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Concept: Ghana

40

The West African cocoa belt, reaching from Sierra Leone to southern Cameroon, is the origin of about 70% of the world’s cocoa (Theobroma cacao), which in turn is the basis of the livelihoods of about two million farmers. We analyze cocoa’s vulnerability to climate change in the West African cocoa belt, based on climate projections for the 2050s of 19 Global Circulation Models under the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change intermediate emissions scenario RCP 6.0. We use a combination of a statistical model of climatic suitability (Maxent) and the analysis of individual, potentially limiting climate variables. We find that: 1) contrary to expectation, maximum dry season temperatures are projected to become as or more limiting for cocoa as dry season water availability; 2) to reduce the vulnerability of cocoa to excessive dry season temperatures, the systematic use of adaptation strategies like shade trees in cocoa farms will be necessary, in reversal of the current trend of shade reduction; 3) there is a strong differentiation of climate vulnerability within the cocoa belt, with the most vulnerable areas near the forest-savanna transition in Nigeria and eastern Côte d'Ivoire, and the least vulnerable areas in the southern parts of Cameroon, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia; 4) this spatial differentiation of climate vulnerability may lead to future shifts in cocoa production within the region, with the opportunity of partially compensating losses and gains, but also the risk of local production expansion leading to new deforestation. We conclude that adaptation strategies for cocoa in West Africa need to focus at several levels, from the consideration of tolerance to high temperatures in cocoa breeding programs, the promotion of shade trees in cocoa farms, to policies incentivizing the intensification of cocoa production on existing farms where future climate conditions permit and the establishment of new farms in already deforested areas.

Concepts: Africa, Nigeria, Climate, West Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Economic Community of West African States

40

Poverty has been implicated as a challenge in the control of the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Although disparities between affected countries have been appreciated, disparities within West African countries have not been investigated as drivers of Ebola transmission. To quantify the role that poverty plays in the transmission of Ebola, we analyzed heterogeneity of Ebola incidence and transmission factors among over 300 communities, categorized by socioeconomic status (SES), within Montserrado County, Liberia.

Concepts: Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, West Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Mali Empire, Atlantic slave trade, Scramble for Africa

26

Events such as the 2014-2015 West Africa epidemic of Ebola virus disease highlight the importance of the capacity to detect and respond to public health threats. We describe capacity-building efforts during and after the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and public health progress that was made as a result of the Ebola response in 4 key areas: emergency response, laboratory capacity, surveillance, and workforce development. We further highlight ways in which capacity-building efforts such as those used in West Africa can be accelerated after a public health crisis to improve preparedness for future events.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Nigeria, West Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Economic Community of West African States, Guinea

25

Throughout the Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa, field laboratory testing for EVD has relied on complex, multi-step real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR) assays; an accurate sample-to-answer RT-PCR test would reduce time to results and potentially increase access to testing. We evaluated the performance of the Cepheid GeneXpert Ebola assay on clinical venipuncture whole blood (WB) and buccal swab (BS) specimens submitted to a field biocontainment laboratory in Sierra Leone for routine EVD testing by RT-PCR (“Trombley assay”).

Concepts: Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, West Africa, Ghana, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Incubation period, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea

24

Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is a global public health problem. Adequate management requires baseline drug-resistance prevalence data. In West Africa, due to a poor laboratory infrastructure and inadequate capacity, such data are scarce. Therefore, the true extent of drug-resistant TB was hitherto undetermined. In 2008, a new research network, the West African Network of Excellence for Tuberculosis, AIDS and Malaria (WANETAM), was founded, comprising nine study sites from eight West African countries (Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo). The goal was to establish Good Clinical Laboratory Practice (GCLP) principles and build capacity in standardised smear microscopy and mycobacterial culture across partnering laboratories to generate the first comprehensive West African drug-resistance data.

Concepts: Africa, Burkina Faso, West Africa, Ghana, The Gambia, African Union member states, Atlantic slave trade, Economic Community of West African States

18

Despite the building evidence on violence against children globally, almost nothing is known about the violence children with disabilities in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) experience. The prevalence of violence against children with disabilities can be expected to be higher in LMICs where there are greater stigmas associated with having a child with a disability, less resources for families who have children with disabilities, and wider acceptance of the use of corporal punishment to discipline children. This study explores violence experienced by children with disabilities based on data collected from four countries in West Africa- Guinea, Niger, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

Concepts: Nigeria, West Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Atlantic slave trade, Sierra Leone, Economic Community of West African States, Guinea

17

The ongoing West African Ebola epidemic began in December 2013 in Guinea, probably from a single zoonotic introduction. As a result of ineffective initial control efforts, an Ebola outbreak of unprecedented scale emerged. As of 4 May 2015, it had resulted in more than 19,000 probable and confirmed Ebola cases, mainly in Guinea (3,529), Liberia (5,343), and Sierra Leone (10,746). Here, we present analyses of data collected during the outbreak identifying drivers of transmission and highlighting areas where control could be improved.

Concepts: Africa, Nigeria, West Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Economic Community of West African States, Guinea

16

Snakebite envenoming (SBE) is a major problem in rural areas of West Africa (WA). Compared to other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD), the public health burden of SBE has not been well characterized. We estimated the impact of snakebite mortality and morbidity using the Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) metrics for 16 countries in WA.

Concepts: Health economics, Epidemiology, Death, Population, Rural area, Ghana

16

Globally, hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection is responsible for a large proportion of persons with liver disease, including cancer. The infection is highly prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. West Africa was identified as a geographic origin of two HCV genotypes. However, little is known about the genetic composition of HCV populations in many countries of the region. Using conventional and next-generation sequencing (NGS), we identified and genetically characterized 65 HCV strains circulating among HCV-positive blood donors in Kumasi, Ghana. Phylogenetic analysis using consensus sequences derived from 3 genomic regions of the HCV genome, 5'-untranslated region, hypervariable region 1 (HVR1) and NS5B gene, consistently classified the HCV variants (n = 65) into genotypes 1 (HCV-1, 15%) and genotype 2 (HCV-2, 85%). The Ghanaian and West African HCV-2 NS5B sequences were found completely intermixed in the phylogenetic tree, indicating a substantial genetic heterogeneity of HCV-2 in Ghana. Analysis of HVR1 sequences from intra-host HCV variants obtained by NGS showed that three donors were infected with >1 HCV strain, including infections with 2 genotypes. Two other donors share an HCV strain, indicating HCV transmission between them. The HCV-2 strain sampled from one donor was replaced with another HCV-2 strain after only 2 months of observation, indicating rapid strain switching. Bayesian analysis estimated that the HCV-2 strains in Ghana were expanding since the 16th century. The blood donors in Kumasi, Ghana, are infected with a very heterogeneous HCV population of HCV-1 and HCV-2, with HCV-2 being prevalent. The detection of three cases of co- or super-infections and transmission linkage between 2 cases suggests frequent opportunities for HCV exposure among the blood donors and is consistent with the reported high HCV prevalence. The conditions for effective HCV-2 transmission existed for ~ 3-4 centuries, indicating a long epidemic history of HCV-2 in Ghana.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Evolution, Africa, Hepatitis C, West Africa, Ghana

16

As of November 2015, the Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic that began in West Africa in late 2013 is waning. The human toll includes more than 28,000 Ebola virus disease (EVD) cases and 11,000 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the most heavily-affected countries. We reviewed 66 mathematical modeling studies of the EVD epidemic published in the peer-reviewed literature to assess the key uncertainties models addressed, data used for modeling, public sharing of data and results, and model performance. Based on the review, we suggest steps to improve the use of modeling in future public health emergencies.

Concepts: Africa, Nigeria, West Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Economic Community of West African States, Guinea