Date: Thu, 17 Jan 2019 17:26:14 +0100
By Aymen Jamli

Tunis, Jan 17, 2019 (AFP) - A public sector strike brought Tunisia to a standstill Thursday as workers heeded calls from a powerful trade union to stay home over demands for wage hikes and economic reforms.   Across the country, schools were closed, public offices shuttered and transport paralysed after calls for a 24-hour strike by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT).   The international airport in Tunis was hit hard, with thousands of travellers stranded without flights or information.   The UGTT had addressed its call to the country's 677,000 civil servants and 350,000 employees of state-owned companies, who make up nearly a quarter of the Tunisian workforce. 

Protesters took to the streets of the capital chanting "the Tunisian people do not accept humiliation", criticising Prime Minister Youssef Chahed's for bowing to reforms dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).    Some held portraits of IMF chief Christine Lagarde, with a bright red X painted over her face.    Tunisia is seen as having had a relatively smooth democratic transition since the January 14, 2011 toppling of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

But price hikes fuelled by the fall of the Tunisian dinar, combined with tax increases and stubborn unemployment, have spurred social discontent.   In 2016, the IMF granted Tunisia a 2.4-billion-euro loan over the span of four years in exchange for a promise to carry out economic reforms and to control civil service salaries to avoid pushing up the public deficit.   "The UGTT will oppose the failure of the liberal choices of these leaders," UGTT head Noureddine Taboubi told the crowd, speaking from a balcony at the union's headquarters.   In Sfax, the second largest city in the country, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets.    The union has called for wage hikes for public sector employees to counter the decline in purchasing power due to inflation, which stands at 7.5 percent.

In a televised speech Wednesday, Prime Minister Chahed said public finances meant he could not accept the union's demands, adding that dialogue would continue after the strike.   "It is the wage increases conceded after the revolution in the absence of real growth that have led to inflation, debt and declining purchasing power," he argued.    Economist Ezzedine Saidane blamed Tunisia's economic problems on a long-term "lack of overall vision".    He told AFP structural reforms rather than a wage hike were needed "to limit inflation and boost job-creating growth".   Thursday's strike was the first to bring together employees from both the public sector and state-owned companies.    In November, Tunisian civil servants staged the biggest general strike in years.
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2019 18:49:43 +0100

Tunis, Jan 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tunisia's powerful UGTT trade union on Monday called for a strike as the country, grappling with economic hardships, marked the eighth anniversary of the 2011 revolution that toppled its longtime dictator.   The Tunisian General Labour Union, the UGTT, called on public sector employees to observe the strike on Thursday -- the second since November -- to demand a wage rise and economic reforms.   In a speech at the union's headquarters, secretary general Noureddine Taboubi said the strike should go ahead as talks between the UGTT and the government on social and economic reforms remained deadlocked.

Civil servants represent a sixth of Tunisia's workforce and in November the UGTT said it was demanding 673,000 state employees receive salary hikes equal to those granted in 2018 to public companies, which range from 15 to 30 euros ($17-34) a month.   But President Beji Caid Essebsi has urged a boycott of the strike.   "It is necessary to stop or limit" strikes, he said, during a visit at the Bardo National Museum where an exhibit was on display to pay tribute to Tunisian revolution which sparked the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.   Essebsi added, however, that "we must take into consideration the deteriorating purchasing power of citizens".

The North African country is seen as having had a relatively smooth democratic transition since the January 14, 2011 toppling of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.   At the same time, price hikes fuelled in particular by the fall of the Tunisian dinar, combined with tax increases and stubborn unemployment, have spurred social discontent that escalated into riots across several cities in January last year.

In 2016, the International Monetary Fund granted Tunisia a 2.4-billion-euro loan over the span of four years in exchange for a promise to carry out economic reforms.   The country is grappling with an inflation rate of 7.5 percent and unemployment stands at more than 15 percent, with those worst hit being young university graduates.

Many Tunisians hope there will be change in 2019 when presidential and legislative elections are due to take place.   Meanwhile on Monday, hundreds of Tunisians, including politicians, took to the streets of the capital to celebrate the ousting eight years ago of strongman Ben Ali, gathering in the landmark Habib Bourguiba Avenue in central Tunis.
Date: Sun 9 Dec 2018
Source: WHO Weekly Epidemiological Monitor. Issue no 49.Volume 11 [edited]
<http://www.emro.who.int/surveillance-forecasting-response/weekly-epidemiological-monitor/>

As of [30 Nov 2018], the Ministry of Health of Tunisia reported 377 suspected cases of West Nile fever (WNF). Out of these, 65 cases are probable and 49 cases are laboratory confirmed. Two related deaths have also been reported.

Editorial note
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West Nile Virus (WNV) is a member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the family _Flaviviridae_. WNV infection is a non-contagious disease, primarily transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes of the genus _Culex_.

WNV is endemic in Tunisia. Since 1997 till 2012, 3 major upsurge of WNV cases were reported in the country. From the beginning of 2018 till last week of November [2018], a total of 377 suspected cases of West Nile fever were reported of which 49 were confirmed by RT-PCR with two related death.

In comparison with the previous years, the number of suspected and confirmed cases reported in 2018 already exceeded previous year's number (Please see table [in PDF of the URL]). This increased number of reported, suspected and confirmed cases compared to previous years, confirms the intensified circulation of WNV in the country.

This upsurge of the cases can also be explained by the risk factors including increased temperatures and early and heavy rainfall during the summer and autumn of 2018, that provided favourable conditions to the amplification of the vector and as well as the intensification of WNV circulation in the country.

The current trend shows a decline in the number of reported cases. The epidemic peak has been observed during the 1st week of October, but confirmed cases continue to be recorded till the week of reporting of the current year [2018] (Please see graph [in PDF of the URL]).

Climatically changed environment favour the establishment of the vector in the country which also facilitates the circulation of the virus; this has lead to the concern that the outbreak may also spread to other areas. The key public health measures that should be rapidly scaled up to contain the current surge and stop the transmission include aggressive vector control such as emptying and cleaning water reservoirs (breading sites), targeted indoor spraying, ensuring the use of bed nets and repellents and risk communication to reduce the risk of infection at the source. At the same time, surveillance systems should be enhanced ensuring early detection of the spread of the infection to other areas.
====================
[The first human West Nile disease (WND) epidemic in Tunisia occurred in 1997. Since 2010, sporadic human meningoencephalitis cases have been reported in different regions of Tunisia almost every year. The last epidemic WNV human meningitis and meningoencephalitis was recorded in 2012, with 86 cases and 6 deaths  (<http://www.izs.it/vet_italiana/2017/53_3/VetIt_1181_6565_2.pdf>).

In 2015 and for the first time, WNV was isolated and detected in Culex pipiens mosquitoes in Tunisia. Phylogenetic analysis showed that WNV strains belong to lineage 1 and are closely related to the 1997 Human Tunisian strain (Wasfi F, Dachraoui K, Cherni S, et al. West Nile virus in Tunisia, 2014: first isolation from mosquitoes. Acta Trop. 2016 Jul;159:106-10; abstract available at  <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0001706X16301486?via%3Dihub>).

It is important to set up continuous entomological surveillance as an early alert system. Timely detection of WNV should prompt vector control to prevent future outbreaks. In addition, education of people to protect themselves from mosquito bites is of major epidemiological importance as preventive measure against WNV infection. - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Tunisia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/71>]
Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2018 14:06:16 +0100

Tunis, Nov 22, 2018 (AFP) - Tunisian civil servants staged the biggest general strike in five years on Thursday after their powerful trade union failed to secure wage hikes in tense negotiations with the government.   More than 3,000 people gathered outside parliament, responding to calls from the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) for demonstrations.   "The wage increase is not a favour" and "Tunisia is not for sale", protesters chanted, also employing a popular slogan of the country's 2011 revolution -- "work, freedom, national dignity".    The UGTT is demanding 673,000 state employees receive salary bumps equal to those granted this year to public companies, which range from 15 to 30 euros ($17-34) a month.    Bouali Mbarki, UGTT deputy secretary, told AFP the wage increase "had not been taken into account in the 2019 state budget".

Thursday's strike, the biggest since 2013 and the first civil servant walkout over wages in decades, according to UGTT, included staff from ministries, hospitals and public schools.    The demands for wage hikes are tied to "an unprecedented rise in prices, a deterioration of citizen purchasing power.... and a degradation of daily life," Mbarki said.   Donors keeping Tunisia afloat have called on the government to control civil service salaries to avoid pushing up the public deficit.   But Mbarki said the government "must find a solution without being subjected to the instructions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-- even if it has made commitments with it -- and preserve social stability".    Mbarki said the union was "not negotiating with (head of the IMF) Christine Lagarde) but with the head of the Tunisian government", Prime Minister Youssef Chahed. 

The North African country is seen as having had a relatively smooth democratic transition since the January 14, 2011 toppling of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.   At the same time price hikes, fuelled in particular by the fall of the Tunisian dinar, combined with tax increases and stubborn unemployment have spurred social discontent that escalated into riots across several cities in January.   In 2016, the IMF granted the North African country a 2.4-billion-euro loan over the span of four years in exchange for a promise to carry out economic reforms.    In recent months, political life in Tunisia has been paralysed by power struggles ahead of presidential elections set for 2019.
Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2018 14:30:30 +0100

Tunis, Oct 29, 2018 (AFP) - A strong explosion rattled the Tunisian capital on Monday, AFP journalists said.   Witnesses and a policeman at the scene said a woman had blown herself up close to police officers. Several ambulances and security personnel were at the scene.
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