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More than 8 500 children used as soldiers in 2020: UN
22 June 2021, 7:30 AM

More than 8 500 children were used as soldiers last year in various conflicts across the world and nearly 2 700 others were killed, the United Nations said on Monday.

UN chief Antonio Guterres’ annual report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict covers the killing, maiming and sexual abuse of children, abduction or recruitment, denial of aid access and targeting of schools and hospitals.

The report verified that violations had been committed against 19 379 children in 21 conflicts. The most violations in 2020 were committed in Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

It verified that 8 521 children were used as soldiers last year, while another 2 674 children were killed and 5 748 injured in various conflicts.

The report also includes a blacklist intended to shame parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures to protect children.

The list has long been controversial with diplomats, saying Saudi Arabia and Israel both exerted pressure in recent years in a bid to stay off the list.

Israel has never been listed, while a Saudi-led military coalition was removed from the list in 2020 several years after it was first named and shamed for killing and injuring children in Yemen.

In an effort to dampen controversy surrounding the report, the blacklist released in 2017 by Guterres was split into two categories. One lists parties that have put in place measures to protect children and the other includes parties that have not.

There were few significant changes to the lists released on Monday. The only state parties named on the first list are Myanmar’s military – for killing, maiming and sexual violence against children – and Syrian government forces – for recruitment of children, killing, maiming and sexual violence against children and attacks on schools and hospitals.

World Bank, AU join forces to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines
22 June 2021, 7:15 AM

The World Bank and the African Union said on Monday they would work together to accelerate COVID-19 vaccinations for up to 400 million people across Africa, bolstering efforts to vaccinate 60% of the continent’s population by 2022.

In a joint statement, the World Bank and the African Union said their agreement would provide needed resources to the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) initiative, allowing countries to purchase and deploy more vaccines.

The initiative will complement efforts already underway by the COVAX vaccine-sharing program, which is co-run by the World Health Organisation.

A WHO official on Monday said more than half of poorer countries receiving doses via COVAX do not have enough supplies to continue.

The new World Bank initiative comes amid shortages caused in part by manufacturing delays and Indian supply disruptions, with cases and deaths rising as a third wave of infections sweeps across Africa.

“The World Bank is very pleased to support African countries through this partnership with the African Union to quickly provide hundreds of millions of doses,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement. “Countries urgently need more pathways for acquiring vaccines that match their needs and have early delivery schedules.”

Strive Masiyiwa, African Union special envoy, said the collaboration between the World Bank and African institutions such as the Africa Import Export Bank and the Africa Centre for Disease Control would provide the capacity to vaccinate at least 400 million people, or 30% of the total African population.

No details were immediately available on the cost of the initiative, but the funds will come from the $12 billion the World Bank has made available for vaccine financing and distribution.

The Bank said it expects to be supporting vaccination efforts in 50 countries, two thirds of which are in Africa, by the end of June.

The latest Africa stats:

NPA says it’s making strides in prosecuting those accused of looting SOEs
22 June 2021, 7:00 AM

The National Prosecuting Authority’s Investigating Directorate says it’s making progress in prosecuting people allegedly responsible for the plundering of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and rampant corruption.

It currently has 16 cases involving billions of rand lost due to corruption in several courts across the country. Restraint orders on assets belonging to some of the accused are at over R2 billion.

In the case against former Transnet Board member and Gupta family associate, Iqbal Sharma, the restraint order for assets is unlimited.

Investigating Directorate Spokesperson, Sindisiwe Seboka, says although it has limited capacity, recent progress with the extradition of the Gupta family shows they do not give up even when suspects flee the country.

Seboka says the extradition hearing for former Eskom contractor Michael Lomas, who has been implicated in a R745 million corruption scandal involving the construction of Kusile power station, has been set for the end of this year.

“With the Michael Lomas-matter, the Eskom R750 million Kusile, Mpumalanga-matter we have been able to set that matter down for trial in the London Westminster’s Court within a period of a year. We are coming for each and every person who defrauded the state in any shape or form that falls in our mandate that we were created for. What we are going to do relentlessly is to pursue as many people as we possibly can,” she adds.

The NPA is also trying to bring the Gupta family back in South Africa to answer to corruption, fraud and money laundering allegations.

Talks with the United Arab Emirates in a bid to have them extradited are under way.

The NPA has also issued warrants of arrest for some members of the family.

Interpol arrest warrant for Guptas:

Senekal pair accused of murdering farm manager to apply for bail
22 June 2021, 6:01 AM

Two men accused of the murder of a 21-year-old Paul Roux farm manager, Brandin Horner, are expected to apply for bail in the Senekal Magistrate’s Court in the Free State on Tuesday.

Last week, the court heard that DNA results of blood stains found on the clothes of Sekwetje Mahlamba and Sekola Matlaletsa did not match those of the deceased. Horner’s murder fueled racial tensions in the eastern Free State town.

Members of the farming community from all over the country descended upon Senekal on the first day of Mahlamba and Matlaletsa’s court appearance.

They stormed the court building demanding that the accused be handed over to them. A police vehicle was also burned in the rampage.

Free State National Prosecuting Authority Spokesperson, Phaladi Shuping, says: “This is after they were denied bail by the same court in October last year. The NPA intends to oppose their release on bail because we are still maintaining that it is not in the interest of justice for the accused to be released on bail.”

Mahlamba, 32, and 44-year-old Matlaletsa allegedly strangled and stabbed Horner and left his body tied to the bottom of a pole in October 2020.

Tensions rise in Senekal:

Africa no longer on back foot in COVID fight: African Development Bank
21 June 2021, 12:55 PM

When COVID-19 cases were first detected in Africa last year, only two countries – South Africa and Senegal, at the time were able to test the novel coronavirus. This left other countries vulnerable to the highly infectious and sometimes fatal virus.

According to the African Development Bank, the daily testing capacity of African countries rose from 13 200 at the beginning of the pandemic to 105 000 today.

At least 100 000 health workers have been trained and 314 intensive care units are now available for COVID-19 patients, compared to an average of 50 at the beginning of the disease.

“This means that African countries are no longer on the back foot and are recovering gradually,” says the bank.

The countries have also received donations such as Personal Protective Equipment, sanitisers and masks to help stop spread of the coronavirus. The bank, China and the US are among those who have opened their wallets to assist the continent fight the pandemic.

The number of analytical laboratories in Malawi has increased 10 fold from 14 to 164 and 2.5 in Ethiopia to 66; in the Central African Republic, five new screening laboratories have been established. South Africa increased the number of daily screenings by seven times from 5 000 to 35 000, Ethiopia (3 000 to 12 400) and Burkina Faso (268 to 1 160).

“Early detection has been instrumental in limiting the spread of the virus and has helped countries trace, isolate and treat confirmed cases. However this was a challenge in Africa as many countries did not have the adequate testing facilities. This changed as the pandemic progressed as countries such as Côte d’Ivoire which had no laboratory for detecting the coronavirus but now has about 10,” says the bank’s Atsuko Toda.

“It’s a race against time, won hands down. Now we have to win the war against the coronavirus,” adds Toda. “We started almost from scratch. When we look at the progress made in a few months, we realise that we have come a long way.”

So far the continent has reported 178 million cases and 3.86 million fatalities.

Africa CDC June 10 briefing on the COVID-19 response:

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