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COVID-19 caused great devastation in Africa: Ramaphosa
27 January 2021, 10:01 PM

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the coronavirus pandemic has caused great devastation in Africa.

The continent has reported over 3.4 million cases and more than 87 000 deaths. The African Union Chair was speaking during the Africa COVID-19 Vaccine Financing and Deployment Webinar.

“For the past year, efforts have been under way to find vaccines that are both safe and effective. We finally have achieved the goal, with a number of vaccines having undergone clinical trials and passed stringent safety tests. Now they are being produced. The task before us is to step up global solidarity to ensure equitable access to the vaccines. All countries must get vaccines and must get them speedily,” he said.

Ramaphosa expressed concern over the affordability of the vaccines.

“I am therefore pleased that we have both the President of the World Bank and the CEO of GAVI present. We know that there are ways of reducing the costs of vaccine production. Together with India, South Africa has proposed a TRIPS waiver in response to the pandemic. We are calling on the World Trade Organization to waive specific TRIPS obligations related to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 for a defined period. We need more countries to support this initiative,” he said.

It is estimated that Africa will only be able to access around 20% of vaccines needed through the COVAX facility.

Ramaphosa says the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has secured a provisional 270 million more vaccine doses for African countries.

“At least 50 million will be available from April to June 2021. These doses are from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca through the Serum Institute of India and Johnson & Johnson. Because of the high cost of vaccines, the Task Team has arranged with Afreximbank to support member states who want to access these vaccines based on a whole-of-Africa approach,” he says.

The AU team and the World Bank are working together to secure further funding for member states collaborating to ensure that member states can have access to further funding.

“We appreciate the offer of MTN to donate $25 million to the vaccine programme of the Africa CDC to immunise health workers in Africa. This is solidarity in action. We call upon other companies, both of African origin and offshore companies that do business in Africa, to do what MTN has done to contribute financially to enable African countries to immunise their target groups,” Ramaphosa urged.

Magufuli pardons more than 1 700 Ethiopians
27 January 2021, 8:56 PM

Tanzanian President John Magufuli has ordered the release 1 789 Ethiopians imprisoned for entering the country illegally.

President Magufuli’s pardon came after talks with his Ethiopian counterpart Sahle-Work Zewde, who was on an official tour of Tanzania.

Tanzania’s president says the pardon is a goodwill gesture to strengthen relations with Ethiopia.

“We have discussed a way for them to go back home. I also have promised that we will not take any legal action against them. This is because we are neighbors and relatives,” he says.

For several decades Tanzania has intercepted illegal immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia who enter the country illegally on their way to South Africa.

Last year, hundreds of people were flown back home from Tanzania with the support of the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration.

Tanzanian President orders release of Ethiopian prisoners:

Trade agreement

On another front, the two presidents have agreed to boost trade between the two countries, especially in the leather industry.

“I can assure you that we are ready for business to really bring the relationship between Tanzania and Ethiopia to a higher level,” says Sahle-Work Zewde.

The relationship between the two countries formally dates back to 1963 when Tanzania opened its embassy in Ethiopia, after the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner of the current African Union. Report by SABC News correspondent in Dar Es salaam, Isaac Lukando.

Kenyan school gives teenage mothers a lifeline
27 January 2021, 7:22 PM

As schools across the world begin to reopen after a prolonged closure to control the spread of COVID-19, there are real concerns that millions of young girls, now new mothers, may miss out on school altogether, either due to laws in their countries that ban pregnant pupils from school. This could also be due to a lack of a caregiver for the newborn baby or due to the stigma associated with teenage pregnancies. A school in Kenya is, however, hoping to change that by admitting pregnant teenagers and mothers with their babies.

For two weeks now, 16-year-old, Anne Wanjiku, whose name we have changed to protect her identity, begins her day by washing her new born baby’s clothes and then settling down to breastfeed her  – before joining her peers for school.

Tucked away almost in the middle of nowhere in Central Kenya is a school christened Serene Haven Girls Secondary School, where pregnant teens and teenage mothers have sought shelter, comfort and camaraderie as they start their second term of school nine months since Kenya closed all learning institutions to control the spread of COVID-19.  It is during this period that the health ministry estimates that there was a spike in the number of teenage pregnancies.

“Due to COVID we have a very big number of girls who will not be able to manage through their education because they got pregnant and we thought, how can we help these girls and that is how we got the idea of starting a school, where we would have the girl come with the child we have a daycare for the child and  then the mother continues with the education,” says a counsellor at Serene Haven Girls Secondary School, Faith Kariuki.

Concerns that young mothers in Kenya may miss school:

Unlike the normal school curriculum, the school offers the young mothers and mothers-to-be long breaks – during which time, the girls undergo group therapy sessions or they get a chance to bond with each other and their little ones.

The school also offers skills on baby care.

“Here there is no shame, in fact I was asking them how do you feel, I’m comfortable here, I’m not pointed at, nobody is looking at my stomach how big it is, they are not judged,” says Kariuki.

Serene Haven also acts as a rescue centre as some of the girls are victims of sexual abuse by people they know and Serene Haven allows them to pursue justice away from their perpetrators.

Wanjiku who lived with her siblings and stepfather after the death of her mother during childbirth – was preyed upon by the man she hoped would offer her protection.

“He told me he would by me a phone and also give me a thousand shillings,” she says.

When she fell pregnant, she gave up on her dream of one day being a doctor. Her arrival at the school has rekindled it.

“I really wanted to study to secondary school and then university. When I grow up I will like to be a doctor,” she says.

A report released by Global Charity World Vision indicates that, with an increase in teenage pregnancies as well as policies that ban pregnant girls and young mothers from school an estimated one million girls in Sub Saharan Africa may miss school once they reopen.

Dr Loise Gichuhi, an expert on education in emergencies, says the world should have seen this coming.

“Borrowing from the lessons we have learnt from other countries, especially during pandemics, it may not have been a surprise for example in West Africa when there was Ebola; there we a lot of cases,” she says.

In Kenya, the education ministry has made it a deliberate effort to ensure all children are back to school including those who have given birth or fallen pregnant.

However, the shame and stigma associated with adolescent pregnancy is likely to keep so many girls out of schools, even in countries where government is offering them a second chance.

“The most likely scenarios the teenage mother is told you will have to babysit your baby for three to four years. The child would have lost interest in education by then,” says Serene Haven Secondary School Founder, Kelvin Ndegwa.

While Serene Haven may offer a solution, Dr. Gichuhi believes integration is a better solution.

 

 

Global COVID-19 cases surpass 100 million as nations tackle vaccine shortages
27 January 2021, 3:11 PM

Almost 1.3% of the world’s population has now been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 2.1 million people have died.

One person has been infected every 7.7 seconds, on average, since the start of the year. Around 668 250 cases have been reported each day over the same period, and the global fatality rate stands at 2.15%.

The worst-affected countries – the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom – make up more than half all reported COVID-19 cases but represent 28% of the global population, according to a Reuters analysis.

It took the world 11 months to record the first 50 million cases of the pandemic, compared to just three months for cases to double to 100 million.

Around 56 countries have begun vaccinating people for the coronavirus, administering at least 64 million doses. Israel leads the world on per capita vaccinations, inoculating 29% of its population with at least one dose.

United States

With over 25 million cases, the United States has 25% of all reported COVID cases although it accounts for just 4% of the world’s population. The United States leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported, accounting for one in every five deaths reported worldwide each day. With just under 425 00 fatalities, the United States has reported almost twice as many deaths as Brazil, which has the second-highest death toll in the world.

As the worst-affected region in the world, Europe is currently reporting a million new infections about every four days and has reported nearly 30 million since the pandemic began. Britain on Tuesday reached 100 000 deaths.

The Eastern European region, including countries like Russia, Poland and Ukraine, contribute to nearly 10% of all global COVID-19 cases.

Despite securing deals for vaccine supplies early on, many European countries are facing delays in shipments from both Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc

WHO says World may never find COVID-19 patient zero:

Asia and Africa

In India, the nation with the second-highest number of cases, infections are decreasing, with almost 13 700 new infections reported on average each day – around 15% of its peak. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday India was completely self-reliant on coronavirus vaccine supplies as the world’s second-most populous country inoculated more than 1 million people within a week of starting its campaign.

China, which recently marked the first anniversary of the world’s first coronavirus lockdown in the central city of Wuhan, is facing its worst wave of local cases since March last year.

As richer nations race ahead with mass vaccination campaigns, Africa is still scrambling to secure supplies as it grapples with concerns about more-infectious variants of the virus first identified in South Africa and Britain.

According to the Reuters tally, African countries have nearly 3.5 million cases and over 85 000 deaths.

The South African variant, also known as 501Y.V2, is 50% more infectious and has been detected in at least 20 countries.

US President Joe Biden will impose a ban on most non-US citizens entering the country who have recently been in South Africa starting Saturday in a bid to contain the spread of a new variant of COVID-19.

Australia and New Zealand have fared better than most other developed economies during the pandemic through swift border closures, lockdowns, strict hotel quarantine for travellers and widespread testing and social distancing.

“We have the virus under control here in Australia, but we want to roll out the vaccine,” Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told a news conference on Sunday.

Morocco gets half million doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine
27 January 2021, 2:33 PM

Morocco received on Wednesday half a million doses of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine as it prepares to be the first African country to roll out a national immunisation campaign.

The consignment is the second batch to arrive in Morocco after 2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by India’s Serum Institute.

The government has announced that it will first start vaccinating health, security, and teaching staff this week and has launched a website for other people to register for the vaccine.

The country signed a deal with Sinopharm in August which involved conducting clinical trials in Morocco as well as announcing plans to set up a production plant.

WHO warns against vaccine nationalism as nations acquire COVID-19 vaccines:

King Mohammed VI and China’s President had also discussed vaccine cooperation and in September Morocco agreed a deal to buy AstraZeneca vaccine doses.

Morocco plans to vaccinate 25 million people, or 80% of its population, within three months.

However, with increasing global competition for vaccine doses, Morocco’s ability to roll out a widescale national programme depends on a steady flow of supply, health ministry officials said.

By Tuesday, Morocco had recorded 467 493 coronavirus cases, including 8 187 deaths and 14 483 active cases.

Weather

 

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