agriculture clusters in five districts: Kandy (Central Province), Badulla (Uva Province), Ampara (Eastern Province), and Killinochchi and Vavuniya (Northern Province). The scale-up will contribute to a greater livelihood transformational impact and by reaching a larger number of project beneficiaries. It is expected that a total of 25,000 additional beneficiaries would be supported, including 6,000 direct members of farmer producer organizations.

“The European Union is pleased to be partnering with the World Bank and the Government of Sri Lanka to move towards a more sustainable, resilient and productive agriculture”, said Denis Chaibi, European Union Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “By contributing to the agriculture sector modernization programme, we aim to support smallholder farmers, promote new farming solutions to boost productivity and create more jobs, all ultimately to be able to make a positive impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable”.

The current World Bank portfolio in Sri Lanka consists of 19 ongoing projects, with a total commitment value of US$2.33 billion in a variety of sectors including transport, urban, agriculture, water, education, and health.

The EU has provided over EUR 1 billion in grants so far to Sri Lanka to support and accompany local efforts for recovery and reform processes in a wide range of areas including poverty reduction, democratic governance, local development, agriculture, water or health.

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Haiti police riot after crime gangs kill 14 officers




Protesters attempted to break into the Haitian prime minister's residence (picture BBC)

BBC reported that Rebel police officers rioted in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday following the killing of more than a dozen colleagues by criminal gangs.

The rioting officers blame the government for not taking action.

More than 100 demonstrators blocked streets, burned tyres, broke security cameras and damaged vehicles.

Local media said several officers broke through the gates of the prime minister’s residence and attempted to enter Haiti’s international airport.

Fourteen officers are thought to have died since the start of the year in various gang attacks on police stations.

Seven officers were killed in shootout on Wednesday alone, according to Haiti’s National Police.

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Gold-covered mummy among latest discoveries in Egyptian tomb




One of four newly discovered tombs at the Saqqara archaeological site south of Cairo (picture BBC)

BBC reported that archaeologists say they have found a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside a sarcophagus that had not been opened for 4,300 years.

The mummy, the remains of a man named Hekashepes, is thought to be one of the oldest and most complete non-royal corpses ever found in Egypt.

It was discovered down a 15m (50ft) shaft at a burial site south of Cairo, Saqqara, where three other tombs were found.

One tomb belonged to a “secret keeper”.

The largest of the mummies that were unearthed at the ancient necropolis is said to belong to a man called Khnumdjedef – a priest, inspector and supervisor of nobles.

Another belonged to a man called Meri, who was a senior palace official given the title of “secret keeper”, which allowed him to perform special religious rituals.

A judge and writer named Fetek is thought to have been laid to rest in the other tomb, where a collection of what are thought to be the largest statues ever found in the area had been discovered.

Several other items, including pottery, have also been found among the tombs.

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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention



Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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