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Liberia:Pres. Weah Extends Restrictions By Two Weeks …Moves “Stay Home” to 6PM
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
President Weah
President Weah

The Government of Liberia has announced an additional two-week extension of restrictions intended to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

During the ensuing period, the public is now required to be indoors at 6pm, instead of the previous 3pm.

President George M. Weah has said the easing of measures became necessary in light of the new global reality and the advice of local health authorities.

Under the updated guidelines, restaurants, stores selling food commodities, dry goods, building materials and electronic appliances, will be allowed to open provided they take in 25% of their full occupancy at a time while observing social distancing.

The President has also instructed the joint security to enforce the mandatory wearing of masks in all public spaces and ensure full compliance. The government will take the appropriate legal action in cases of violation of any these measures.

President Weah has revealed that the new measures will be assessed again in the near future in order to determine their effectiveness and the need for further easing – given the urgency of opening up the economy so that possible shocks from the global pandemic can be mitigated.

Nonetheless, the President also said that the preservation of lives remains the foremost priority of his administration, so any future decisions will be made with that in full consideration.

All other measures and protocols previously announced remain in place.

The government calls for cooperation of the general public as the country grapples with the enormous threat that Coronavirus poses.

Meanwhile, President Weah has named the Ministry of Labour as exempt and instructed the Minister to designate essential staff to report to work immediately.

*Executive Mansion Liberia

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Highlights from Mercer’s Webinar on The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Kenya
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

The coronavirus pandemic is a health crisis and human tragedy which has affected thousands across the globe. As a result, economies are charged with providing a response to the pandemic. Some of the challenges countries are faced with include debt increase, oil demand decline, and rising unemployment. 

In this light, Mercer, a global consulting leader in talent, health, retirement and investment held a webinar to discuss what this pandemic could mean for Kenya’s economic landscape. 

According to Francis Omanyala, Associate Consultant at Mercer, Africa has unique challenges in its fight against COVID-19. However it is crucial that organizations better understand some of these issues and redirect their energies in unlocking some of the available opportunities. 

During the webinar, one of the speakers, Lesiba Mothata, Head: Strategic Clients, Alexander Forbes explained that for countries like Kenya, there have been a number of constructive outcomes. One of which is Kenya’s new tax policy that provides full income tax relief for persons earning below the equivalent of $225 per month.  

Agriculture and climate also remain top of mind in Kenya, alongside opportunities provided by digital money, NextGen connectivity and tourism.

Lastly, considering Africa is well on its way to adopting technological advancements, Kenyan regulators might be encouraged to expedite the commercial use of 5G technology to enhance faster mobile connectivity.

How employers in Kenya are supporting their employees ?

Despite having a strong youthful population, who, according to research may be less vulnerable to COVID-19, Africa poses a large threat when compared globally, due to weak healthcare systems and testing capabilities. There is also the challenge of other existing medical battles such as, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Ebola and Malaria. Hence, organizations are tasked with supporting employee wellbeing and safety.

Francis Omanyala stated that in Kenya, there have been cash donations and support from the government, private sector and individuals totaling 1.3billion Kenyan shillings. Some of the other business responses to COVID-19 have been through HMO and government initiatives. These include telehealth assistance, facilitating drug deliveries and donations to health workers’ funds.

He also shed some light on other measures taken by the Kenyan government in the wake of the pandemic. “There have been sensitization programmes geared towards educating people on how to protect themselves. Kenyatta National Hospital has also been expanded in terms of bed capacity, while Kenya closed borders with Tanzania and Somalia to curb the spread of the virus,” he said.

Mercer’s employee support survey also looks at the ways through which companies in Africa are supporting their employees during this outbreak. For instance, 54 percent are allowing employees with children to determine their own work schedule while 43 percent established a private COVID-19 hotline for employees in order to encourage self-disclosure.

The new normal

Going forward from the current reality, many concerns come to mind. What will the new working environment look like? How should companies approach things during this period? Does my insurance at the moment have the adequate cover for COVID-19? etc.

The first step would be for employers to rethink their strategies and working conditions. “We need to be innovative in terms of the solutions we provide for employees while reviewing our strategies ahead of returning to the office. We also need to consider how best to balance between continuously supporting our employees and understanding their needs as we grow our businesses,” said Francis Omanyala.

Additionally, one of the most important things for employers would be hygiene, but in the meantime, HR has to redefine policies like remote working and provide internet access

Secondly, there is a need for organizations to better understand various workforces and how best to move things along. For instance, industries like manufacturing may require different approaches when compared to the financial services sector. 

Productivity and mental health is another crucial factor to consider. In order for organizations to maintain a healthy balance, there is need for compassion and empathy from leaders. Also, considering certain administrative activities may be tedious or unnecessary during this period, other means of managing and reviewing performance should be adopted. 

Overall, there shouldn’t be a rush. The process of resuming regular work activities need to be phased.

Employers may also want to consider enhancing financial support to employees with additional innovative solutions which are emerging during these trying times.

The first 4 points from Mercer’s 10 point Employer Guide are very important, particularly as economies have started getting back to work. This includes employee communication, onsite/ near-site clinic protocols and other support mechanisms. For employees in Kenya who will be returning from heavily infected areas, there needs to be regular testing and other appropriate measures to protect the entire workforce.

While COVID-19 may hit Kenya hard, opportunities abound by identifying the sectors with high growth rates alongside more efforts in the upskilling of labor, the country will be better positioned to cushion the impact of the pandemic.  

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Senegal: A West African Leader on the Rise
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Thomas Hedley*

Senegal has demonstrated strong ambition for economic development and rapid progress towards becoming an attractive investment destination

Although they are located 1,800Km from each other, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal vie for the place of economic leader in West Africa, with a slight advantage for the former which, thanks to its leading economic capital Abidjan, was able to attract many investors, particularly French speaking.

The population of Senegal reached 15.85 million people in 2018 compared to 25 million in Côte d’Ivoire. The same difference can be observed when looking at gross domestic product (GDP) since Senegal reached $25 billion in GDP in 2018, while Côte d’Ivoire reached $43 billion dollars. The competition between the two countries is justified by a recent common history, where Senegal acquired independence from France just two years after Côte d’Ivoire, in 1958 and 1960 respectively.

Both countries are members of the Economic Community of West African States. The diplomatic group is led by Nigeria, which represents the economic engine of the region, followed by Ghana, also an English-speaking country. Next come Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal in third and fourth position.

Thanks to an ambitious economic development plan initiated in 2014, the Senegal Emerging Plan (PSE), Senegal has managed to attract more foreign investors over the years. The objective of the PSE is to proclaim Senegal as an ‘emerging country’ according to the United Nations, which is characterized by a set of criteria making it possible to declare that the country has made decisive progress in terms of economic and social development. The notion of ‘emerging country’ also translates a notion of stronger influence on the international as well as regional community.

Senegal is a country blessed with an excellent geographical location, at the westernmost point of the African mainland, featuring a large Atlantic coastline. Relatively developed transport and hospitality infrastructure translates to a great tourism potential. The Sine Saloum Delta region is the south is globally recognized spot for natural ecosystems and wildlife viewing, while the former capital Saint-Louis, north of Dakar, is praised for its colonial architecture heritage. 1,4 million tourists visited Senegal in 2017, up 40 percent from 2014. The sector generates over 300,000 jobs.

Phase 2 of the PSE, which was launched in 2019, aims in particular to make Senegal independent from an energy point of view and endowed with universal access to electricity by 2025. The plan includes a strong renewable energy aspect. Several solar park projects have come online since 2014 as well as the commissioning of the largest wind farm in West Africa, Taiba N’diaye, whose official inauguration took place in February 2020.

Since the launch of the PSE, Senegal has experienced a sustained and very stable growth rate of around 6% per year. While the COVID-19 epidemic may indeed affect the 2020 targets, the medium-term outlook remains very optimistic. The first productions of the Sangomar and Grand Tortue Ahmeyim fields, respectively of oil and gas, are planned for 2022 and 2023, with final investment decisions signed on the two projects. The Taiba N’diaye wind farm, planned to increase electricity production by 15%, is in operation. The first solar park went online three years ago and five more have been launched since then and two are in the pipeline. In addition, Senegal is part of the Senegal River Development Organization (OMVS) which aims to generate electricity from the Senegal river.

Almost simultaneously with the launch of the PSE, an oil exploration team comprised of Australian FAR Ltd and Woodside Energy, as well as the British company Cairn Energy and Senegalese Petroleum Company (Petrosen), announced a large oil discovery off the coast of Dakar in deep waters. A year later, exploration company Kosmos Energy announced a very large gas discovery offshore in very deep waters, straddling the border with Mauritania. British Major BP has acquired operator status on the Grand Tortue Ahmeyim project, which aims to be the fastest liquefied natural gas (LNG) project ever developed. Although the COVID-19 epidemic is threatening what was originally planned, targets remain the same as pre-crisis.

Senegal has decisive key success factors: an attractive geographic position, strong political and institutional stability, a very strong political will towards reform and progress, a flexible regulatory framework for investors and a stable business climate. Since the PSE did not foresee a strong development of the hydrocarbon sector, the discoveries of 2014, 2015 and the following ones constitute an excellent additional growth lever for a highly promising country.

The development policy undertaken by President Macky Sall following his election in 2012 is a long-term policy, aiming the build the foundations of a solid economy, based on key sectors such as industry and energy, including a significant component of local content across the value chain.

*SOURCE Africa Oil & Power Conference
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South Sudan: “City of darkness” no longer, African Development Bank supported electricity project lights up capital
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Araya Hizkias, the owner of a water bottling company in South Sudan’s capital Juba, used to rely on a diesel generator to keep his business going, which gobbled into his profits each month.

But now a city-wide power grid is emerging for the first time, lighting up Juba and promoting security, and transforming lives and businesses.

Implementation of the African Development Bank’s $38 million Juba Power Distribution System Rehabilitation and Expansion Project is  almost completed in the city, Juba, which hasn’t had a stable and reliable electricity supply since South Sudan’s independence in 2011 and has always suffered from regular blackouts.

“Our company used to rely on a 1,500kVA  generator and spent an average of $75 a day on diesel. We bought 45,000 litres of diesel monthly, said Hizkias, the owner of the Juba-based Aquana Water Company.

“Now we rely on public electricity brought to us by this new network. We don’t experience random damages to our machines anymore and things are working easier. We are making more savings and expanding production.”

The Bank and the South Sudan government partially commissioned the power distribution network in November 2019. It has since helped to restore electricity supply in the Central Business District of Juba. Street lamps light up most thoroughfares to ease movement of traffic and pedestrians and  help prevent crime.

Of the 20,000 “last-mile” domestic and commercial consumers targeted in the project,  about 6,131 have so far been connected to the grid.

“We used to light candles and other alternate energy sources. Most people who could afford them, owned generators. The disturbing noise of generators could be heard from many homes and business. We now have enough power for our appliances and businesses have picked up,” said Adak Costa Mapuor, a middle-aged woman who moved to the city in 2006.

The project is funded through a combination of a grant from the African Development Fund (ADF), the concessional financing window of the Bank, and a concessional loan from the ADF-administered Transition Support Facility.It has lit up government offices, hotels, and factories and helped to power public services such as water, health and educational institutions.

“It was an embarrassment for Juba, the seat of government, not to have reliable electricity. Juba was once referred to as the city of darkness. This project has changed that and given the city a facelift. The network is reaching the common people, and it has improved small businesses and rejuvenated commercial activities,” said Jacob Deng, Director General, Planning  and Projects at the South Sudan Electricity Corporation.

 “It has also improved security,” he added. “Many businesses now stay open till late as a result of improved security. This is one of the best projects in the country.”

The project is due to be completed at the end of  2020 and will consist of a 145 km medium voltage distribution line and a 250 km low voltage distribution line with 145 new transformers installed. At least a total of 20,000 domestic and commercial consumers will be connected, with access to five new customer service centres.

“The electricity supply situation in Juba was very bad. It comprised a small grid of 6 MW covering parts of Juba. Demand was very high. Things are better now, covering more households. Work is still ongoing, but those connected so far are very happy,” said Michael Wani Aringo, a project engineer who has lived in the city for 10 years.

The Juba Power Distribution System Rehabilitation and Expansion Project is the Bank’s first energy operation in South Sudan and follows years of conflict in the country. The rehabilitation of the electricity sector will unlock economic potential to spur growth and development. The upgrade of the network will gradually be rolled out to other cities and eventually connected to neighbouring countries.

*AFDB

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Zimbabwe: African Development Bank approves $13.7 million to strengthen health system, boost anti-COVID-19 efforts
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
A woman is screened by a healthcare worker before visiting a relative at a public hospital in Harare [Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP Photo]

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank has approved a $13.7 million grant to finance the COVID-19 response in Zimbabwe. The funds will provide an immediate lifeline for targeted frontline responders and health personnel and boost the country’s Global Health Security Index in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Approval for the grant was made on May 13, after a request from the Zimbabwe Government. The funds, from the African Development Fund (ADF) 14 Transition Support Facility, will go to Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 Response Project (CRP), which aims to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a country which is facing many economic and social challenges.

The CRP will focus on 15 high-density urban suburbs in Harare the capital, satellite townships and targeted health facilities in other areas of the country.

Activities under the project include boosting capacity in COVID-19 prevention and management protocols for healthcare personnel and populations in targeted regions, and increasing access to COVID-19 hand washing facilities in Harare, satellite townships and other affected regions.

The project will also supply COVID-19 medical equipment and laboratory test kits, personal protective equipment (PPEs); set up handwashing facilities through rehabilitation/construction of boreholes; and training of healthcare personnel and laboratory technicians at community level on COVID-19 prevention and case management protocols.

The project  which will be implemented by the World Health Organization, with the country’s Ministry of Health and Child Care acting as executing agency, is expected to directly benefit over 680,000 people. It will leverage on planned activities to contribute to strengthening the resilience of the health system, while protecting the livelihoods of the vulnerable population in Zimbabwe beyond the end of the pandemic.

Zimbabwe is currently facing additional vulnerability challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation like many other across the globe, has responded with a raft of measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus, including restricting movement of people and ordering social distancing in public places like shopping malls and public transport. The country’s current national lockdown includes school closures, restricted movement of people, restricted business operating times and the closure of pubs, restaurants and churches. Public gatherings have been limited to 50 people.

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Madagascar: Government of Madagascar gets Euro 4 million from African Development Fund for Sahofika hydropower project
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Sahofika project is located on the Onive River, 100 km southeast of the capital Antananarivo

The African Development Fund has approved a 4.02 million euro loan with a grant component to finance the Government of Madagascar’s 30 million euro equity investment in the Sahofika hydropower project, which will generate affordable, clean energy benefitting some 8 million people.

The Sahofika project is located on the Onive River, 100 km southeast of the capital Antananarivo. It entails the construction of a 205 MW hydroelectric power plant on a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer basis and includes the construction and rehabilitation of 110 km of access roads and construction of a 75 km, 220 kV transmission line. Once commissioned, the Sahofika project is expected to contribute to the avoidance of 900,000 tons of CO2 equivalent annually.

The government has committed to plough back the returns from the project to reduce electricity tariffs for the people of Madagascar.

Additional funding for the project is expected to come from the European Union and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa

“The support to the Sahofika project exemplifies the Bank’s commitment to delivering quality, affordable energy access across the continent for sustainable and inclusive growth, while helping member countries to responsibly harness their vast, yet underdeveloped renewable energy resources. As the largest hydro power project under development in the country, the Sahofika project will unlock Madagascar’s hydropower potential, and diversify its energy mix in favour of renewable at 90%”, said Dr. Kevin Kariuki, the Bank’s Vice-President for Power, Energy, Climate Change & Green Growth.

In December 2019, acting as Mandated Lead Arranger, the Bank approved a Partial Risk Guarantee of $100 million towards the Sahofika project to mitigate liquidity risk. The Bank is also supporting the Power Transmission Network Reinforcement and Interconnection Project, aimed at reinforcing and expanding Madagascar’s transmission network in order to  evacuate the additional power generated by this large hydro project.

“The Sahofika project is a cornerstone of the Bank’s strong support to the power sector in Madagascar. The commissioning of Sahofika would enable national utility (JIRAMA) to save around 100 million euros annually in fuel costs, while phasing out the need for state subsidies,” said Mohamed Cherif, the Bank’s Country Manager for Madagascar.

The Sahofika project is aligned with the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, and the Bank’s Climate Change Action Plan, whose collective goals include expanding green energy infrastructure for sustainable and inclusive growth. It is also in line with the Government of Madagascar’s energy policy.

The African Development Fund (ADF) is the concessional financing window of the Bank Group that provides low-income Regional Member Countries (RMCs) with concessional loans and grants in support of projects that spur poverty reduction.

*AFDB
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Kenya: €188m African Development Bank loan to boost COVID-19 response
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and AfDB President Dr. Adesina Akinwumi at the 51st Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank
The loan will extend additional resources to Kenya as the country takes steps to contain the spread of the pandemic and deal with its unprecedented impact

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank today approved an €188 million loan to support the Government of Kenya’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate the related economic, health and social impacts.

The loan will extend additional resources to Kenya as the country takes steps to contain the spread of the pandemic and deal with its unprecedented impact. It follows a request by the Government of Kenya, as part of its COVID-19 Emergency Response intervention, to help contain the scourge.

The Bank’s support will strengthen the national health system to effectively respond to the pandemic, build economic resilience and ensure quick recovery. The Bank’s intervention will also be used to support the poor and vulnerable people who have been negatively affected by the pandemic.

“We are very pleased to join other development partners in supporting the Government of Kenya’s efforts in mitigating the financial impact of the pandemic, especially in terms of the country’s expenditure in the health, social and economic sectors. The next step will focus on helping build resilience for post COVID-19,” the Bank’s Acting Director General for East Africa, Nnenna Nwabufo, noted.

Since Kenya’s first  COVID-19 infection was confirmed on 12 March 2020, cases have risen to over 1,000, while the number of recoveries and deaths are 375 and 50, respectively, as of 22 May 2020. The pandemic is placing significant pressure on an already stretched healthcare system. It has disrupted supply chains and caused job losses in the tourism, hospitality, horticulture and airline industries, among others.

In addition, informal and self-employed workers have also lost their livelihoods due to the impact of the pandemic.

The government’s response to the pandemic has been swift and multi-faceted, covering a range of measures including health-related containment measures, protection of the poor and vulnerable, provision of support to local businesses and to sustaining jobs. The Bank’s intervention, through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Support Program, is designed to support these measures.

As a result of demand and supply shocks, Kenya’s real GDP growth is projected to fall to between 0.6 and 1.4 percent from the initial 2020 projection of 6 percent.

In April, the Bank extended an emergency grant to help countries in the East and Horn of Africa, including Kenya, that are contending with swarms of locusts that are threatening food security. Kenya is facing its worst swarms in 70 years. In Ethiopia and Somalia, the outbreak is the worst in 25 years.

*AFDB
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African music icon Mory Kante Dies at 70
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

Mory Kante was one of Africa’s iconic music stars

Guinean singer Mory Kante, who helped introduce African music to a world audience in the 1980s, died on Friday in the capital Conakry.

Kante is best known for his dance song “Yeke Yeke,” which was a huge hit in Africa before becoming a number-one hit in several European countries in 1988.

Nicknamed the “electronic griot,” a play on the name for traditional West African musicians and storytellers, Kante died in hospital at the age of 70 after succumbing to untreated health problems.

“He suffered from chronic illnesses and often traveled to France for treatment, but that was no longer possible with the coronavirus,” Balla Kante said.

“We saw his condition deteriorate rapidly, but I was still surprised because he’d been through much worse times before,” he added.

Kante played guitar, the kora harp and balafon, in addition to being a singer.

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Outspoken Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Information Fired over Comparison of covid-19 measures taken by Presidents of Zimbabwe and Tanzania
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr Energy Mutodi

By Nevson Mpofu Munhumutapa

Considered by the government as totally outspoken ,  rude and un-respectful  Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Information , Publicity and Broadcasting Services Energy Mutodi  was fired immediately after he made swiping remarks regarding measures  taken by Tanzanian President  John Mugufuli as compared to President Mnangagwa’s measures to contain covid-19 virus .

Regis Chikowore  of the  President’s Office who is the Communications  Officer  announced this in Harare two days ago .  He however refereed Journalists to Dr Sibusiso Moyo the  Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade .

In a statement to Pan-African-Visions contacted a day ago in Harare , the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Dr Sibusiso Moyo pointed out that the remarks made by the outspoken Deputy Minister were a swipe to separate and disturb good relations between the two countries already in good , well respected relations .

‘’ I make reference to a message posted on twitter by Energy Mutodi the Deputy Minister of Information , Publicity and Broadcasting Services  on May 4 this year regarding the measures taken by Tanzanian President John Mugufuli as compared to Mnangagwa’s measures meant to contain, covid 19 ‘’. The two countries just like all other countries took their measures to contain covid-19 . This is not subject to comparison at all .’’

‘’I wish to make it clear that the statement does not reflect the Government’s position or policy . Zimbabwe respects John Mugufuli as President of Tanzania. The two countries are part and parcel of Africa . They are all in AU and after all Tanzania is in the SADC region . This is just to create confusion , cause misunderstandings , drawing back good relations , progress and developments achieved so far . Africa  is united . It must not be divided by  its leaders or influence of anyone one .’’

Energy Mutodi  had a deft move meant to  show  differences  in terms of measurements meant to contain covid -19 between the two countries , thereby causing  misunderstanding between the two countries .Among other disturbing issues created by Mutodi , he is accused of making the Ministry  of Foreign Affairs get into other deeper contrite issues meant to bring confusion , perplexity and confound circumstances  misleading the whole picture of good relations with  a fellow African State , Tanzania .

Dr Sibusiso Moyo  did not however make it clear on the  measures and how they were meant to destroy relations of the two countries . While there is no clear  on  extension of the case , critics point out that Mutodi was even a nuisance at the  Ministry of Information where Monica Mutsvangwa is the Minister .Interviewied  officials in the government say the ouster   of Mutodi was good riddance to bad rubbish as   his  record  was spreading out to all Ministries .

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Merck Foundation together with African First Ladies continue their strategy to provide specialty training for African doctors to better manage diabetes and hypertension patients
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments
Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation acknowledge some of Merck Foundation Alumni, future Diabetes and Hypertension experts in Africa and Asia
Merck Foundation has also started Coronavirus healthcare capacity building by providing online one-year diploma and two-year master degree in Respiratory Medicine and Acute Medicine for African Doctors

Merck Foundation , the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany in partnership with African First Ladies and Ministries of Health, continue their strategy to provide one-year diploma and two-year master degree in both Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine and Diabetes for medical postgraduates from more than 35 African and Asian countries.

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation and One of 100 Most Influential Africans emphasized, “Amidst the pandemic that has rocked the world, we must not forget people living with other health conditions such as Diabetes and Hypertension because they are the Coronavirus risk groups therefore Merck Foundation continues to build Hypertension and Diabetes care training to doctors, in partnership with African First Ladies, Ministries of Health and Academia. Moreover, we also provide training to doctors from Asian countries”.

Merck Foundation has so far enrolled and trained over 183 Medical postgraduates from over 35 countries. As a part of their efforts to build hypertension and diabetes care capacity, Merck Foundation enroll medical postgraduates for One Year Online Diploma and Two Year online master degree in Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine and Diabetes from reputable university in UK. Additionally, they also enroll doctors for a three-month Diabetes Master course from English, French and Portuguese speaking African countries to advance their clinical knowledge in tackling these non-communicable conditions.

Merck Foundation started capacity building of Coronavirus healthcare through providing online one-year diplomas and two year master degree in both Respiratory Medicine and Acute Medicine from UK University, for African doctors.

Dr. Sofia Jarombwereni Natshikare Nepembe, Merck Foundation alumnus from Namibia says, “I feel fortunate to be a part of this program and receive the Postgraduate one-year Diploma in Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine as part of Merck Foundation capacity advancement program. The course has enabled me to learn the advanced scientific developments for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The course has helped me to serve my patients better. Merck Foundation is doing a great job by providing postgraduate degrees for doctors like me who are eager to specialize to better serve their communities.”

“We are committed to enroll more doctors for these courses to be able to build a platform of hypertension and diabetes experts in underserved communities. These online courses is the right strategy to scale up our efforts to improve access to quality healthcare solutions widely and effectively especially during Coronavirus lockdown”, explained Dr. Rasha Kelej.

The program started in 35 countries such as: Bangladesh, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Merck Foundation , established in 2017, is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and advance their lives through science and technology. Our efforts are primarily focused on improving access to quality & equitable healthcare solutions in underserved communities, building healthcare and scientific research capacity and empowering people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with a special focus on women and youth.

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Almost 52,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life – from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma
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World Bank Announces $500 Million to Fight Locusts, Preserve Food Security and Protect Livelihoods
May 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

Emergency Financing for Locust Affected Countries will help people recover from losses

A local farmer runs through a swarm of desert locusts to chase them away, Kenya (ANSA)

The World Bank Group approved today a US$500 million program to help countries in Africa and the Middle East fight the locust swarms that are threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of people. 
The Emergency Locust Response Program (ELRP), approved today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, will focus on providing immediate assistance to help poor and vulnerable farmers, herders, and rural households overcome one of the worst locust upsurges in decades. ELRP will provide immediate support to affected households through targeted social safety nets like cash transfers, while investing in the medium-term recovery of agriculture and livestock production systems and rural livelihoods in affected countries. 
The first countries to be financed under the initial phase of the program are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, with a total financing package of US$160 million.
Locust swarms present a double crisis for countries that are also battling the COVID-19 pandemic,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “Together, this food supply emergency combined with the pandemic and economic shutdown in advanced economies places some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at even greater risk.”
East Africa already has 22.5 million severely food insecure people and 10.8 million forcibly displaced people, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The World Bank has estimated that, without broad-scale, coordinated control measures to reduce locust populations and prevent their spread to new areas, potential damages and losses to crop and livestock production and related assets in the greater Horn of Africa, including Yemen, could reach as high as US$8.5 billion by the end of this year. By helping to mobilize a rapid response and more effective locust control measures, anticipated damages and losses will still be an estimated US$2.5 billion. This is why the ELRP will fund measures to protect livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable impacted by the locust crisis. 
In addition to protecting livelihoods, physical assets and human capital of affected households, the program will deliver seed packages and other inputs to affected households to help restore farm production and livelihoods as quickly as possible. It will also finance investments to strengthen surveillance and early warning systems so that countries are better prepared to combat future outbreaks. 
As of early May 2020, locust swarms have infested 23 countries across East Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. This upsurge is the biggest outbreak faced by some countries in 70 years. Favorable breeding conditions through May will likely result in a new round of swarms in late June and July, coinciding with the start of the harvest season.
The program’s design builds on the strong technical foundation of desert locust management created by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which is already working with affected countries to ensure locust control operations are done safely and effectively. The World Bank and the FAO will enhance their ongoing collaboration through the program. 
ELRP will employ a multi-phased programmatic approach that allows for the fast preparation of similar projects in the future. Financed through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, it makes available an initial US$500 million in financing for eligible countries to request support. Its flexible financing package means that ELRP can expand quickly to new countries depending on where the locust swarms move. All countries eligible to receive IDA and IBRD resources can access support.
Among the initial projects approved:

  • Djibouti – US$6 million will help Djibouti strengthen its regulatory framework and institutional capacity for ‘Early Warning’ preparedness and response against future locust outbreaks, as well as provide cash transfers to affected households.
  • Ethiopia – In addition to the scale up of surveillance and control measures, US$63 million will provide seed and fertilizer packages to more than 150,000 farmers to ensure planting during the upcoming cropping season and, in pastoralist areas, emergency fodder to more than 113,000 households to safeguard their productive assets.
  • Kenya – US$43 million will finance grants to an estimated 70,000 pastoral households and 20,000 farmers to quickly rehabilitate crop and livestock production systems disrupted by the locust swarms.
  • Uganda – US$48 million will finance surveillance and control measures. It will also finance interventions to protect and rehabilitate livelihoods through temporary employment programs and activities that boost resilience, such as water and soil conservation activities, the adoption of agro-forestry technologies and practices, and the buildout of market infrastructure.

The ELRP support builds on the Bank’s earlier emergency financing of US$13.7 million for Kenya and US$600,000 that was reallocated for Djibouti to respond to the locust crisis.

*Source World Bank

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Opinion: Dealing with the deadly concoction of disease and disaster
May 21, 2020 | 0 Comments

Patricia Scotland is Commonwealth Secretary-General
 By Patricia Scotland*

Today in India and Bangladesh, millions of people are hunkered down in shelters, many with masks on their faces – a chilling reminder of the COVID-19 outbreak that still grips the densely populated countries. Forced to flee their homes, families, some migrant workers who have only just arrived from the cities after walking hundreds of miles to escape the pandemic, wait with agonising uncertainty for the onslaught of super cyclone Amphan.

And in this emerging pandemic reality which has already closely acquainted us with a new type of disruption and hardship, it is hard to imagine the added predicament of the curveball from nature approaching Asia with the record-breaking wind speeds of a category 5 hurricane.

The data from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is worrying. Amphan’s storm winds and heavy rainfall is expected to affect 33.6 million people in India and 5.3 million in Bangladesh, and target some of the most vulnerable and least developed regions.

In a pre-COVID-19 world, evacuation and preparedness for a disaster of this magnitude would have been fraught with challenges. In today’s reality those challenges are exacerbated and multiplied. Both India, which has more than 100, 000 coronavirus cases and Bangladesh, which has more than 26 000, have been successful in managing the pandemic, but are still battling the outbreak with social distancing and other restrictions. This means that shelters in some places are only able to accommodate less than half the usual capacity.

So, as the Commonwealth rallies around the governments and people of India and Bangladesh, we are once again forced to face the persisting reality of climate change and natural disasters. Actually, we are now presented with a new question, how do we analyse and understand the interplay between pandemics, economies, and the environment, and respond to the deadly concoction of disease and disaster?

Indeed, coronavirus crept up on us in the midst of growing skepticism about the effectiveness of multilateral cooperation – reminding us that it’s a small world after all, and eliminating any doubts about the need to collaborate across borders. And Amphan, in the midst of the pandemic, is now demanding that this spirit of interconnectedness must also inspire our problem solving approaches.

This is a lesson that the Commonwealth has had to learn very early on, mainly because of the vast diversity of challenges and opportunities represented in our membership. So, recently, when Commonwealth Health Ministers met to decide how they could join forces against COVID-19, instinctively their discussion went beyond strategies to ensure everyone can access PPEs, ventilators and testing kits, to also address the economic and environmental aspects of the issue.

We have long understood that nothing short of a robust, multinational, multisector and multi-agency strategy can drive innovation and provide solutions to our complex and multidimensional challenges.

Actually, it is this coordinated, out-of-the-box thinking that inspired UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Application Programme (UNOSAT) and the Commonwealth to create our bespoke CommonSensing platform.  Already rolled out in the Pacific where islands are most vulnerable to devastating cyclones, the project uses satellite based information to help countries anticipate and plan for disasters, successfully apply for funding for climate action, boost resilience to climate change, and enhance food security.

The Secretariat is also actively engaging with UNOSAT to connect their experts with member governments impacted by extreme events; and will be collaborating on a series of webinars on rapid mapping and population exposure analysis to help countries plan evacuation and rebuilding strategies.

Currently, UNOSAT is supporting Bangladesh with a population exposure analysis as part of a suite of responses that the country can use to manage the impact and aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.

So, as we explore specific steps to support countries who face the twin challenge of a natural disaster and a pandemic, CommonSensing is an excellent example of the kind of collaboration that will save lives and help us bravely enter the much anticipated ‘new normal’. But it is just part of the holistic, complex, clever and creative strategy that we will need to tackle our emerging challenges from every angle, anticipate the intersection of multi-events and protect economies, people and livelihoods.

It is clear that we need more of resources such as the Commonwealth Disaster Risk Finance Portal to help countries facing hurricanes and cyclones to have, at their fingertips, a range of preparedness financing options. We need a robust debt relief and management strategy to support those who are on the verge of crisis. We need schemes to empower marginalised groups such as youth, women and migrants. And we need to ensure that governments are able to recover from recession without undermining environmental protection and climate action, through measures such as tax incentives for investors to use renewable energy, and climate smart technologies to enhance agricultural production.

We also need to be brave enough to embrace innovative solutions such as the Commonwealth Common Earth initiative, which leverages the resources of governments and the genius of environmentalists, climate change experts and indigenous groups to create tailored, country-led, regenerative and holistic solutions to climate change.

In the Commonwealth, we will continue to use our convening power, partnerships, innovation and advocacy to support and stand in solidarity with India and Bangladesh, our nations in other regions that are bracing themselves for hurricane and cyclone seasons, and those who face the often forgotten challenge of drought. But we can’t do it alone. We need a global effort that is big enough to take on this goliath challenge of intersecting and multiple threats to our planet and people.

* Commonwealth Secretary-General
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