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New Report on COVID-19 In Africa Highlights Need for Increased Access to Health Care Services and Protections for Health Care Workers
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

More than 24,000 adults in 18 AU Member States provide insight into indirect impacts of virus.

People living in Lagos State in Nigeria, simulate sneezing into their elbows during a coronavirus prevention campaign. Photo UNICEF/Ojo

Most African Union (AU) Member States swiftly implemented public health and social measures (PHSMs) to contain COVID-19; these measures likely slowed the spread of the virus, and caseloads in Africa have remained lower than projected. Though many governments have since loosened restrictions, allowing some economic activity to resume, new research from the Partnership for Evidence-Based COVID-19 Response (PERC) highlights substantial indirect burdens of the virus across Africa and offers recommendations to governments as countries scale up or scale down PHSMs to control the pandemic.

Almost half of people surveyed reported to have skipped routine care during the pandemic, according to PERC’s latest report —the second in its “Using Data to Find a Balance” series—which draws from a survey of more than 24,000 adults in 18 AU Member States, as well as social, economic and epidemiological data from a range of sources. Up to 70% respondents reported problems accessing food in the past week, and just as many survey respondents reported earning less money compared to the same time last year. Still, support for PHSMs remained strong, and 85% of respondents reported wearing a face mask in the previous seven days. 

“African Union Member States have responded decisively to COVID-19,” said Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “The data presented in PERC’s new report will allow decision makers to go beyond COVID-19 caseloads alone and instead consider a fuller picture of health and wellbeing,  and tailor response measures accordingly.”

Governments and international aid organizations need to act quickly to restore access to health services for care unrelated to COVID-19 and to build back public demand for services. 

Of survey participants who have needed health care during the pandemic, almost half reported skipping or delaying care; among those who needed medications, almost half reported increased difficulty in obtaining them. The most commonly delayed or skipped health care services were routine checkups, followed by care for malaria, diabetes, cardiovascular issues, antenatal care, and care for children under 5 years old.

“As in past outbreaks, we are seeing a high cost from missed and delayed health care,” said Dr Zabulon Yoti, Acting Regional Director, Emergency Preparedness and Response Cluster, World Health Organization.  “Even routine check-ups are critical for screening and treating people for both communicable and noncommunicable diseases. We must protect access to health care by making sure that facilities are equipped to handle COVID-19 infections, and that health workers are protected.”

Most respondents supported reopening their national economies, but reported anxiety about resuming normal activities was also high. The data suggest that COVID-19 is seen as a serious threat, but for many, economic needs outweigh concern about catching the virus. 

Still, adherence to the “3 W’s”—wearing a mask, washing hands, and watching distance from others—remained high, pointing to a way forward for policymakers. Effective government support for these behavioral measures could mitigate the need for more restrictive measures in the future.

“COVID-19 has threatened progress toward all Sustainable Development Goals, and PERC’s data clearly show the importance of targeted relief measures,” said Dr. Elsie S. Kanza, Head of the Regional Agenda, Africa; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum, “These are needed to help our economic recovery, to protect health and to prevent inequality from widening.”

The report also highlights gaps in reporting key data, including data on community transmission and adherence to preventive measures, which limits the speed and impact of efforts made to manage local outbreaks, and makes it difficult to calibrate PHSMs.

“Data is essential to our defense against COVID-19, and the more governments in AU Member States can rely on it to support their decisions, the more effective their response will be,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies.           

Key findings in the report include:

  • 44% respondents in need of health care said they or someone in their household had skipped or delayed needed services, and 45% respondents in need of medicine reported the same for accessing medication.
  • 70% of people reported problems accessing food, mainly due to lost income or higher food prices
  • 70% of survey respondents reported earning less money compared to the same time last year
  • Lower income families were more likely to experience a decline in income. About 80% of households with less than US$100 in monthly income saw their income fall, compared to 60% of households with at least US$500 in monthly income
  • Six in 10 respondents agreed that the economy needs to be reopened, and that the health risks of COVID-19 are minimal if social distancing rules are followed
  • 85% of respondents reported wearing a face mask in public in the previous seven days, but as expected given recent relaxing of some PHSMs, a lower share (60%) said they avoided religious gatherings and only half reported staying home instead of going to work, school or other regular activities
  • While more than two-thirds of respondents agreed that many people in their country would be affected by COVID-19, less than one-third (29%) believed their own personal risk of infection was high
  • While most respondents indicated basic knowledge of COVID-19, misinformation about the virus is common, particularly those positing foreign interference in treatments and vaccines. About one in three survey respondents agreed with the assertion that foreigners were discrediting African medicines and testing vaccines on Africans

Recommendations include that governments:

  • Prioritize “boxing in” the virus, by ensuring an adequate supply of testing kits and reagents to identify positive cases, tracing their close contacts, and isolating cases, rather than relying on wide-scale lockdowns
  • Make it as easy as possible for communities to adhere to low-cost personal protective measures, “the 3 W’s”—wearing a mask, washing hands, and watching distance.
  • Protect health care workers by establishing COVID-19 protocols, increasing availability of personal protective equipment and training on infection prevention and control; then encourage people to seek care for health services unrelated to COVID-19 by engaging community leaders
  • Prioritize evidence-based measures to increase food security and economic recovery, including cash transfers and direct food support, with a focus on the lowest income households and vulnerable populations
  • Address misinformation by sharing consistent, evidence-based messages with trusted community members as messages messengers
  • Invest in data collection, analysis and reporting, including core indicators about cases and the public health response, rapid mortality surveillance, data about COVID-19 infections among health workers, and data on utilization of health services.

About the Partnership for Evidence-Based COVID-19 Response (PERC)

The Partnership for Evidence-based Response to COVID-19, a consortium of global public health organizations and private sector firms. PERC member organizations are Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team and the World Economic ForumIpsos andNovetta Mission Analytics bring market research expertise and years of data analytic support to the partnership PERC was created in March 2020 with the objective of providing AU Member States with real-time information and guidance to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the continent. PERC’s first regional report, Responding to COVID-19 in Africa: Using Data to Find the Balance, was published in May of 2020. 

About Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Africa CDC is a specialized technical institution of the African Union that strengthens the capacity and capability of Africa’s public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes.

About the World Health Organization 

About Resolve to Save Lives

Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global health organization Vital Strategies, focuses on preventing deaths from cardiovascular disease and by preventing epidemics. It is led by Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

About the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team

The UK-PHRST is funded by UK aid from the Department of Health and Social Care and is a partnership between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Public Health England (PHE). University of Oxford and King’s College London (KCL) are academic partners. Through the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST), the UK has the capacity to respond rapidly to disease outbreaks in low- and middle-income countries around the world and conduct operational research into epidemic preparedness, playing an important role in global health security. The team also works to help countries to build their own capacity for an improved and rapid national response to outbreaks.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the third largest market research company in the world, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people. Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. Our 75 business solutions are based on primary data coming from our surveys, social media monitoring, and qualitative or observational techniques. “Game Changers”—our tagline—summarises our ambition to help our 5,000 clients navigate with confidence our world of rapid change. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since 1 July 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service

About Novetta

Novetta delivers scalable advanced analytic and technical solutions to address challenges of national and global significance. Focused on mission success, Novetta pioneers disruptive technologies in machine learning, data analytics, full-spectrum cyber, open source analytics, cloud engineering, DevSecOps, and multi-INT analytics for Defense, Intelligence Community, and Federal Law Enforcement customers. Novetta is headquartered in McLean, VA with over 1,300 employees across the U.S.

About the World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. In response to the COVID-19 emergency, the World Economic Forum, acting as partner to the World Health Organization (WHO), launched the COVID Action Platform. The platform is intended to catalyse private-sector support for the global public health response to COVID-19, and to do so at the scale and speed required to protect lives and livelihoods, aiming to find ways to help end the global emergency as soon as possible.

*Courtesy of Vital Strategies

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Malawi: Two national football team, officials test positive for Covid19
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By James Mwala

Just a day into camp, two Malawi national football team players and two officials have tested positive for Covid19.

The tests were conducted as the Flames prepare for a skeptical participation in Cosafa Cup tournament in South Africa next month, and a head of an Afcon qualifier against Burkina Faso this November.

According to the Football Association of Malawi, the tests were conducted as part of the requirement for the resumption of camp for the national team.

It also follows a waiver that government has solely given to the national football team to prepare for the tournaments and qualifiers as other sporting activities are yet to resume.

The four whose identities have been concealed are currently in self isolation.

‘’We wish to report that all the four were asymptomatic. They are currently in isolation being monitored by our medical team and it is expected that they will be able to report for national duty once they test negative ten days from the day they were tested’’ reads part of the statement from the FA.

Currently, Malawi has 1,501 active cases and recoveries stand at 4,053 with 179 deaths. In total, there have been 5,733 cases and 50,620 tests.

Sporting activities were halted in March as first cases were reported and with schools now open, sporting activist are also resuming.

This week, government is slated to make a stance on the resumption of the top tier football league and other activities.

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Kenyan fullback Abud Omar joins Ionikos FC
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Kenyan defender Abud Omar

Greek second-tier side Ionikos FC has confirmed the signing of Kenyan defender Abud Omar on a nine-month deal.

“It is with great pleasure that we announce the start of our cooperation with Abud Omar. This is a very important transfer move for our team especially after promotion to the second-tier.”

The family of Ionic welcomes Abud Omar and wishes him health, strength, and every success at the club,” read a statement on the club’s official portal.

The former Tusker FC player could not hide joy about the move.

“I am very happy to wear the Ionian jersey. From the first moment the interest arose, I searched the internet and saw how important a team Ionic is with a long history. I know the club has a top organisation and an administration that is working hard to bring success,” he told the club website.

“I’m happy to come here. I am hoping the coronavirus pandemic will end and I will be back in the pitch doing what I love most. On my part, I am ready to work hard and help my team achieve its goals,” Omar continued.

Before the move, the left-footed player was unattached after parting ways with the Romanian side Sepsi SG in 2019.

Apart from Sepsi SG, Omar also turned out for Slavia Sofia from Bulgaria, Panegialios FC (Greece), Bandari FC, and Tusker FC both from Kenya Premier League.

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Kenya:MCA’s arm broken during Migori County Assembly fiasco
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Samuel Ouma

Hon. Mary Ogodo while in hospital with her left broken arm. Photo credit MN News
Hon. Mary Ogodo while in hospital with her left broken arm. Photo credit MN News

A fight that erupted in Migori County Assembly on Wednesday morning left an MCA with a broken arm.

Nominated Member of County Assembly (MCA) Mary Ogodo’s arm was broken when chaos erupted in the house over the impeachment of Governor Okoth Obado.

The melee got out of hands as the MCAs assault each other physically, verbally with bottles of water being thrown around.

Trouble started when five MCAs allied to the Governor stormed the house and tried to disrupt the session.

As the fiascos escalate, the sergeant-at-arms was forced to run away with the mace, the symbol of power in the assembly.

“The five MCAs were hiding in one of the offices in the assembly controlled by Obado’s relative before they made their way into the assembly and started creating chaos,” a staff told the Star.

The injured MCA was rushed to St. Joseph Mission Hospital.

“She is in hospital, her left arm has been broken and she is receiving treatment. She can’t talk right now. She is in stable condition,” an aide told the media.

Obado is accused of embezzling at least Ksh.73 million county funds and his party ODM had resolved to impeach him over graft.

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Leading international geophysical and drilling contractors join the African Energy Chamber to discuss African Exploration opportunities
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
The webinar will be moderated by Verner Ayukegba, Senior Vice President (SVP) of the African Energy Chamber.

The discussion will be centred on opportunities for companies involved in oil and gas exploration in Africa and operations in a post COVID-19 environment; panellists include Chuks Enwereji, Chairman, International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) Nigeria Chapter; Chijioke Akwukwuma, Managing Director, ODENL; Ross Compton, EAME Consultant, International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC); Wole Oyetoran, Country Manager, PGS Nigeria; John Scott, Vice President, Western Hemisphere, Polarcus and Chichi Emenike, Head, Gas Ventures, Neconde Energy Limited; the webinar will be moderated by Verner Ayukegba, SVP of the African Energy Chamber ; the webinar will be held on 29 September at 15:00 – 16:30 CET/SAST. To attend, please register here  Use #aecwebinars to join the conversation.

The oil and gas industry globally is currently going through a period of transition, during which the industry is re-adjusting itself to operate in a post COVID-19 environment with oil prices likely to stabilise between USD 35-50 Barrels per day. Despite these challenges, drilling activity in Africa according to African Energy Chamber projections is expected to drop in 2021 only slightly from projected 2020 levels. A total number of 800 wells are expected to be drilled this year, with that number expected to drop only slightly below 800 in 2021. These numbers, however, represent a drop of over 25 percent compared to 2019.

Similarly, capital expenditure is also expected to reduce by over 25% between 2019 and 2021. An estimated USD 28 Billion is expected to be spent on upstream capital expenditure projects in 2021, with over USD 10 billion of that dedicated to field development projects. This continues to present significant opportunities for companies involved in the upstream value chain like drilling and geophysical contractors. “Those service providers, that are able to adapt to the new market conditions by implementing effective cost control solutions and streamlining processes, especially with the help of technology will thrive and grow at the expense of those companies that are slow to adapt to the new market realities,” said Verner Ayukegba SVP at the African Energy Chamber.

“The AEC position in Angola has not changed: we continue to see opportunities in Angola and believe it’s important to shine a light on these and bring industry players from across the globe to exploit these as we face this challenging situation together, and overcome. Angola’s oil and gas industry is a well-developed one, but it’s absolutely clear that we will need to always innovate and collaborate in order to remain relevant for the years to come. Our key role at the African Energy Chamber is to be the voice of the African energy industry and this is a prime example of how we do that. It’s a unique chance to make connections and hear more about the landscape of the African energy sector.” Concluded Sergio Pugliese, Angola President for the African Energy Chamber

The International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) and the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) representatives on the panel will talk about emerging industry trends, technological developments in the industry, new standards and regulations that affect their members and possible changes in legislation that are likely to affect their members and the industry.

The panel also contains experienced professionals who will enrich the discussions with on the ground experiences on how they are steering their companies to take advantage of existing opportunities in the African oil and gas sector and what plans they have going forward.

As many African countries continue to bend over backwards to encourage exploration and drilling, especially of new licenses, what other concessions are companies looking for, to take up new exploration activity? Nigeria for example is currently going through a marginal field bidding round, which will lead to the award of numerous licenses in 2021. What incentives need to be availed, to the new license holders, to enable them to deploy exploration capital in the quickest and most effective manner possible?

Finally, the webinar will also examine how Africa currently compares to other oil and gas producing regions and what African countries need to do to develop and grow their competitive edge vis-a-vis other oil and gas producing regions globally.

For information on membership with the African Energy Chamber, please energychamber.org. To attend the webinar, register for free here
*Source Africa Energy Chamber
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Germany advances as Major Player in Pan-African Trade and Investment
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

The Germany-Africa Business Forum (GABF), Africa Oil & Power and the African Energy Chamber co-hosted the webinar as part of a GABF cooperation-focused series.

“Investment and Trade for Africa’s Economic Development” – a public webinar held on Wednesday – targeted opportunities for cross-border collaboration between Africa and Germany; the African Export-Import Bank announced its plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with German car manufacturers to establish an automotive industry in Africa; the Germany-Africa Business Forum (GABF), Africa Oil & Power and the African Energy Chamber co-hosted the webinar, as part of a GABF cooperation-focused series.

The Germany-Africa Business Forum (GABF) hosted its second installment of its German-African cooperation-focused webinar series on Wednesday, aimed at outlining the opportunities for sustainable FDI between Germany and the African continent.

The panel comprised H.E. Günter Nooke, Africa Envoy to German Chancellor Angela Merkel; NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber; and Rene Awambeng, Global Head Client Relationship at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

Anchored by the theme of investment and trade for African economic development, the opening keynote was delivered by H.E. Nooke, and outlined four key success factors in driving Africa’s economic development: investment and business climate, transport, energy and technological infrastructure, available workforce, and access to markets.

Digitalization and green energy were advanced as two of the critical sectors for facilitating Africa’s economic and social development. Africa contains a young, tech-savvy population, noted H.E. Nooke, translating to smooth technological adoption and enhanced opportunities for both consumers and businesses.

Highlighting efforts to expand global market reach, H.E. Nooke noted the anticipated benefits of the recently adopted African Continental Free Trade Agreement, signed by 53 African countries and already implemented by 30. The agreement is set to boost intra-African trade, with the ultimate objective of creating a common market that empowers African nations.

Meanwhile, cross-border developments in clean energy have already been progressing. This month, a German delegation visited the Democratic Republic of Congo to study opportunities related to the Inga III hydroelectric dam project. Germany is eyeing major opportunities for hydrogen production, a clean fuel alternative, as well as wind, solar and hydropower resources scattered across the continent.

Germany is currently active in a range of investments across the continent. The European leader played a major role in securing a $300 million facility from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The funds are aimed at creating jobs, reviving economies in a post-COVID-19 environment, and encouraging investment reforms to boost FDI.

Furthermore, Afreximbank will imminently announce the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding with German automotive manufacturers, such as Volkswagen, intended to create an African-driven automobile manufacturing strategy.

“We are looking to create a holistic approach to automotive manufacturing,” said Rene Awambeng. “Our goal is to build an entire value chain, with the support of Germany and Europe, in order to be able to design, build and market cars across Africa.”

In a bid to drive investor engagement in a variety of sectors, NJ Ayuk called for a change in the perception of risk associated with investing in Africa.

“We need to create an enabling environment for banks, financial institutions and investors to perceive Africa as a safe and profitable destination,” said Ayuk. “Rwanda paved the way and we have seen outstanding results. We have an obligation to make the change.”

Ayuk also appealed to Europeans nations, such as Germany, to focus on investment rather than aid. Investment enables the creation of synergies and partnerships and places project leaders in a position of accountability. While aid is welcome in periods of crisis, noted Ayuk, it must not be the standard for sustainable, long-term business. 

Awambeng underscored that long-term, affordable financing is available for Africa’s investment opportunities, combined with technical capacities and business support.

“Huge amounts of capital are available across the continent in all forms: equity, bank debt, development financial institutions, sovereign funds, among others. All we are missing are the people to make the transition happen.”

*Source Africa Oil & Power Conference

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New date announced for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

The President of Rwanda HE Paul Kagame and Commonwealth Secretary-General The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland have today announced the new date for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which was to have been held in Kigali in June 2020 but was postponed because of the impact of COVID-19.

The new date agreed with member countries will be the week of 21 June 2021.

CHOGM is customarily held every two years and is the Commonwealth’s highest consultative and policy-making gathering. Commonwealth leaders selected Rwanda as host for their next summit when they met in London in 2018.

President Kagame said:

“CHOGM Rwanda 2021 will be an exceptional occasion to deliberate together on the enormous technological, ecological, and economic challenges and opportunities facing the Commonwealth, particularly our young people, and which are all the more pressing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Rwanda looks forward to welcoming all delegates and participants to Kigali next year for a safe and productive meeting.” 

The Secretary-General said:

“At this historic CHOGM, the first to be held in Africa this millennium, we look forward to Commonwealth leaders coming together to take practical action on the critical issues we all face.

“Our meetings in Rwanda will give us a real opportunity to focus on our post COVID recovery, but we also know that the pandemic has not reduced the urgency with which global challenges such as climate change, the global economy, trade and sustainable development need to be dealt with decisively through multilateral cooperation and mutual support.”

The leaders’ summit, which is preceded by meetings for representatives from Commonwealth networks for youth, women, civil society and business, will be held in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal countries. Representing a third of the world it is home to 2.4 billion people and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. 32 of our members are small states, including many island nations.

*Source Commonwealth

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Nigerian physician Dr. Tunji Funsho named one of TIME’s Most Influential People in the world
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments
Chairman Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee of Rotary International, Dr. Tunji Funsho and Emir of Jiwa HRH Idris Musa are seen during a news conference marking the 3-year-polio-free milestone in Abuja, Nigeria, August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Funsho honored for his work with Rotary International to eradicate wild polio in Africa.

TIME named Nigerian physician Dr. Tunji Funsho to the 2020 TIME100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. The full list and related tributes are available now at time.com/time100, and Dr. Funsho’s TIME100 profile is available here .

The list, now in its seventeenth year, recognizes the activism, innovation and achievement of the world’s most influential individuals.

Dr. Funsho, a cardiologist based in Lagos, Nigeria, is the first Rotary member to receive this honor for the organization’s work to eradicate polio, having played an essential role in ensuring Africa’s certification as wild polio-free in August of 2020. 

“I’m honored to be recognized by TIME for my part in ensuring that no child in Africa will ever again be paralyzed by wild polio, a disease that once disabled 75,000 African children every single year,” said Dr. Funsho. “Eradicating the wild poliovirus in Africa was a team effort that required the cooperation and dedication of governments, partners, Rotary members, hundreds of thousands of health workers, and countless parents who chose to have their children vaccinated against polio.”

As the leader of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, Funsho has worked alongside Rotary members throughout the country to raise awareness about the importance of polio immunization, encouraged governments and public figures to support polio eradication, and served as a vocal leader and advocate for Rotary’s fight to end polio in Africa.

Dr. Funsho works closely with Rotary’s partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI): the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. As a member of Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on Polio, he has coordinated immunization and advocacy campaigns with the Minister of State for Health and the Inter-Agency Coordination Committee for Polio Eradication. He has also worked closely with the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, the Dangote Foundation, the Traditional Leaders Council and the Federation of Muslim Women’s Association of Nigeria.

In August 2019, Nigeria reached three years without a case of wild poliovirus. Nigeria’s progress, led by Rotary, its GPEI partners and local and national governments, was the result of decades of sustained efforts, including domestic and international financing, the commitment of hundreds of thousands of health workers, and innovative strategies to immunize children who previously couldn’t be reached due to insecurity in the country’s northern states.

On 25 August, the African region was certified wild polio-free. This historic announcement means that five of the WHO’s six regions, representing more than 90 percent of the world’s population, are now free of the wild poliovirus. The virus is now endemic in just two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Rotary’s nearly 32,000 members in Africa have played a critical role in helping the region achieve its wild polio-free status by holding events to raise funds and awareness for polio, and working with world governments and national and local leaders to secure funding and support for polio eradication.

About Rotary and Polio:
Rotary has contributed more than $2.1 billion to fight polio, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary formed the GPEI with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance later joined. When the initiative launched, there were 350,000 cases of polio every year in 125 countries. Today the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent and just two countries continue to report cases of wild polio.
*SOURCE Rotary
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Medical Workers of Conviction: Speaking to Cuban Doctors Who Heal the World
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Vijay Prashad*

Dr. José Armando Arronte Villamarín

In 2004, Dr. José Armando Arronte Villamarín was posted to head a Cuban medical brigade in Namibia. Cuban medical personnel first came to southwest Africa in 1975 alongside Cuban soldiers; the soldiers had arrived there to assist the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) in the fight for the liberation of Namibia from the apartheid South African military. Dr. Arronte Villamarín, a friendly man with a glint in his eye, tells me how much he has enjoyed his work, not only during his time in Namibia, which lasted till 2007, but also—strikingly—in the United States of America.

I was surprised. I had no idea that Cuban medical personnel had served in the United States, which has—since the Cuban Revolution of 1959—tried to overthrow the government of Cuba. In 2005, Dr. Arronte Villamarín was in Havana for the annual meeting of the chiefs of Cuba’s medical brigades. That was when Hurricane Katrina tore through New Orleans, destroying the city and putting the entire southern half of Louisiana and other parts of the Gulf Coast in serious peril. Cuba offered to send its medical teams to assist their neighbors to the north. But U.S. President George W. Bush refused. Cuba’s Fidel Castro encouraged the formation of the Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade. Dr. Arronte Villamarín’s medical team in Namibia became part of this new brigade.

If Bush said not to come to the United States, then how did Dr. Arronte Villamarín find himself there? In 2017, due to the initiative of the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus, members of the Henry Reeve brigade—including Dr. Arronte Villamarín—came to Chicago to study and treat high rates of infant mortality. The infant mortality rate among African American mothers in the United States in 2018 was 11.7 per 1,000 live births, while it was 6 per 1,000 for white mothers; in Cuba, the infant mortality rate in 2019 was 5.1 per 1,000 live births. Dr. Arronte Villamarín tells me he was shocked by what he saw. He and his colleagues tried to do the very best that they could, but they were only in Chicago for five months. It was just not enough time to make a difference.

Almost Totally Isolated

The United States government has continued attacking Cuban medical internationalism right up to the current pandemic, making wild allegations against the program that disparage the medical workers. Paul Hare, a former British ambassador to Cuba who teaches in the United States, told Reuters recently that the U.S. is “almost totally isolated” when it comes to its Cuban policy. Each year since 1992, the UN General Assembly votes to end the U.S.-imposed embargo on the island. In 2019, 187 countries said the embargo must end, while the U.S. stood with two of its closest allies (Brazil and Israel); Ambassador Hare’s phrase—“almost totally isolated”—is an understatement.

Dr. Daymarelis Ortega Rodríguez, the chief of the Henry Reeve brigade in Barbados, told me that her work in the brigade gives her “immense pride.” “I enlisted to be part of this brigade by my own will,” she said, “not as a slave or exploited person. I am a fighter for life, for peace, and for human welfare.” Dr. Ortega Rodríguez, whose face lights up with a smile as she talks, is responding to one of the most bizarre accusations: that the Cuban government treats its doctors like “slaves.”

In June 2019, for instance, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio called Cuban medical internationalism “modern-day slavery.” Rubio, along with Senators Ted Cruz and Rick Scott, introduced the Cut Profits to the Cuban Regime Act of 2020, which would target countries that take assistance from the Cuban doctors. The Health Minister of Barbados, Jeffrey Bostic, responded sharply: “Barbados is a sovereign country and we make decisions in the interest of the country just like other countries large and small. We have engaged the nurses from Cuba… and we are not going to buckle under the pressure of any other nation.”

Commitments to Health

Dr. Ortega Rodríguez is sitting on a couch in Barbados, alongside Nurse Yandy Pérez, who is part of her brigade. They are sharing a phone, telling me about what they are doing in Barbados and what they had done beforehand. Both Dr. Ortega Rodríguez and Nurse Pérez are in the midst of the fight against COVID-19. Nurse Pérez had been in Vietnam, while Dr. Ortega Rodríguez had spent time in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, and in Antigua. Nurse Pérez says that he has not worked in Vietnam and in Barbados for any personal gain. “Why do you spend years outside Cuba?” I asked them. “We do it out of conviction,” said Nurse Pérez, “out of solidarity. We do it from the heart.”

Dr. Jany Cabrera Paumier has been a physician since 2012 and an internist since 2016. She is talking to me from Belize, where she is on her first medical internationalist mission. Dr. Cabrera Paumier has a four-year-old daughter, who lives in Santiago de Cuba; her voice breaks as she says that it will be her daughter’s birthday in a few days. “I decided that I wanted to be part of this brigade and its honorable work for the world,” Dr. Cabrera Paumier told me. “Believe me, my choice could not make me prouder to be Cuban.”

This year, the Henry Reeve brigade celebrates 15 years of work, although Cuban medical internationalism goes back to 1960. I have interacted with doctors like Dr. Arronte Villamarín and Dr. Cabrera Paumier over the years and have been overwhelmed by their commitment to health and love, to human possibility. But it is important to remember that they are also human beings, people with lives that are folded into their internationalism.

Dr. Cabrera Paumier’s daughter is proud of her mother. So is Dr. Ortega Rodríguez’s son, who plays the trombone in the Havana theater. So are Dr. Arronte Villamarín’s children, a son who is a dental surgeon and a daughter who is in medical school; they follow in their father’s footsteps. It is not easy to be away from their families, but each of these medical workers thinks that it is worthwhile. “I came to Belize to help people to do the best for their own country,” Dr. Cabrera Paumier told me.

On September 26, these Cuban doctors join Danny Glover and Vijay Prashad to talk about the campaign for the Cuban doctors to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

*This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest book is Washington Bullets, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

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Gambia:Draft Constitution Rejected, UDP Leader Faults Gov’t
September 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Bakary Ceesay

United Democratic Party, UDP leader Ousainou Darboe
United Democratic Party, UDP leader Ousainou Darboe

United Democratic Party, UDP leader Ousainou Darboe has fault President Adama Barrow government of masterminded the rejection of the  draft constitution by the National Assembly members.

On Tuesday, the 2020 draft Constitution bill has been rejected at the National Assembly after 23 members have voted against its passing to the third reading. This means the process to adopt the new Constitution has been killed. At least for now.

“The Yes is 31. The No is 23. According to Section 226 of the 1997 Constitution reads and I quote. A bill for an Act of the National Assembly under this section shall not be passed by the assembly or presented to the president for an assent unless the bill is supported on the second and third reading by the votes of not less than three quarters of the members of the National Assembly,”  Mariama Jack Denton speaker of Gambia’s National Assembly said.

Darboe told a press conference that: “It is quite disheartening that the tireless efforts of the commission and its members for the past three years have been made futile due to the indifference of the current administration,”.

He added: “It is even more disturbing that the government spent D116 million dalasis to fund a reform process they unjustifiably brought to an ill-fated end. The commission worked extensively at every stage of the drafting process seeking out the opinions of Gambians across the entire spectrum in and out of the country, studying best practices in other established democracies and exerting great effort to come up with a document that broadly reflected the considered views of the Gambian people. The commission did its job within the prescribed time and submitted to the president as directed by the CRC Act.

“Not once after receiving the draft had the president taken a moment to address the Gambian people about the significance of this national priority. Instead his cabinet and advisers publicly attacked the draft in ways that were unbecoming. No single member of the executive branched weighed in on the draft following its submission to the national assembly.”

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Gates Foundation Honors Director of Africa CDC With 2020 Global Goalkeeper Award
September 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

Dr. John N. Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), as the winner of the 2020 Global Goalkeeper Award.Photo credit Reuters

Foundation also announces three Global Goals award winners and launches two innovative partnerships to address COVID-19 impacts in Kenya.

SEATTLE, September 21, 2020 – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today named Dr. John N. Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), as the winner of the 2020 Global Goalkeeper Award. As part of its annual Goalkeepers campaign, the foundation also announced three other Goalkeepers Awards and launched two innovative partnerships that address the impact of COVID-19 on Kenya’s health and economy.

“Dr. Nkengasong and his team at Africa CDC are deeply deserving of this award,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Their commitment to securing the latest innovations from elsewhere in the world—as well as developing them themselves—will go a long way towards ensuring that the continent has the vaccines and medicines it needs to fight COVID-19.”

In addition to Dr. Nkengasong, this year’s awards went to Hauwa Ojeifo of Nigeria, Bonita Sharma of Nepal, and the MASH Project Foundation based in India. Each was recognized for playing a role in addressing the effects of COVID-19 in their communities. More details about each of the awards and their winners follows.

The 2020 Global Goalkeeper Award recognizes an established individual demonstrating significant commitment to health and development, specifically in response to the pandemic. The award is being presented to Dr. Nkengasong, a central voice for Africa’s scientific community. As co-chair of the Africa CDC Consortium for COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials (CONCVACT), Dr. Nkengasong is leading the securement of a variety of late-stage vaccine clinical trials on the continent by bringing together global vaccine developers, funders, and local facilitators. This work will be vital to ensure that the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population are identified and scaled up.

The 2020 Changemaker Award, which celebrates an individual who has inspired change using personal experience or from a position of leadership, recognizes Hauwa Ojeifo of Nigeria for her work promoting gender equality (Global Goal #5). Ojeifo is a sexual and domestic abuse survivor and the founder of She Writes Woman, a women-led movement giving the issue of mental health a voice in Nigeria.

The 2020 Progress Award, which celebrates an individual who supports progress via a science, technology, digital, or business initiative, recognizes Bonita Sharma of Nepal for her work promoting good health and well-being (Global Goal #3). Sharma is the co-founder and CEO of Social Changemakers and Innovators (SOCHAI), a youth-led nonprofit working to improve the nutritional health of nursing mothers and young children and to economically empower marginalized women through business opportunities.

The 2020 Campaign Award, which celebrates a campaign that has raised awareness or built a community by inspiring action and creating change, recognizes the MASH Project Foundation for furthering global cooperation and partnership (Global Goal #17). A social enterprise based in India, the MASH Project Foundation is building a global community of social change makers by bridging the gaps between governments, civil society, the corporate sector, youth, and media to drive social impact.

“While the pandemic and the inequalities it highlights will undoubtedly define this era, the world is seeing the very best of humanity emerge,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re inspired by the energy and drive of this year’s award winners to create a safer, healthier, and more equitable world.”

The foundation also announced two dynamic, cross-sector partnerships called Goalkeepers Accelerators. These partnerships catalyze progress by bringing together partners from different sectors to pool their collective investment, knowledge, and big ideas to tackle one or more of the SDGs. The 2020 Accelerators—led by Sanergy and Educate!—are actively helping stem the spread of COVID-19 in Kenya while defending against the ripple effects of the pandemic on the country’s economy and a multitude of health issues.

Safe Sanitation for a Healthy, Sustainable World: Led by Sanergy, this Accelerator will scale access to safe sanitation services in Kenya’s informal settlements and help stop the spread of COVID-19 by providing soap, PPE and hand-washing education for residents, with the goal of reaching 1.3 million Kenyans by 2025. As part of this Accelerator, Sanergy will expand to Kisumu—Kenya’s third-largest city and the company’s first market outside of Nairobi—to bring its proven sanitation services to 300,000 Kisumu residents by 2025. Partners involved in this Accelerator driving progress toward SDG 6 include the Kisumu and Nairobi county governments, the Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO), AFD, and Who Gives a Crap.

Preparing Youth to Thrive in the Informal Economy: This Accelerator, led by Educate!, will launch a new series of skills-based, intensive training bootcamps to provide a pathway to a safe and sustainable livelihood by equipping out-of-school youth with the skills they need to succeed in Kenya’s high-growth informal economy. As part of the Accelerator, Educate! will pilot its eLearning platform NawiriPro to train 100,000 youth to become professional motorbike drivers in Kenya by 2023; launch a new bootcamp model supporting women and rural youth by 2021; and create a marketplace for young people to access business services and resources. Partners involved in this Accelerator driving progress toward SDG 8 include the Kenyan ministries of health and trade, Accenture Development Partners, Aspira, the Atlassian Foundation, Imaginable Futures, the Ray & Tye Noorda Foundation, Rippleworks Foundation, Sendy, the Umsizi Fund, and the Waterloo Foundation.

The announcement of the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards and the Accelerators follows the release last week of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Goalkeepers Report. This year’s report shows how economic damage caused by COVID-19 has reinforced inequities and derailed achievement of the Global Goals, but also spotlights countries innovating to meet the challenge and outlines a path for a shared global response.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About Goalkeepers

Goalkeepers is the foundation’s campaign to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals). By sharing stories and data behind the Global Goals through an annual report, we hope to inspire a new generation of leaders—Goalkeepers who raise awareness of progress, hold their leaders accountable, and drive action to achieve the Global Goals.

About the Global Goals

On September 25, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals). These are a series of ambitious objectives and targets to achieve three extraordinary things by 2030: end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.

Project Everyone, co-creators of Goalkeepers, was founded by writer, director, and SDG Advocate Richard Curtis with the ambition to help achieve the Global Goals through raising awareness, holding leaders accountable, and driving action.

*Gates Foundation

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The Democratic Republic of the Congo – A change of perspective on Africa’s problem child
September 22, 2020 | 0 Comments

By Jessica Stang*

Jessica Stang is Community Manager of the Germany Africa Business Forum, a private association that promotes socio-economic relations between Germany and Africa.

According to the World Bank, just under 20 percent of the population in the DRC currently has access to electricity.

Every time I take an Uber, the first topic of small talk is what my roots are. The reactions that I am half German and half Congolese differ greatly between Europe and Africa. Typically, when I mention the DRC in Berlin, I get the following response: a compassionate look and the thought of civil war, child soldiers and Ebola. In Johannesburg, on the other hand, the first associations are of beautiful nature and a country rich in mineral resources such as gold, diamonds and coltan.

These reactions, which could hardly be more different, reflect well the current situation in the DRC: a country with great potential, but also with great challenges. One of the biggest problems is the lack of infrastructure. According to the World Bank, just under 20 percent of the population in the DRC currently has access to electricity. This inadequate infrastructure is also a major focus of Congolese politics. Acting President Félix Tshisekedi tackled this major problem during his election campaign and promised the population that new roads would be built. This election promise even gave him the nickname “Béton” (concrete) and gave the population great hope that much will change. Because it is not complicated quantum physics: infrastructure is the basis of a functioning economy, be it power supply, road construction, education, or digital networking. All this is essential to get the economy going. But how do you manage to build a country both as diverse but also complicated as the DRC , sustainably and effectively?

It almost seems like a vicious cycle: many international companies are deterred from investing in the DRC because of the uncertain situation. However, such investments are inevitable necessary in order to reinforce the infrastructure and thus stabilize the economy. It is therefore important that steps are now being taken by German politicians to include the private sector, in particular, and also to support it in making investments. For instance, Compact with Africa (CwA) is an interesting way for the G20 states to make various African countries more attractive on the international market. Initiated under the German G20 presidency, CwA aims to promote private investment in Africa, including in the infrastructure sector. Even though the DRC is not (yet) a member state, it is a right step to break the vicious cycle aforementioned, which many other African economies are also experiencing. During his visit to Berlin, President Tshisekedi made the case for the DRC as a business location and called for greater investments in the DRC.

A first step towards the manifestation of German-Congolese economic relations is the construction of the Inga III Dam on the Congo River. The German government, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Africa Commissioner Günter Nooke, wants to use German technology to combine Congolese energy supply and climate protection. The aim is to reuse the surplus hydrogen in Europe in order to achieve German climate targets. Nevertheless, in such international projects it is important to consider new approaches and turn away from classical development aid, to involve the private sector of all participating countries more strongly. For there is a fine line between economic promotion and market distortion or further dependence on Europe. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us here in Europe how important a stable economy is to survive crises, but also international cooperation.

I look forward to the future results of the Inga III Dam. It is an interesting approach to strengthen German-Congolese economic relations and to integrate the German private sector into the Congolese market. It is highly hoped that this project will benefit both Germany and the DRC and that a sustainable partnership on equal terms can be developed from it.

With projects like these, I hope that the view of the Congo will change here in Germany as well. Hopefully, first association with the DRC will then be positive, even as far as in German Ubers. Undoubtedly, the DRC is a country with infinite wealth and great potential.

*Jessica Stang is Community Manager of the Germany Africa Business Forum, a private association that promotes socio-economic relations between Germany and Africa.
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