Sunday, March 07, 2021

All in Place for Teachers’ Inoculation

07 MAR, 2021 - 00:03  

Debra Matabvu

Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

The GOVERNMENT has undertaken to vaccinate all teachers who are prepared to receive Covid-19 immunisation jabs immediately after schools reopen next week as authorities ramp up efforts to create a safe learning environment.

Authorities are doubling efforts to procure more doses in preparation for the second phase of the national vaccination programme, which targets to inoculate lecturers at tertiary institutions, teachers and others at medium risk from the respiratory virus.

Last week, the World Health Organisation-led Covax facility allocated 984 000 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Zimbabwe under a revised allocation schedule published by the global vaccine alliance.

The Government has also secured an additional 75 000 doses of India’s Covaxin vaccine, which has been shown to have an 81 percent efficacy rate after Phase Three trials.

The country is preparing to take delivery of a shipment of 600 000 vaccines procured from Chinese pharmaceutical giant, Sinopharm.

Schools will reopen in phases with the three examination classes resuming classes on March 15, while the rest of the classes will open a week later on March 22.

In preparation for the reopening, the Government has heightened surveillance and monitoring of schools’ preparations for the enforcement of WHO and Ministry of Health and Child Care standard health guidelines. 

More than 31 000 people had received their first shot of the vaccine by Friday under the first phase of the national vaccination programme.

Preparations for commencement of Phase Two are at an advanced stage.

Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education communication and advocacy director, Mr Taungana Ndoro said authorities were putting in place measures to guarantee the safety of teachers, learners and staff.

“As you know, teachers are part of the frontline workers and Government has placed them under Phase Two of vaccination which is likely to begin soon,” he said.

“We are not sure of the exact date when teachers will receive their jabs, but as a Ministry we have put in place measures that ensure maximum safety for teachers and learners.”

Teachers unions have requested to meet the Government to discuss a proposed mandatory Covid-19 testing and vaccination of educators.

Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Dr Takavafira Zhou said the unions had written to the Government requesting to meet before schools reopen.

“We have already written to Government requesting for a meeting which will discuss a number of issues such as Covid-19 testing in schools, vaccinations and salaries to ensure a smooth opening of schools,” he said.

“The safety of teachers and learners is very important, so we need clarity. 

“We are also pushing for social dialogue between Government and teachers so that we discuss the welfare of teachers.”

National Association of Secondary Heads (NASH) president, Mr Arthur Maphosa, emphasised the need for vaccination of teachers ahead of schools’ reopening.

“That is one of the issues that we will be raising in our districts’ meeting over the next week,” said Mr Maphosa.

“It is important that we know when teachers will also receive the vaccine.” 

Last year, nearly 300 students tested positive for Covid-19 between September and December with John Tallach Secondary school in Matabeleland North recording the highest number of cases.

The Government gave a green light to schools’ reopening on Tuesday ordering that school authorities reduce class sizes and enforce hot sitting.

At schools with inadequate infrastructure, pupils will not attend school daily, but will alternate attendance days to allow for proper implementation of social distancing rules.

Authorities have designed an ad-hoc learning programme entailing intensified one-on-one learning, provision of self-study guidelines and rigorous homework in order to accelerate catching up.The Government has started employing more qualified but jobless teachers to allow the splitting of classes.

More vaccines on the way

Last week, the Covax facility announced that Zimbabwe will be among the 142 countries that are set to receive vaccines before the end of next month.

WHO country representative Dr Alex Gasasira confirmed the development.

“We are hopeful that Covid-19 vaccines from Covax will arrive in Zimbabwe soon, but I do not have an exact date,” said Dr Gasasira.

“The Ministry of Child and Health Care is leading all the preparations for these vaccines.”

The Gavi Vaccine Alliance senior media relations manager, Iryna Mazur, told The Sunday Mail that distribution of vaccine doses to most countries had commenced.

Gavi set up the Covax facility in collaboration with WHO.

“Covax anticipates the bulk of the first round of deliveries taking place in March, with some early shipments to those that have already fulfilled the criteria outlined in our joint statement, occurring late this month,” she said. 

“More information related to these first deliveries will be communicated to all participants and published online in the coming days.” 

Ministry of Health and Child Care spokesperson Mr Donald Mujiri said vaccination was going on well and no adverse effects of the jabs had been reported as yet.

ETHIOPIA GEARS UP FOR COVID VACCINE DRIVE AS FIRST DOSES ARRIVE

Ethiopia has so far reported 165,029 cases of Covid-19, the fifth-highest total in Africa and the highest in East Africa.

This picture taken on 23 November 2020 shows a bottle reading "Vaccine Covid-19" next to Chinese National Pharmaceutical Sinopharm logo. Picture: JOEL SAGET/AFP

AFP 

ADDIS ABABA - Ethiopia on Sunday received its first 2.2 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus, and officials in Africa's second most populous country said the first jabs would be administered in the coming days.

The doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, were allocated under the UN-led Covax initiative which is working to facilitate vaccine access for poorer countries.

"After a long wait of uncertainty, hope has become a reality," health minister Dr Lia Tadesse said at a ceremony Sunday morning at the airport in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

She hailed Covax as "an unprecedented global partnership," adding: "The more people get vaccinated, the faster we're going to beat this pandemic."

Ethiopia has so far reported 165,029 cases of Covid-19, the fifth-highest total in Africa and the highest in East Africa.

Over the past month, cases have risen by 12 percent on average each week, and deaths have risen by 37 percent on average each week, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

"We have lost more than 2,400 of our brothers and sisters, and we know the real numbers could be much higher," Lia said Sunday.

Sunday's delivery "is part of the first wave of arrivals of the Covid-19 vaccines in Ethiopia that will continue in the coming weeks," the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.

Ethiopia's vaccination campaign will initially target health workers, health ministry senior adviser Dr Muluken Yohannes told AFP.

"This week administration will start," he said.

The goal is to vaccinate 20 percent of the country's roughly 110 million people by the end of the year, he said.

So far Ethiopia has not arranged for any separate vaccine shipments to supplement what Covax can provide, Muluken said.

While it has received some offers for donations, none has been approved, he said.

"If there are any successful donation programmes, then we will make it transparent," he said.

Neighbouring Djibouti also received its first AstraZeneca vaccines via Covax this weekend, the WHO announced Saturday.

"This first shipment of vaccines will support the vaccination of health care workers, people over 50 years of age and people with comorbidities," it said.

Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF's supply division, said on Twitter that Djibouti had received 24,000 doses.

Djibouti has recorded 6,102 Covid-19 cases and 63 deaths, according to the WHO.

 WEST AFRICA BLOC URGES CALM IN SENEGAL



At least five people have died in protests that began on Wednesday after Sonko, 46, was arrested on charges of disturbing public order in the capital Dakar.

A Senegalese gendarme patrols and clears the streets of Dakar after supporters of Senegal's opposition leader Ousmane Sonko gathered and violent protests broke out in the capital, on 3 March 2021. Picture: AFP

AFP 

DAKAR, Senegal - The Economic Community of West African States on Saturday urged all parties in Senegal to exercise restraint, after days of clashes between police and supporters of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

At least four people have died in protests that began on Wednesday after Sonko, 46, was arrested on charges of disturbing public order in the capital Dakar.

Police arrested the him after scuffles with opposition supporters broke out while Sonko was on his way to court to answer to a separate rape charge -- which he says is politically motivated.

Violent clashes continued in the capital Dakar through Friday, in the worst unrest the country has seen in years, before easing off.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called in a statement on Saturday for "all parties to exercise restraint and remain calm".

It also urged the government "to take the necessary measures to ease tensions and guarantee the freedom to demonstrate peacefully".

Sonko, who is considered a challenger to President Macky Sall, is due back in court on Monday to answer to the rape charge.

The rape allegation against him comes amid uncertainty over whether Sall, 59, will seek a third term.

Senegalese presidents are limited to two consecutive terms, but Sall launched a constitutional review in 2016, raising suspicions he intends to run again.

Senegal, a former French colony of 16 million people, is often heralded as a beacon of stability in a volatile region.

SCHOOLBOY AMONG FIVE DEAD IN SENEGAL UNREST

Clashes first erupted between opposition supporters and security forces on Wednesday after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, and escalated into the worst unrest seen in Senegal in years.

Supporters of Senegal's opposition leader Ousmane Sonko protest in Dakar after he was arrested ahead of his scheduled court appearance to face a rape charge.

AFP 

DAKAR, Senegal - A schoolboy was killed during violent protests in Senegal at the weekend, officials said, bringing the death toll from days of violence in the West African state to five.

Clashes first erupted between opposition supporters and security forces on Wednesday after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, and escalated into the worst unrest seen in Senegal in years.

People torched cars, burned and looted shops and hurled stones at police during the protests, which have highlighted longstanding grievances over living standards and economic exclusion.

On Saturday, people were demonstrating in the southern town of Diaobe against Sonko's arrest, when the "situation quickly deteriorated", a security official told AFP.

Protesters torched a gendarmerie station, a customs post and several cars, the official said on condition of anonymity.

A schoolboy was killed and six people were seriously injured in clashes, the official added, a toll confirmed by a spokesman for Senegal's gendarmerie.

Four people were previously reported killed in the violence.

Senegal, a former French colony of 16 million people, is often heralded as a beacon of stability in a volatile region.

But about 40 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

The country is bracing for a fresh round of opposition protests starting on Monday, and the government has ordered schools nationwide closed for a week.

Sonko, 46, a fierce critic of the governing elite in Senegal, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of disturbing public order in the capital Dakar.

The move came after scuffles with opposition supporters broke out while Sonko was on his way to court to answer a separate rape charge -- which he says is politically motivated.

An opposition collective which includes Sonko's Pastef party on Saturday called for three more days of protests starting from Monday, urging people to "massively descend onto the streets".

'GLOOMY ECONOMIC SITUATION'

Sonko, who is considered a key challenger to President Macky Sall, is also due back in court on Monday to answer to the rape charge.

He is a devout Muslim popular with youngsters and came third to Sall in the 2019 election.

But his political future was suddenly clouded last month when rape charges were filed against him by an employee at a salon where, he said, he went to receive back massages.

The allegation comes amid uncertainty over whether Sall, 59, will seek a third term in office.

Senegalese presidents are limited to two consecutive terms, but Sall launched a constitutional review in 2016, raising suspicions he intends to run again.

Other presidents in West Africa -- such as Guinea's Alpha Conde or Ivory Coast's Alassane Ouattara -- have used constitutional changes to win third terms.

On Saturday, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, which includes Senegal, urged all parties in the country to exercise restraint and remain calm.

ECOWAS also called on the government "to take the necessary measures to ease tensions and guarantee the freedom to demonstrate peacefully".

Ndeme Dieng, an opposition member who tried to calm tempers during the demonstrations, said the vast majority of protesters were jobless youths.

"The gloomy economic situation has made people go out into the streets and show that they're fed up," he said.

On top of everyday pressures, coronavirus restrictions have also damaged livelihoods in a country where most people work in the informal sector.

Senegal Protests: The Country is ‘on the Verge of an Apocalypse’

Sun, March 7, 2021, 12:53 PM

Opposition supporters of leader Ousmane Sonko clash with security forces during a protest in Dakar, Senegal 05 March 2021

Demonstrations like this one on Friday in the capital, Dakar, began on Wednesday

A top Senegalese official whose job is to settle conflicts has said the country is on a dangerous precipice after four days of protests left at least five young people dead.

Alioune Badara Cissé, known as the mediator of the republic, urged the authorities to stop threats and intimidation against protesters.

He also called for those on the streets to act peacefully and stop looting.

The unrest was triggered by the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Mr Sonko appeared in court on Friday accused of disrupting public order. He also faces a rape allegation.

He denies the allegations and his supporters say the accusations are politically motivated.

The protests have spread from Dakar to different parts of the country

The protests have also been fueled by economic inequalities and concerns over young people's standard of living.

In a press conference on Sunday, Mr Cissé said the authorities "need to pause and speak with our youth" and warned that "we are on the verge of an apocalypse".

His statement came a day after a teenager in the southern city of Diaobe became the fifth person known to have died in clashes with security forces in various parts of the country.

But the respected mediator is warning of much more turmoil ahead unless the government acts fast to address the deepening poverty and lack of job prospects for the youth, says BBC World Service Africa Editor Will Ross.

On Friday, following violence in the capital, Dakar, and elsewhere, Interior Minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome vowed to use "all the means necessary for a return to order".

Speaking on national TV, Mr Diome accused Mr Sonko of "issuing calls to violence".

The opposition alliance known as the Movement to Defend Democracy (M2D), which is behind the demonstrations, has announced three further days of protests starting on Monday.

The West African regional group Ecowas has condemned the violence and called on "all parties to exercise restraint and remain calm" - adding that the authorities should "take the necessary measures to ease tensions and guarantee the freedom to demonstrate peacefully".

Mr Sonko, 46, was accused of rape in February.

Following an investigation he was arrested on Wednesday and taken to court accompanied by a group of supporters.

Police said they then arrested him for disrupting public order when he refused to change his route to the court.

Mr Sonko says the allegations of rape are fabricated. He accuses President Macky Sall of trying to remove potential opponents ahead of the 2024 election.

Two other opposition leaders were excluded from the 2019 election after being convicted on charges which they say were politically motivated.

There are reports that Mr Sall may seek to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third term.

Mr Sonko - who is particularly popular with young Senegalese - is the president's only remaining serious challenger, says BBC Afrique's Ndèye Khady Lo in Dakar.

In 2014 he founded his own political party, Pastef-Les Patriotes, and came third in the 2019 presidential election with 15% of the vote.

Senegal: Opposition Calls for More Protests After Days of Deadly Clashes

J. Patrick Fischer/Wikimedia Commons

The flag of Senegal (file photo).

7 MARCH 2021

Deutsche Welle (Bonn)

Senegal is facing its worst political unrest in years following the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. At least five people have been killed in clashes between protesters and police.

Opposition parties in in Senegal called for fresh nationwide protests on Saturday, after days of clashes left at least five people dead.

The death toll rose to five after a 17-year-old boy was killed by gunfire in the southern town of Diaobe on Saturday. Senegal's military police did not reveal the circumstances of his death. A spokesman for the police said protesters ransacked six police stations across the country.

What did the opposition say?

The opposition coalition Movement for the Defense of Democracy (M2D) called for a new round of protests next week against President Macky Sall.

"M2D ... calls on the Senegalese people to pursue its mobilization and peaceful struggle by using all of its constitutional rights to reject the dictatorship of Macky Sall," the coalition said in a statement.

The statement called for three days of nationwide protests starting Monday.

The collective includes the leading opposition party Pastef, whose leader Ousmane Sonko was arrested on rape charges on Wednesday. An employee of a beauty salon accused Sonko, who finished third in the 2019 presidential election, of raping her.

Why are people protesting?

Sonko is accused of rape by an employee of a beauty salon. He is due in court on Monday to face questions over the charge.

The opposition leader's largely younger supporters have voiced anger over his arrest and the court case against him.

The 46-year-old is considered a key potential challenger to incumbent President Sall in the next elections in 2024.

Presidents in the former French colony are limited to two consecutive terms, but 59-year-old Sall launched a constitutional review in 2016, raising suspicions he intends to run for a third term.

Critics say the rape charge against Sonko was fabricated in a bid to remove a political rival should Sall decide to change the constitution and run for a third term.

see/rs (AFP, Reuters)

Equatorial Guinea: Country's Largest City Bata Rocked By Explosions

7 MARCH 2021

Deutsche Welle (Bonn)

A series of explosions has injured hundreds of people in the city of Bata in Equatorial Guinea. Many more are feared to be trapped under the rubble.

Equatorial Guinea's largest city and main economic hub Bata was hit by four explosions on Sunday, local eyewitnesses reported. The cause of the blasts remains unknown.

The Ministry of Health said that at least 300 people had been injured, and that many were feared dead or trapped under the rubble. It said on Twitter that the explosion occured at a military barracks, where local media reported that thousands of people had been living.

State broadcaster TVGE reported that practically all of the houses in the military zone, as well as most of the houses nearby, had been damaged by the explosion. Reporters on the ground also reported seeing hospitals full with many wounded women and children

The health department told medical workers to head to hospitals, which were reportedly overwhelmed.

Local media reported that the vice president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue had arrived at the scene of the explosion.

"Pain has hit Equatorial Guinea again right in the middle of its fight against the coronavirus pandemic with explosions this Sunday in the Rapid Intervention Barracks in Nkoantoma, in city of Bata. From here, I express my sincere grief for the victims," the vice president tweetd.

What we know so far

There were four explosions at an army barracks in the major city of Bata

The initial explosion happened at 1 p.m. local time (1200 UTC/GMT)

The explosions caused widespread damage

At least 300 people have been injured, the Ministry of Health expects fatalities

Overwhelmed hospitals have been pleading for blood donations

Phone lines and internet are largely down in the city

Bodies pulled from rubble

Local television showed people pulling bodies from rubble, some of which were carried away wrapped in bed sheets, Reuters reported.

Phone lines and internet were reportedly down, but some people were able to share unverified images of the destruction on social media.

Another user shared an unverified video that they described as "images of the military barracks of Nkoantoma, Bata, epicenter of the explosion which rocked Bata this afternoon.

A further unverified video, shared on Twitter, showed extensive scenes of destruction and debris in a residential district of the city.

An eyewitness in the city told the Spanish news agency EFE that there had been "a huge explosion, it opened all our windows ... We saw a pillar of smoke and then suddenly there was a second explosion and then shortly after, another."

"We don't quite know what happened, but there are soldiers on the street and now we cannot make calls, only those with internet, which is almost nobody here, are connected over Whatsapp," the witness said.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

ab/aw (EFE, Reuters, dpa)

Somalia: Talks On Electoral Process Collapse

Dalsan Radio

After holding talks with three regional states, Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has announced that elections will go forward, despite strong dissent among the country's leaders.

5 MARCH 2021

Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)

Talks between the Somali government and opposition presidential candidates have collapsed, but some progress in the negotiations has resulted in relative calm in the past few days, Prime Minister Mohamed Roble said Friday.

The government will continue holding talks on the electoral process to implement the pre-election agreement, which was reached on Sept. 17 last year, with leaders of the federal member states, the prime minister said in a statement.

The negotiations collapsed Thursday evening after the opposition requested to be included in future election talks, he said, noting that some concessions were made following rounds of talks.

Roble said an understanding had been reached on the issues discussed, but one of the demands from the candidates' union was not in line with the country's electoral process.

The prime minister, who has previously been holding talks with the council of presidential candidates, a coalition of opposition candidates, said reopening the September 2020 election agreement needs broad approval from other signatories.

Roble said his government encourages dialogue and that the doors are open to all, but that there is a need to show sincerity and compromise, and not to create new obstacles and conflicts.

Some opposition leaders blame President Mohamed Farmajo for the collapse of the talks, saying the government was just buying time and had nothing concrete to offer.

Read the original article on Shabelle.

Nigeria: Covid-19 Vaccination Painfree, Says Osinbajo

6 MARCH 2021

Vanguard (Lagos)

By Victor Ogunyinka

Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo has revealed that the COVID-19 vaccination jab was pain free.

Following the vaccination of President Muhammadu Buhari, and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo on Saturday, the Vice-President also appreciated the frontline workers, physicians, researchers and scientists who worked tirelessly to ensure the production of the Coronavirus vaccine.

Both President Buhari and VP Osinbajo got the jab on live TV, barely 24 hours after the vaccine COVID-19 vaccine programme started with the vaccination of the healthcare and frontline workers at the National Hospital, Abuja.

According to the spokesperson to the Vice-President, Mr. Laolu Akande, the Prof. Osinbajo had revealed that "the thing was not painful at all. I didn't even feel the pinch" after his personal physician, Dr. Nic, administered the jab.

Akande, who tweeted through his verified twitter account, added that "We should all take turns when time comes to get the happy jabs!".

While appreciating the everyone that made the vaccination a success, the Vice-President said "We are extremely grateful for the frontline workers, physicians, researchers and scientists who worked tirelessly to ensure this came to life".

"Get vaccinated, wear a mask and stay safe," Osinbajo added.

Meanwhile, President Buhari has urged state governments, traditional and religious leaders to lead the mobilisation effort within their spheres of influence.

The president assured Nigerians that "the vaccine offers hope for a safe country free of Coronavirus".

Read the original article on Vanguard.

Malawi: Nurses Body Condemns Attacks on Frontline Healthcare Workers - 'Hopes for Justice'

6 MARCH 2021

Nyasa Times (Leeds)

By Watipaso Mzungu

The National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi (NONM) has condemned escalating incidences of social media attacks on nurses, midwives and other healthcare workers due to false rumours surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

The attacks prompted the organization to hold a press briefing in Blantyre on Saturday morning where NONM president, Shouts Galang'anda Simeza, disclosed that some of the healthcare workers are facing discrimination when using public transport to and from their various work places on allegations that they spread the virus to the public.

Simeza said some people are falsely accusing healthcare workers of injecting coronavirus onto those that come to seek health services, and that people die because of this.

"This is not correct, and we would want to edit this thinking among Malawians - this is not true!" he emphasized.

Still, some Malawians are reportedly demeaning, belittling, undermining the nurses and midwives as if there is nothing that they know and can do in the wake of service - right versus scope of practice while others are literally launching physical assaults of innocent frontline healthcare personnel.

Simeza was referring to a nurse at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) who was recently molested and physically assaulted by a group of guardians of a patient admitted to the hospital.

The nurse fell victim in her line of duty as she was trying to control human traffic in the ward as one of the Covid-19 precautionary measures only to be roughed up by those whose lives she was intending to protect.

NONM is challenging this case in court and Blantyre Magistrate Court will start hearing the case this coming Monday, 08 March 2021.

Simeza has since called upon nurses and other healthcare workers to come together in solidarity to offer moral support to their colleague, stressing that it is the sincere hope of NONM that by the end of the day, justice will prevail and that those behind these barbaric attacks to innocent healthcare workers will face the long arm of the law.

The NONM boss further condemned the merciless beating and hacking of an ambulance driver in Machinga District whose only sin was to ferry a dead body from the hospital to the village of the deceased.

Another ambulance driver was almost killed when the community suspected that he had carried an empty coffin for burial.

"These and many other similar incidences have created an atmosphere where healthcare workers are now living dangerously in fear, anxiety and mental distress as the intensity of risk and abuse they are facing perpetrated by the public do not seem to be decreasing. When nurses and other healthcare workers discharge their duties under stress and fear, the whole purpose of providing quality health care services is compromised. This is so because the aggression, verbal abuse, and hostility unleashed upon them negatively affect their safety, morale and job satisfaction," emphasized Simeza.

He said it is even more worrying that the abuses are happening when the world is celebrating the 2020 year of the nurse and the midwife, which is extending into this 2021 (year).

He reiterated that the health sector is the riskiest of all the sectors lined up in the battle against the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.

"It is therefore an insult of the highest order to expect the very healthcare workers who have already sacrificed themselves to serve those infected with coronavirus to be subjected to the aforementioned abuses. We would like to ask government and other employers for commitment to support nurses and other healthcare workers during these difficult times including provision of transport to and from work. Consider doubling the risk allowances!" emphasized Simeza

Read the original article on Nyasa Times.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

First Lady Urges Nation to Embrace Vaccination Programme

06 MAR, 2021 - 00:03 

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, City of Harare Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi and Dr Soman Mudariki listen to a frontline worker who was screening patients for Covid-19 at City Sports Centre in Harare yesterday.

Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter

FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has paid tribute to frontline health workers countrywide for the work they are doing in mitigating the effects of Covid-19 and urged the country’s citizenry to embrace the vaccination programme currently underway.

Amai Mnangagwa is Zimbabwe’s health ambassador and has been at the forefront of educating the citizenry on how to prevent the killer pandemic, which has claimed nearly 1 500 lives since last year when it started affecting the country.

Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, she has also been mobilising resources like face masks, sanitisers, toiletries and food to ease the plight of women, children, the elderly and the disabled, among many other vulnerable groups.

In a first of its kind heart-to-heart interface with frontline health workers from Harare City Council, the First Lady said she was grateful for the great service health workers rendered to the nation.

The meeting was held at City Sports Centre, which was identified by City of Harare as one of the Covid-19 testing centres.

The First Lady also interacted with people who had come for testing and thanked them for taking the bold step.

“I have come to meet you (health workers) personally without sending anyone, so you can hear me speak from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “I want to thank you my children because you have always been there.

“Even from the time I was born you were there. When I gave birth to my children you were there. Today we have come across many challenges and diseases in our country and you are still there.

“We have diabetics, the hypertensive and those affected by many diseases. Whoever feels pain rushes to the hospital. They do not rush to the walls of hospitals, but to people who are yourselves. You collect us from our homes and examine us in ambulances so that we do not die and hand us over to doctors. The work you do is hard and requires dedication.”

The First Lady said Covid-19 had wreaked havoc across the globe, but health workers remained steadfast in their work.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa serves lunch to Covid-19 frontline workers in Harare yesterday after she personally cooked the food as an appreciative gesture for their efforts in curbing the pandemic.

“You, as frontliners representing those in your profession countrywide, including those across the provinces, at border posts and in highways – as a mother I have to congratulate you all for the dedication you have shown through ensuring that people survive,” she said.

“Yes, when its time some people die from ailments, but that would not be your wish. That is not what you want nekuti imi muripo mukuyedza kuraramisa nekuchengetedza hupenyu hwevanhu. During this pandemic, you have all fought very hard and look now because of your zeal you have managed to save people’s souls.

“Pakauya chirwere ichi vanhu munharaunda vaitotiza vakanzwa kuti hama yabatwa chirwere ichi asi imi maivepo pakubatsira, musingatize. I have come to congratulate you all for your bravery and dedication. I have come saAmai kuti nditi on behalf of all women countrywide, we are grateful. Yours is a calling and may the Lord continue to bless and lead you. You are all in our prayers.”

The mother of the nation encouraged the whole nation to embrace the vaccination programme rolled out by the Government to ensure everyone survives. She added that if people were left behind, they would remain in the disease circle which would not help the efforts being displayed.

“The Covid-19 jab has come and you our frontline workers are running with it,” she said. “I want to thank all those who have come forward to be tested. There are many others who do not come forward to be tested out of fear. They think a positive result means death. That is no longer the case because once you have been tested you are put on treatment early.”

Amai Mnangagwa said Covid-19 had presented a learning opportunity for health workers who now knew more than they did when the virus started attacking the country last year.

“I urge those who have not been tested to come forward because once one is tested, it becomes easy for health practitioners,” she said. “They will find you in a far better position than presenting for treatment when the damage would have already been done.

“Come and get the jab because if you are left behind, the disease will come. Our Vice President already got the jab, the President and myself will also follow suit when the other consignment of vaccines arrives. Why should one refuse to be vaccinated? This is an opportunity to protect ourselves as a nation against the pandemic.”

Being vaccinated, the First Lady said, would reduce lockdowns and enable citizens to look after their families.

“We have seen how hard lockdown is and the challenges it has presented. Please lets come out and be vaccinated. The whole world is being vaccinated, let us follow suit,” she said.

The First Lady said even when one was vaccinated, it was necessary to be cautious and continue using masks, washing hands and observing social distancing.

The health workers felt the motherly love and warmth when Amai Mnangagwa personally prepared lunch for them. She cooked rice in peanut butter, sadza, roasted chicken, beef stew and vegetables.

She served them the meal, while interacting with them. The First Lady urged the frontline workers to have a mother-child relationship with her, adding that whatever she did was non-partisan.

As part of her efforts to appreciate the health workers, the First Lady gave them an assortment of foodstuffs that included mealie meal, rice, sugar, cooking oil and flour.

She also gave them washing powder, laundry soap and buckets.

Speaking at the same occasion, City of Harare Health Services director Dr Prosper Chonzi thanked the First Lady for sparing a thought for frontline health workers.

“We want to thank Amai, our First Lady, for appreciating our frontline workers,” he said. “Those who met Amai today are first responders. These are the people who respond first before a patient is taken to hospital. They go to patients’ homes, pick them up and they also go to accident scenes and pick people up from there. For Covid-19, these are the very people who will be exposed at the very first instance. They are also the ones doing tests in communities and also at this centre.”

An ecstatic Mrs Anymore Chimwenyi, a frontline health worker, said it was pleasing to be remembered.

“Today, I want to thank the mother of the nation who has come to be with us,” she said with a broad smile. “She prepared us a healthy, delicious lunch which she served us, something that we had never experienced. On top of that, she gave us groceries and thanked us for the work we are doing as the rapid response team. We shall continue working hard with dedication until the pandemic is over.”

Death Toll in Bombing in Somalia’s Capital Rises to 20

A man observes a destroyed building at the scene of a blast at a popular restaurant in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Friday, March 5, 2021. A car packed with explosives rammed into a popular restaurant in Somalia's capital on Friday night, and police said at least 10 people were killed and more than 30 wounded. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The death toll has risen to at least 20 after a vehicle packed with explosives rammed into a popular restaurant in Somalia’s capital on Friday night, with 30 wounded, the government news agency reported Saturday.

The Somali National News Agency cited the Aamin ambulance service for the death toll.

Police spokesman Sadiq Ali Adan blamed the attack on the local al-Shabab extremist group, which is linked to al-Qaida and often targets Mogadishu with bombings. The Luul Yamani restaurant also was attacked last year.

Some houses near the restaurant collapsed after the dinnertime blast, and police said that caused a number of deaths.

Security in Mogadishu had been especially heavy, with thousands of government forces deployed in anticipation of a planned demonstration on Saturday by an alliance of opposition leaders over the country’s delayed national election. The demonstration was later postponed.

Diplomats: UN Fails to Approve Call to End Tigray Violence

By EDITH M. LEDERER

A medical clinic that was looted and vandalized in Zana, is seen in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the "humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate" as fighting intensifies across the northern region. (Medecins Sans Frontieres via AP)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — An attempt to get U.N. Security Council approval for a statement calling for an end to violence in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region and to spotlight the millions in need of humanitarian assistance was dropped Friday night after objections from India, Russia and especially China, U.N. diplomats said.

Three council diplomats said Ireland, which drafted the statement, decided not to push for approval after objections from the three countries.

The press statement would have been the first by the U.N.’s most powerful body on the Tigray crisis, which is entering its fourth month. Fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government and alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people. No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed.

On Tuesday, U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned that “a campaign of destruction” is taking place, saying at least 4.5 million people need assistance and demanding that forces from neighboring Eritrea accused of committing atrocities in Tigray leave Ethiopia.

The proposed statement made no mention of foreign forces or sanctions -- two key issues -- but did call “for an end to violence in Tigray.”

The draft statement also noted “with concern” the humanitarian situation in Tigray, “where millions of people remain in need of humanitarian assistance” and the challenge of access for aid workers. It called for “the full and early implementation” of the Ethiopian government’s statements on Feb. 26 and March 3 committing to “unfettered access.”

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private, said China wanted the statement to focus only on the humanitarian situation, with no reference to the violence in Tigray. India only wanted a minor change, and Russia reportedly supported its ally China at the last minute, the diplomats said.

Accounts of a massacre of several hundred people by Eritrean soldiers in the holy city of Axum in Tigray have been detailed in reports by The Associated Press and then by Amnesty International. Federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after elections disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human Rights Watch echoed the reports on Friday, saying Eritrean armed forces “massacred scores of civilians, including children as young as 13,” in the historic town of Axum in Tigray in November 2020. It called on the U.N. to urgently establish an independent inquiry into war crimes and possible crimes against humanity in Tigray.

Protests Backing Opposition Leader Escalate in Senegal

By CARLEY PETESCH and BABACAR DIONE

A demonstrator holds up a Senegalese flag during protests against the arrest of opposition leader and former presidential candidate Ousmane Sonko in Dakar, Senegal, Friday, March 5, 2021. Days of violent protests in Senegal have killed at least one person, local reports say, as young people take to the streets nationwide in support of the main opposition leader who was detained Wednesday. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Police fired tear gas in Senegal’s capital to disperse protesting supporters of the country’s main opposition leader, who appeared in court for the first time on Friday since his detention two days ago sparked days of violent demonstrations in which at least four died.

This week’s unrest in Dakar has been the worst seen in years in a country known for its stability. Thousands have also protested nationwide.

Police moved in to disperse crowds throwing objects at security forces and setting tires, pieces of wood and other objects on fire near the tribunal where opposition leader Ousmane Sonko appeared.

Plumes of black smoke rose into the sky as armored vehicles roamed the streets, which cleared briefly for Friday afternoon prayers. Demonstrators reappeared after prayers to be confronted by authorities lobbing tear gas cannisters.

One person was killed Thursday as police clashed with protesters in Bignona town in the southern Casamance region, according to local leaders there. A second person was killed in the Pikine area of Dakar on Thursday, according to radio station Tfm and a third in the Keur Massar suburb of Dakar the same day.

Senegal’s Interior Minister Antoine Felix Diom announced the death of a fourth protester on Friday in the capital following clashes between young people and the defense and security forces. He spoke out against the looting, and said the government would ease curfews imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic as the vaccination campaign continues.

The demonstrations began Wednesday before Sonko’s court appearance for questioning on accusations of rape. He was detained on the way to the courthouse and arrested for disturbing public order after hundreds of his supporters clashed with police who were blocking unauthorized protests.

His lawyer Friday said he is now charged with rape and making death threats. They said the judge has also initiated further proceedings to prosecute him for calling for an insurgency. He will appear again in court on Monday.

Protests have intensified since Sonko’s arrest. Several stores belonging to a major grocery chain, Auchan, have been looted and burned. Total gas stations were also targeted in what appeared to be attacks on businesses with French interests. Demonstrators also attacked Rfm and government newspaper Le Soleil.

The government has condemned the violence and said “the instigators, perpetrators and accomplices” will be prosecuted. Authorities suspended two private television stations for 72 hours, accusing Sen TV and Walf TV of inciting public disorder for showing content that “explicitly or implicitly defended violence.”

NetBlocks, which monitors the internet, said that messaging and social media apps including WhatsApp, Facebook and Youtube were being restricted Friday.

The 46-year-old Sonko, who placed third in the 2019 election, was accused of rape last month by a beauty salon employee. He was summoned for questioning after his parliamentary immunity was lifted last week.

Sonko has been a strong opponent of President Macky Sall since 2012 and is popular with the country’s youth. Sonko and his supporters have said the charges are politically motivated, and they accuse Sall of conspiring to undermine Sonko before the 2024 election.

Amnesty International condemned what it called arbitrary arrests of opponents and activists, and called on authorities to “respect the freedom of peaceful assembly.” It accused authorities of stopping Sonko’s convoy and firing tear gas to disperse his supporters.

The rights group also called for public disturbance and unauthorized demonstration charges against Sonko to be dropped and for him to be released from custody if these were the only charges justifying his detention.

The Special Representative for the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said he “deplores the acts of violence” and called for restraint. He urged authorities to ensure protesters’ rights to demonstrate peacefully as well as their safety.

Africa Welcomes COVAX Doses but Warns against ‘Selfishness’

By RODNEY MUHUMUZA

Medical staff look out from a window as officials prepare for a ceremony to commence the country's first coronavirus vaccinations using AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and provided through the global COVAX initiative, at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya Friday, March 5, 2021. Urgent calls for COVID-19 vaccine fairness rang through African countries on Friday as more welcomed or rolled out doses from the global COVAX initiative, with officials acutely aware their continent needs much more. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Urgent calls for COVID-19 vaccine fairness rang through African countries on Friday as more welcomed or rolled out doses from the global COVAX initiative, with officials acutely aware their continent needs much more.

“Rich countries should not be so selfish,” Pontiano Kaleebu, head of the Uganda Virus Research Institute, said as his country received its first doses. “It’s a concern, and everyone is talking about it.”

The East African nation of 45 million people was receiving under 1 million vaccine doses — 864,000. It’s the first batch of a total of 18 million COVAX doses for Uganda, but when all will arrive is not known.

That number is “not going to do much,” said Monica Musenero, an epidemiologist and presidential adviser, though she added that “we can advocate for more vaccines, but we should also appreciate what we’ve got.”

The foundation of Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife, Leah, on Friday issued a statement saying that “more must be done, immediately, to ensure lower-income countries have faster access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostic tools and treatments.”

“This is not a time for selfishness,” its statement said, and it noted growing calls for a waiver of intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines to allow for faster, wider production — a proposal opposed by the European Union and countries including the United States, Britain and Canada.

While the COVAX initiative was created to ensure that low- and middle-income countries receive COVID-19 vaccines, it has faced delays and limited supply.

Even as the World Health Organization’s Africa chief, Matshidiso Moeti, on Thursday noted that almost 10 million COVAX doses had been delivered to 11 African countries, she could not resist adding, “finally.”

She added, “we expect about half of African countries will receive COVAX deliveries in the coming week and that most countries will have vaccination programs under way by end of March.”

Mali on Friday received 396,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. And Nigeria began its vaccination campaign after Africa’s most populous country received almost 4 million doses.

In Kenya, vaccinations with 1 million doses began a day after President Uhuru Kenyatta declared that “vaccine nationalism is something that we should all abhor.”

The president encouraged citizens of East Africa’s economic hub to keep up virus prevention measures, even as many Kenyans are weary of a curfew they say is hurting the economy. “This pandemic has inconvenienced our livelihoods, but while we can recover this, we cannot get back lost lives,” Kenyatta said.

Kenyan authorities also pushed back against vaccine skepticism, a growing concern, after the local Catholic Doctors Association called on its 300 members to refuse the shots, calling them “totally unnecessary.” The group’s stance differs from that of the church.

“I can assure the safety of this vaccine as it has gone through a rigorous process,” said Patrick Amoth, the director general at the ministry of health and the first to receive a shot. “As you can see, I have taken it. No one should fear.”

The goal in Africa is that countries will be able to vaccinate 20% of their population with the COVAX doses by the end of this year — far from the goal of 60% or more to achieve so-called “herd immunity” when enough people are protected through infection or vaccination to make it difficult for a virus to continue to spread.

“You expect that at this point we should be getting the initial 9 million doses from COVAX” instead of less than 1 million, said Misaki Wayengera, head of a technical committee advising Uganda’s response. He worries that delays in vaccine procurement mean several months could pass before some people receive the second required shot.

Uganda aims to vaccinate 20% of its population with doses from COVAX, with 40% vaccinated via government and private-sector funding.

The COVAX delays have pushed other African countries to seek more doses elsewhere, including via bilateral deals that can be unfavorable.

Uganda has announced plans to buy 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, but the country faces cash shortages.

And it is not clear how much the doses will cost. Some critics have been appalled by lower-income countries paying more per COVID-19 vaccine dose than rich ones.

One WHO official in Africa, Richard Mihigo, on Thursday discouraged African countries from bilateral deals because of the risk of paying a high price. The African Union instead is pursuing bulk deals for the continent, but that also has faced delays.

___

Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya contributed.

South Africa: Government On the Passing of Journalist Karima Brown

Screenshot from a video of the funeral service of Karima Brown.

4 MARCH 2021

Government of South Africa (Pretoria)

PRESS RELEASE

Government joins the rest of South Africa and the media fraternity in particular in mourning the passing of veteran journalist, Karima Brown who passed away earlier today from COVID-19 related complications. We send our deepest condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and the media fraternity.

Brown, an anchor of eNCA's weekly show 'The Fix', was a seasoned and versatile journalist and political analyst. She has held various editorial positions in both print and broadcast media over the years.

Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, said: "Karima had an unwavering commitment to journalism and was never afraid to ask difficult questions and speak her mind. Her patriotism saw her pushing the boundaries of complacency and exposing wrong doing wherever she came across it. Her journalistic instinct contributed significantly to the vibrant and diversified media in South Africa. Indeed, South Africa and the media industry is poorer without her."

Brown was also an activist who in her early years contributed to the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa. She played a critical role in the Cape Youth Congress (CAYCO) and the building of the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO). "Her fiery approach to the pursuit of truth and justice has left an indelible mark in South African journalism. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family," said Minister Ntshavheni.

Read the original article on Govt of SA.

Africa: Biden Snubs Buhari in First Calls to Africa

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with attendees at the 2020 Iowa State Education Association (ISEA) Legislative Conference at the Sheraton West Des Moines Hotel in West Des Moines, Iowa.

3 MARCH 2021

Premium Times (Abuja)

By Ini Ekott

The sidestepping of Nigeria is seen as reflective of the country's declining global appeal.

U.S. President Joe Biden made his first call to an African leader last week, apparently choosing not to speak to Nigeria's President Buhari, an omission experts say reflects not only America's diplomatic priorities but Nigeria's estimation at a time the continent's largest democracy faces staggering domestic problems.

Mr Biden reached out to Africa Thursday after more than a month in office and a flurry of phone calls to American allies around the world.

He spoke to President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, while Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to President Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday.

Mr Biden had earlier spoken to President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa in November 2020, days after his election.

The obvious sidestepping of Nigeria, long seen as an influential regional leader, has not gone unnoticed.

"It's an indication that the United States government doesn't think too much about our performance as a country right now. It's as simple as that," said Jide Osuntokun, professor of History and International Relations at the Osun State-based Redeemer University.

"Many governments outside Nigeria are worried about the future of our country. So it's an indication that you have to do something or the world will pass you by."

Many global leaders traditionally view engagements with their American counterparts, either through telephone calls or visits, as a gauge of their countries' strategic interests with respect to the foreign policies of the world's most powerful nation. They also pay attention to the timing of those interactions.

Former President Barack Obama called 22 world leaders in four days after his election in 2008, while President Donald Trump called 20 within seven days of his election in 2016, according to CNN data.

Mr Biden telephoned 19 global leaders in six days of his election, and as of Tuesday, had spoken to 17 leaders since taking office on January 20, White House releases compiled by PREMIUM TIMES show. The calls were made to close allies such as the United Kingdom and to those with security concerns such as Iraq and to rivals like Russia.

When Mr Biden delayed contacting America's closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, the country took notice. Israel's oldest newspaper, the left wing-leaning Hareetz, warned it was a "wake-up call", and blamed it on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closeness to Mr Trump, and the alienation of the now ruling Democratic Party.

"The White House said Biden would be calling Netanyahu soon. But even after that happens, Israel will need a lot of time to repair the damage he did to the ties with the Democratic Party," the paper said in a February 15 editorial.

Mr Biden's office said it was not a deliberate snub, and Mr Netanyahu argued the U.S. president had not called other Middle East leaders. The two leaders eventually spoke on February 17.

'Unstable and Insecure'

Like Europe and the Middle East where American engagements have almost always followed a pattern - UK or France or Germany, and Israel first - U.S. leaders have for decades contacted mostly the same select group of few African countries.

Their phone calls or visits have been mostly to Egypt and South Africa. Nigeria, which has received three American presidents (Egypt has received the most - 16), has seen a decline with no American president visiting in 18 years.

President Biden has promised increased engagement with Africa after the halfheartedness of the Trump years. His administration's early choice is seen by some as reflective of Nigeria's declining global standing. They worry it may shape future relations with other nations, although others say it is the leadership, not Nigeria, that is on trial.

"If you have a leadership that is not dynamic, that is not global in outlook you will not call such a leader," said Sheriff Folarin, professor of International Relations at Covenant University. "If I were in President Biden's shoes, I will not call the president of Nigeria. I won't call him."

He said that does not mean "I would not have something to do with Nigeria because Nigeria's place in Africa can never be under-emphasised."

In addition to losing its position as a major exporter of crude oil to the U.S., Nigeria has stacked insecurity baggage that afflicts everything from food to foreign investment. The Buhari administration has done little to show leadership, analysts say.

"In the last few years, it's obvious to us Nigerians that we have been punching below our weight internationally. We cannot secure our own territory not to talk of being able to secure our region," Professor Osuntokun said.

"With the instability we have in the country, with the insecurity and the unfortunate appearance of our government not willing to do anything about it, many governments outside Nigeria are worried about the future of our country."

While that happens, relatively smaller African nations appear to be seizing the moment to resolve basic needs like power and critical infrastructure. And they are getting the attention.

Besides President Tshisekedi being the current chairman of the African Union, the DRC remains critical to the U.S. economic interest with its vast mineral resources essential for America's tech industry. The country attracted more foreign direct investment than Nigeria between 2017 and 2019, retaining a place in the top five destinations in the continent, according to United Nations data.

In her call to Mr Tshikekedi, U.S. Vice President Harris spoke about the two countries exploring "economic opportunity" in their two nations.

In his call to Mr Kenyatta, Mr Biden applauded Kenya's leadership in the Horn of Africa and emphasised the U.S. commitment to working closely with the country to support regional peace and security. The two leaders also discussed the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crises in Ethiopia's Tigray region.

Mr Osuntokun hopes Nigerian leaders will read the signs and change the direction of the country.

"Some of us are worried about what is going on. The total breakdown of law and order. We can't travel, even within the country, people are afraid to drive on the highways. And all these things will be communicated to the home governments not only to America but to all the governments that have diplomatic representation here," he said.

"So it's an indication to us that if we want to be taken seriously, we have to make sure that our home is secure and stable."

Mr Sheriff said he was hopeful the country will receive the required attention in future.

"There are many issues Nigeria is contending with at the moment, and you can't just call Nigeria now and say you want to talk about Africa. Nigeria is distracted right now because of its own internal problems," he said.

Read the original article on Premium Times.

Nigeria: British to Slash Aid to Nigeria, Others

6 MARCH 2021

This Day (Lagos)

By Bennett Oghifo

The British government has plans to slash aid to Nigeria and seven other countries in conflict zones around the world, according to a report yesterday by openDemocracy, an independent global media organisation.

The report said the UK government proposed cuts to Overseas Development Aid budget for year 2020/21-21/22 broken down by country shows that Nigeria's aid would be cut by 58 per cent.

Others are: Sahel, 93 per cent; Syria, 67 per cent; Libya, 63 per cent; Somalia, 60 per cent; Democratic Republic of Congo, 60 per cent; South Sudan, 59 per cent; and West Balkans, 50 per cent.

These figures were discussed by senior officials at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) last month according to email correspondence openDemocracy said it saw, "included cutting British aid to Nigeria for the next financial year by 58%, and reducing assistance to the Western Balkans by 50%.

"In recent weeks, senior British civil servants have discussed cutting aid to Syria by two-thirds, from £137m pledged last year to just over £45m this year, despite this week's pledge by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to provide humanitarian assistance to the war-torn Middle Eastern state.

The figures seen by openDemocracy reveal for the first time the scale of British aid cuts, the report said.

"UK aid to Libya could fall by 63% in 2021-22. Assistance to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could fall by roughly 60%. In South Sudan, where millions face catastrophic famine, the UK's aid spend is set to drop from £110m to just £45m.

"British spending in the Sahel region of Africa could also drop by more than 90%, from £340m to £23m. Aid to Lebanon could fall by 88%, although some of this shortfall will be covered by a rise in assistance from other government budgets."

Read the original article on This Day.

Malawi: Govt Includes Journalists in Priority Group for Covid-19 Vaccine

Cyril Ndegeya/The East African

6 MARCH 2021

Media Institute of Southern Africa (Windhoek)

PRESS RELEASE

MISA Malawi is pleased to notify its membership that government has included journalists in the priority group of people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

MISA Malawi engaged the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 through the Ministry of Information requesting that journalists be among essential priority groups in the immunisation process and we are very grateful for the favourable response.

In this arrangement, journalists will be required to carry with them Media Council of Malawi (MCM) accreditation cards or employment identity cards when going to the immunisation centres.

The first 360, 000 doses of AstraZeneca Vaccine arrived in the country on Friday, March 5, 2021 and the government will announce the centres and opening dates.

We would like to encourage all journalists to get immunised as our job involves regular travel and interaction with others thereby putting us at risk of contracting Covid-19.

We also take this opportunity to implore on journalists to responsibly provide coverage on the immunisation rollout and encourage all Malawians to be vaccinated when the opportunity arises.

MISA Malawi would also like to remind journalists and media houses of the earlier arrangement in which journalists can be tested through their media house (s) when and where there are confirmed cases within the media house or there are individuals who have clear symptoms.

We wish to thank the Malawi Government through the Ministry of Information for the support that it continues to render to the media industry as we fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ethiopia: Exclusive - How the UN Drops Tigray Resolution After Second Attempt Failed

6 MARCH 2021

Addis Standard (Addis Ababa)

Addis Abeba — The UN Security Council (UNSC) has dropped issuing a resolution calling for cessation of hostilities and respect for international humanitarian laws in Ethiopia's war- torn Tigray regional state after a second attempt has failed to produce consensus among members states.

On March 04, the council held a closed door meeting after Ireland requested the meeting under Any other Business (AoB). The request came a day after US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is also the current President of the Council for the month of March, introduced the Council's program of work for the month of March. The program included an open debate on hunger focusing on Ethiopia and Yemen, which is scheduled to take place on March 11.

Ireland's request was therefore for a separate discussion on March 04. "Our motivation in raising Tigray at the UNSC is the immediate need for humanitarian access & response, given the urgent needs across the region. Commitments by Ethiopia to provide unfettered access to humanitarian actors are welcome and must be implemented now," the Irish mission to the UN said.

However,unlike the previous three discussions focusing on the crisis in Tigray and held under AoB on November 24 and December 14, 2020, and February 02/2021, member states, including the U.S., U.K. and France from the P5 and Niger, Tunisia and Kenya, the three African non-permanent member states, have all agreed on a resolution calling for cessation of hostilities and respect for international humanitarian laws in the ongoing war in Tigray. They have also agreed to receive a briefing from Mark Lowcock, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, on the humanitarian situation on the ground.

According to a document of his briefing obtained by Addis Standard, Mr. Lowcock told the Council that "it is now abundantly clear to all, and openly acknowledged by officials of the Government administration in Tigray, [that] the Eritrean Defense forces are operating throughout Tigray." He also said that countless well corroborated reports suggest Eritrean forces' "culpability for atrocities" and joined the growing calls from countries including the US and the UK in asking that the "Eritrean Defense forces must leave Ethiopia, and they must not be enabled or permitted to continue their campaign of destruction before they do so." Mr. Lowcock further told the Council members that the "only way through this conflict is dialogue. So I reiterate the Secretary-General's calls for a dialogue process between all parties towards peace and called on all parties to the conflict, including "the Ethiopian Defense Forces, the Eritrean Defense Forces, and ethnic militia from parts of Ethiopia beyond Tigray - must understand that they have [an] obligation under international humanitarian law to grant humanitarian access to people who need assistance, whenever they may be. It is a violation of humanitarian law to prevent humanitarian assistance reaching civilians in need."

Before he concluded his briefing he cautioned the Council that he sees "warning signs in other regions in Ethiopia, including a build-up on the Ethiopian-Sudan border, [and] worsening ethnic conflict in the Benishagul-Gumuz, from where refugees are fleeing to Sudan."

In the closed door discussion that ensued, three of the five permanent member states have agreed on the need for the Council's role to end the conflict. Accordingly, the U.S. took a stand that the crisis in Tigray should no longer be discussed at the Council's AoB, but brought to the regular UNSC agenda. Similarly, the U.K. argued that the Council should play a more active role in ending the crisis, which it said has escalated due to absence of a unified political will. France on its part said the crisis in Tigray was no longer confined in the region but a threat global peace and security.

A draft resolution circulated among member states and viewed by Addis Standard states that "the members of the Council called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and reaffirmed their strong commitment to sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Ethiopia."

But China, Russia and India took out the Council's call for "immediate cessation of hostilities," from the draft, even after it was modified with "an end to violence in Tigray" arguing that it interferes in Ethiopia's internal affairs, which led to deadlock in the first day of the meeting. In a twitter post on the same day, Russia's Foreign ministry has called on the State Department "to stop trying to interfere in other countries' domestic affairs not just in word but in deed. Without considering and respecting its partners' interests, these noble causes will remain simple declarations."

According to well placed diplomatic source who spoke to Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity, after the first day deadlock, the meeting was then referred to a technical level meeting, below the Permanent Representatives, in a second attempt to secure a common statement after the representatives of the three countries - China, Russia and India - said they would like to first consult with their respective governments.

It's in the wake of the first day deadlock that individual member states issued their stand separately, with the strongest one coming from Ambassador Greenfield in which she repeated the US' earlier call for "the Ethiopian government to support an immediate end to the fighting in Tigray... " and for "the prompt withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray" as "essential steps."

"And we urge the broader region to work fast and together towards a peaceful solution. For our part, the United states is committed to working bilaterally and multi laterally to help secure and end to the violence. We are committed to holding the perpetrators of abuses and violations on all sides to account. And we are committed to addressing and assisting with the humanitarian and human rights crisis," Ambassador Greenfield said.

The technical level discussion has continued through March 05. But after their initial objection to both the "immediate cessation of hostilities," and its modified version "an end to violence in Tigray" on grounds of not interfering in Ethiopia's "internal affairs", China, Russia and India, came up with additional objection to the Council's draft statement, which also called for the "need for all parties to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including those related to the protection of civilians and protection against sexual and gender-based violence."

It was the final act which led to the Security Council to drop its attempt to issue a resolution, diplomatic sources told Addis Standard. The focus on the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is now shifted to the upcoming March 11 open debate, which was added in the monthly agenda of the Council under the presidency of Ambassador Greenfield. AS

Read the original article on Addis Standard.

Friday, March 05, 2021

Ethiopia Continues to Make its Case Amid Growing Pressure from the West

March 5, 2021

The meeting this week at the UN security council regarding Ethiopia reportedly ended with no agreement 

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, Demeke Mekonen, briefing ambassadors and diplomats on Friday. (Photo : MAFE)

Borkena

Ethiopia was successful in terms of reversing what was said to be a plan to disintegrate the country by weakening the Ethiopian Defense Force through “preemptive attack.” 

It was with that in mind that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) started an unexpected war, at least at the time it happened, on November 4, 2020, for which it mobilized 250,000 special and militia forces. 

The outcome of the war was a crushing defeat for TPLF. It took only a little over two weeks for the Ethiopian Defense Force to dismantle TPLF military structure, and the entire region where the Ethiopian army was attacked in unsuspecting circumstances, in most cases  when the army in several bases in the region were sleeping, came under the total control of the Ethiopian Defense Force. 

But the image that emerged in the international stage in the post law enforcement, as the Ethiopian government calls it, phase of the development paints Ethiopia in the negative light while concealing the fundamental and immediate causes of it – TPLF. 

Ethiopia is criticized for the humanitarian and human rights situation in the northern part of the country.  

The latest allegation this week came from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It alleged that possible “war crimes” have happened in the Tigray region.  

Still another latest effort to discredit Ethiopia was the discussion that Ireland initiated at the United Nations Security Council. AFP on Thursday reported that member states did not reach agreement regarding the situation in northern Ethiopia. 

Based on reports that cite diplomatic sources, it was after Russia, China and India voted against the agenda item against Ethiopia that the meeting ended in disagreement. 

On the same day, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia condemned US stance on the situation in Ethiopia – a country where the US claimed to have invested a lot – using the hashtag #USInvestsinEthiopia. 

Maria Vladimirovna Zakharova, the Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said “We call on the @StateDept team to stop trying to interfere in other countries’ domestic affairs not just in word but in deed. Without considering and respecting its partners’ interests, these noble causes will remain simple declarations.” 

Had it not been for the three countries mentioned above, perhaps the outcome of the Security Council meeting over Ethiopia could have been different. 

Ethiopia is mobilizing resources, albeit inadequate given the enormity of the challenge, to counter the information war that TPLF personnel and supporters in the diaspora are wagging relentlessly through sponsored contents and lobbyists and what not. 

On Friday, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia announced that Demeke Mekonen, the Minister (he is also deputy prime minister), “briefed Ambassadors and representatives of members of the United Nations Security Council in Addis Ababa on the current situation in Tigray.” 

Humanitarian access and human rights issues were addressed. The government said that so far 3.5 million people in the region have received humanitarian aid and aid organizations are provided unfettered access.  Ethiopia has also invited international expertise to be part of the investigation of the human rights violations in the Tigray region. 

The statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also cited Demeke Mekonen as saying that “journalists and humanitarian workers also need to respect their professional code of conduct.” 

A considerable number of Ethiopians tend to believe that the west,including the United States, is plotting to resuscitate the TPLF as an organization under the guise of humanitarian activity in the region.  

Oromo Liberation Front Takes Queue After OFC, Opted Out of Election

March 5, 2021

The party position is revealed days after Oromo Federalist Congress disclosed that it is not taking part in the Election

OLF chairman, Dawud Ibsa (Photo : File/ENA)

Borkena

The most radical ethnic Oromo Nationalist Party, Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), does not seem to be intending to take part in the upcoming general election. 

A month after saying that it will take part in the election, Dawud Ibsa led party is chaning its mind.

DW Amharic Service on Friday reported that OLF has not yet registered a candidate in the parts of Ethiopia where it was presumed field candidates for the sixth general election. 

Beete Urgesa, who is said to be head of public relation for the party, has confirmed that the party has not registered a single candidate to date. And that, for him, is an indication that Oromo Liberation Front has entirely opted out of the election which is scheduled to take place in May of this year. 

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE)has announced that candidate registration has been completed on Thursday in Addis Ababa,Dire Dawa, Oromia, Harari, Gambella and Benishangul Gumuz.  However, the party extended candidate registration until March 9 following an engagement with opposition parties. 

NEBE said it had to extend the candidate registration date on grounds of transportation problems and delays in the opening of offices, among others. 

Why did the Oromo Liberation Front opt out of Election?

The party alleges  government “pressure” on its members. Moreover, it claimed that its offices are also closed and the situation is not conducive for election related party activities. 

There had been an open controversy for a long time between the Federal government and Oromo regional state on the one hand and Oromo Liberation Front on the other over the latter’s refusal to disarm rebel forces who entered Ethiopia from Eritrea following amnesty by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government. 

The Military wing is still clandestinely operating in some parts of Oromo regional state and Benishangul regional state although Dawud Ibsa led Oromo Liberation Front disowned  it saying it no longer has anything to do with the party.

OLF as a party, however, was implicated in several security incidents that claimed lives including the assassination of ethnic Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa.  According to the government, the party was also working with Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to destabilize the country. 

There has been a reported split within the party over differences in strategies to achieve the party’s goal.  

Karamara Victory 43rd Anniversary Celebrated in Addis Ababa

March 5, 2021

43rd anniversary of Karamara Victory celebrated  at the Ethio-Cuba Friendship center

A partial view of Dilachin Statue (Photo : SM)

Borkena

The 43rd anniversary of Ethiopia’s victory over invading Somali troops at Karamara was on Friday celebrated in the capital Addis Ababa.

It was celebrated near Dilachin Statue at the Ethio-Cuba Friendship center. 

Cuban Ambassador to Ethiopia, and members of the former Ethiopian Defense Force, including military generals, who took part in the war were at the ceremony. 

Last month, a young talent, Wendi Mak, released a single song “Karamara” to commemorate the victory. 

Siad Barre, Somali President who led the country until 1991, aimed at forming “Greater Somalia.” Annexing a large part of the South Eastern part of Ethiopia was part of the mission to make the “Greater Somalia” dream a reality. 

He was encouraged by the internal situation in the country in the immediate aftermath of the Ethiopian Revolution which was marked by, among other things, an intense power struggle between several leftist political organizations and the provisional government under Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam. The country was also facing a secessionist war in Eritrea, then part of Ethiopia. 

Siad Barre’s forces launched invasion Ethiopian territories in July 1977 and occupied Ethiopian territories up to 700 kilometers deep inside Ethiopia. 

Ethiopian dislodged Somalian forces in a major counter offensive and the final victory was achieved at Karamara in March 1978. 

Ethiopia received significant military support from Cuba, Russia and Yemen.  

More than 12,000 Cuban troops fought alongside Ethiopia against the invading Somalian army.  It is in commemoration of Cuba’s contribution that the Ethio-Cuba Friendship center is established near Dilachin (translates to our victory in ) Statue.  

Independence Day Cancellation Slows Down African-made Wears in Sunyani

By Ghana News Agency 

Mar 5, 2021

Traders engaged in smock and other African-made wears in Sunyani on Friday expressed worry about poor sales due to the cancellation of this year’s Independent Day celebration.

They told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) market survey at the Sunyani Central Business District (CBD) on Friday that the cancellation of the celebration of the 64th Independence Day had affected their businesses.

Sales in African print, beads, smock, head scarf, they said had received poor patronage as compared to last year.

Mrs Grace Quaye noted sales in the products had always been attractive during celebrations, but regretted this year’s cancellation had had a huge toll on their businesses.

“Demand for our clothes is always high during independence day celebrations because many customers prefer to buy and wear them on such occasions. The situation is different this year and sales are extremely bad.

“I used to sell more than 10 pieces of African wear and at least four smocks every day on such occasions but this time customers don’t even bother to ask the prices”, she added.

Madam Susana Aryee, a dealer in beads and head scarf noted she had lost most of her customers including; foreigners because of the COVID-19.

“Our only hope was to make sales in this year’s Independence Day celebration only to hear that the government has cancelled the celebration.

“In such occasions many foreigners come to patronage our products but sales are not good at all this season”, she stated.

Ghana: COVID-19 Vaccine is Our Salvation

By Ghana News Agency 

Mar 5, 2021

Dr Darius Osei, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), has described the COVID-19 vaccines procured by the government for the citizenry as “salvation” for the staff of the Centre and the populace.

He said the Centre faced numerous challenges as a result of having to deal with hundreds of COVID-19 patients and how much staff including ten Medical Doctors contracted the disease and were on admission at the facility.

Another challenge was how patients on admission and those received at the Outpatient Department sometimes outweighed the number of staff available to attend to them.

“Today is, therefore, a very glorious day for us because we know UGMC has been in the news for over a year. We’ve had a lot of difficulties. The whole of last year was a year of ambulances with people trooping in with suspected COVID-19 cases. We had to be encouraging our people to face this deadly disease. It hasn’t been easy at all so we were waiting for this day.

“I’m sure with what, my staff have seen and experienced here, they are motivated to take the vaccines and that is why I came to take it first with the Management members. The vaccine is our salvation,” he said.

Mr Osei made the comment when a COVID-19 vaccination exercise was organised for 750 UGMC staff and their clients with underlying medical conditions.

The three-day exercise, which commenced on Thursday, March 4, was also to assure members of the public that the vaccine was safe.\

After receiving the jab, the CEO described it as “painless” and urged the citizenry to take advantage of the vaccine to avoid the virus.

He said the vaccine was going to help to reduce the mortality rate associated with the disease.

Mr Osei cautioned the public not to stop adhering to the COVID-19 safety protocols even after receiving the jab, not to defeat the purpose for, which the vaccines were procured.

Mrs Judith Naa Klorkor Asiamah, the Director, Nursing & Midwifery Services, UGMC, speaking about concerns over the non-usage of gloves for the vaccination, explained that hand gloves were only used when patients had skin rashes or open wounds to safeguard the health personnel administering the vaccine from a possible infectious fluid.

She encouraged people to go in for the vaccination before it got to a point where everyone would be rushing for it, adding that it was safe and there was no cause for alarm’.

Advising nurses and midwives, she said: “I have taken the vaccine and I tell my people that they shouldn’t fear to take it. The saying is leadership by example and I have taken it and I’m very okay, so they should go for it.”