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Africa

Ebola detection elicits NEW Concerns; WHO gives risk rating  

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

May 12, 2022 – It’s the news no one wanted to hear, a new Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The World Health Organization broke the news internationally on April 28th.

“A case was confirmed from Mbandaka, Equateur province. The onset of symptoms was on April 5. The case subsequently died on 21 April, and a safe and dignified burial was performed. The second case, a family member, was confirmed on 25 April. As of 27 April, 267 contacts have been identified; other measures, including contact tracing, further investigations, decontamination of households and health facilities, are ongoing.” The WHO said.

The Ebola Virus is present in animals in the DRC and testing confirmed that this outbreak was a spillover from the animal kingdom

The WHO says while there is cause for concern because the first case was not isolated early enough and there was a risk of spread,

“The risk at regional and global level is assessed to be moderate and low respectively.”

Still the WHO says it will continue to monitor the outbreak.  There have been no updates on new cases since April 23.

Africa

Natural Immunity less powerful against new Omicron strains in South Africa as Fifth Wave looms

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Africa, May 19, 2022 – South Africa is undergoing a massive covid surge with cases jumping by 50 percent in just 24 hours on May 5th. 9,757 new cases were reported on the 5th, 3,587 more positive results than the 6,170 recorded the day before.  For context, on April 5th, a month earlier 1538 new infections were recorded.

Since that 50 percent increase on May 5th daily new infections have consistently been above 2,900 reaching as high as 10,017 on May 11th. South Africa recorded over 86,000 new cases and over 550 deaths between May 5th and 16th in a time frame of less than 2 weeks.

Vaccine uptake in South Africa is below slightly above 50 percent with only 35 million fully vaccinated individuals in a population of more than 59 million.

Shabir Mahdi, a scientist leading vaccine trials in the country had suggested that natural immunity was what was helping with lower hospitalizations when omicron initially appeared in the country.

This latest increase however, is being driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub variants, which may be more adept at evading natural immunity.

In a study carried out by the Africa Health Research Institute blood samples from people infected with omicron but unvaccinated, when tested against BA.4 and BA.5, neutralizing antibodies which fight Covid were eight times lower. In people who contracted omicron and were vaccinated it was three times lower.

The study has not yet been peer reviewed but the researchers say, “The low absolute neutralization levels for BA.4 and BA.5, particularly in the unvaccinated group, are unlikely to protect well against symptomatic infection,”

“This may indicate that… BA.4 and BA.5 have potential to result in a new infection wave.”

That study was carried out back in January when the variants were first detected.

When the Omicron fueled fourth wave hit South Africa in 2021 cases in the United States, Canada and parts of Europe quickly followed. BA.4 and .5 have been detected in the US, Canada, China and parts of Europe.

On May 12th the BA.4 and.5 variants were both upgraded to variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Control.

The ECDC says variants of concern are ones for which, “clear evidence is available indicating a significant impact on transmissibility, severity and/or immunity that is likely to have an impact on the epidemiological situation in the EU/EEA.”

The possible spike in cases comes one year and five months since the first COVID jabs in the world were administered in the UK and the US,  one year and four months since the first vaccine was administered in the Turks and Caicos.

Though boosters have been available in many countries worldwide booster campaigns have not been as effective as initial vaccination campaigns. Without the stretched protection of boosters many more people may remain vulnerable to this building wave of BA.4 or BA.5 vaccines.

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Africa

COP15 Announces:  Great Green Wall to span African countries

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Africa, May 14, 2022 – An 8000km long and 15 km wide mosaic, made completely of trees, grassland and vegetation; this Great Green Wall, (GGW) which is the brainchild of the African Union, is only one of the objectives of  COP15, as it sounds the alarm about desertification.

The lesser known, but no less important twin conference  to COP26 is now ongoing in Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa. Like COP26, focus is on climate change for the 15th Conference of the Parties.  The plan is to slow desertification of arable land worldwide.  Desertification as the name suggests is, “the process by which fertile land becomes a desert typically as a result of drought deforestation or inappropriate agriculture.”

Launched in September 2020 and projected to take 10 years once the GGW is complete it will, amazingly, stretch across the entire width of the continent Africa,  the second largest continent,  and will be the largest living structure on the planet.

When complete the Great Green Wall will cover 100 million hectares of what organizers hope will become formerly degraded land.

The African continent is particularly affected by desertification, especially in its Sahelian band.

The GGW will reach across that band  specifically through Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

The 196 UN Member States in attendance received updates on the GGW and figure out how best to move past challenges.

COP15 has seen UN Member States pledge to restore over 1 billion hectares of degraded land worldwide.

The meeting started on May 9.

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Africa

ZeeMoney; from Ghana to Barbados

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Ghana, February 9, 2022 – Financial Tech has revolutionized the way we do banking, from contactless cards to instant transfers.  The Caribbean has often been just a step behind the rest of the west but with a Ghana based financial company planning to introduce a new mobile wallet to Barbadians, the region might be catching up.

The company called Zeepay is partnering with a Barbadian financial tech company called Global Integrated Fintech solutions (GIFTS) to launch Zeemoney, a mobile wallet that will allow Barbadians to receive remittances from MoneyGram anywhere and transfer funds to other persons using Zeemoney.

“We believe with the expertise we will be able to change and diversify your market significantly and through that process build a playbook that will help us reach the entire Caribbean, starting with Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and then of course, the wider Caribbean,” said Andrew Takyi-Appiah CEO of the Zeepay company.

International money transfer services like PayPal and Zelle have, in the past, skipped over the Caribbean and Latin America preferring to cater to European countries despite the largely untapped remittance market in the Caribbean; so this move is a significant stride.

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