External news in brief

Kairat Abdrakhmanov and Carlos Agostinho Filomeno das Nieves, the permanent representatives of Kazakhstan and Sao Tome and Principe, respectively, to the United Nations, signed a joint communiqué establishing diplomatic relations between their countries on Nov. 20, the same day diplomatic relations were established between Kazakhstan and Sierra Leone. Sao Tome and Principe, a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, is one of the world’s largest exporters of cocoa. Sierra Leone, in West Africa, is one of the largest producers of titanium and bauxite, a major producer of gold and has one of the world’s largest deposits of rutile. The representative of Sao Tome and Principe expressed interest in sending the country’s students to study in Kazakhstan. The question of fighting the Ebola virus epidemic in Africa was also raised, as Sierra Leone is one of the most-affected countries. Kazakhstan has provided financial assistance to combat the disease.

USAID’s Tuberculosis CARE I and Quality Health Care Projects celebrated the completion of five years of successful collaboration with the Kazakh Ministry of Health and Social Development and a press conference was held in Astana Nov. 25 to mark the closeout of the two operations. Through the coordinated efforts of the projects, USAID has helped to improve the quality of tuberculosis services delivered by healthcare providers at all levels by integrating the services in primary healthcare, strengthening laboratory networks and bringing the operation of Kazakhstan’s medical laboratories in line with international standards, including the use of the rapid diagnostic test GeneXpert. All 77 tuberculosis laboratories in pilot regions in Almaty and East Kazakhstan are now covered by the WHO-recommended External Quality Assurance system and 93 percent of them meet or exceed international standards. GeneXpert testing machines, provided by USAID, have reduced the time it takes to diagnose tuberculosis and rather than 76 days, a patient can now begin treatment in eight days. Since 2012, 5,611 GeneXpert tests have been performed in USAID pilot regions, with 4,874 tuberculosis cases detected, of which 2,267 (47 percent) were MDR-tuberculosis cases. USAID has supported advocacy, communication and social mobilisation activities to reduce stigma and discrimination, improve treatment outcomes, improve tuberculosis drug management, strengthen tuberculosis surveillance and support research. USAID trainings have reached more than 6,000 health workers on tuberculosis prevention and treatment and almost 700 laboratory staff have received training on diagnosis and quality control.

U.S. Ambassador John Ordway presented 11 modular shelter complexes and related equipment, valued at $3,028,985, to the Kazakh Border Guard Service. The Nov. 24 hand-over ceremony took place at the Cape Skalistyi border guard observation postin the Mangystau region. The modular shelter complexes will assist the Border Guard Service in extending its presence along previously-unmanned sections of the border in the region. The government of the U.K. generously donated this funding to allow the U.S. Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) programme to continue its ongoing capacity-building efforts with the Border Guard Service aimed at detecting and deterring illicit trafficking across Kazakhstan’s international borders. The U.S. Department of State established EXBS in 2001 to assist in strengthening Kazakhstan’s strategic trade control system and establishing sustainable capabilities for border security agencies to interdict, investigate and prosecute the illicit transfers of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), WMD-related materials and advanced conventional arms. To date, EXBS has contributed $27 million in assistance as part of its commitment to assist Kazakhstan with its non-proliferation efforts.

The Director of the Asia-Pacific Research Centre of Hanyang University Eom Gu Ho expressed South Korea’s intention to develop cooperation in railway infrastructure development at the roundtable Nurly Zhol: New strategic horizons for Kazakhstan, held Nov. 24 in Astana. South Korea can participate in developing north-south railway lines, he said. Eom also noted that the South Korean Ministry of Transport and the Kazakh Ministry of Transport and Communications had concluded an agreement establishing friendly ties in the railway sector. A Kazakhstan-Korea business forum scheduled for next week is expected to examine prospects of cooperation in transport.