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The study has not yet been peer reviewed but the researchers say, “The low absolute neutralization levels for BA.4 and BA.5, particularly in the unvaccinated group, are unlikely to protect well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

Africa

Child harvesting case ends with 35 rescued in Nigeria

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Nigeria, June 25, 2022 – Thirty-five teenagers have been rescued from what Nigerian police are describing as a “baby factory”.

Police in Anambra say acting on intelligence they raided a hotel and discovered that the teens between 14 and 17 were being held by adults in a child abuse and baby trafficking ring.  Four of the girls were pregnant.  The Police arrested three persons and confiscated three pump action guns and 877 thousand Naira, which is equal to $2,117 USD.

One of the young women, with her face turned away from the camera, explained how she had ended up in the hotel.

“She [the hotel owner] lied to me that she is going to carry me to a house.  So when I came there I saw some people wearing short-short clothes.  She said that is the job that I’m going to do.  When I started crying the woman beat me”

The teen said the woman told her she would have to stay for 3 months to repay a debt.  Every Monday they would get some change to buy food but that was it.

Child harvesting is becoming a more and more serious problem in Nigeria, another ‘baby factory’ usually businesses posing as private medical clinics, orphanages, or even social welfare homes, was discovered just last July.  The ‘factories’ feed into the human trafficking industry and baby breeding is one of the most common crimes in Nigeria according to Human Rights Pulse a human rights volunteer agency that dissects various human rights issues around the world.

In a video released after the incident press officer, Ikenga Tochukwu pleaded with parents, “Always create a deliberate relationship with children or your wards, if these kids are properly guided, I do not believe they will fall prey to what we are seeing today.”

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Africa

Rwanda Sisters ask Prince Charles for Help; puts President Kagame in negative spotlight

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#Rwanda, June 25, 2022 – As the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting heads to Rwanda on June 20th two young women have an appeal for Prince Charles and the other heads of state. “Don’t shake hands with the tyrant who kidnapped our father.”

In an article of the same name published by CNN, Carina and Anaïse Kanimba urge the heads of state to hold Rwandan President Paul Kagame accountable for what they say is his record of human rights abuses and the kidnapping of their father, Paul Rusesabagina.  Rusesabagina is the real man behind the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and is recognized as a hero of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 he saved more than 1200 lives by keeping them safe in his hotel.

He has been a longtime critic of Paul Kagame who has been accused of altering election results.  Then in August 2020, he disappeared. The girls explained how their father was, “Lured from our home in San Antonio, Texas, through Dubai, where he was tricked into boarding a flight to Kigali.  An agent of the Rwandan Government, posing as a Bishop, asked our father to come to Burundi and speak to church groups about reconciliation. Having boarded a plane in Dubai expecting to fly to Burundi, he was drugged, waking only to realize he had landed in Kigali, Rwanda — a place to which he would never voluntarily return.”

The girls say he was tortured forced to make a false confession and sentenced to 25 years in prison.  His daughters reject the accusations and they are backed by the United Nations, The United States, and several other high-profile human rights agencies and countries.  They describe the recent deal between the UK and Rwanda as heartbreaking.

Rusesabagina, a cancer survivor, has allegedly suffered untreated strokes while in detention and his daughters say they are desperate.

“The Prince of Wales and other CHOGM leaders can choose to focus on their shared values and principles and push those members who do not uphold those values in practice to do so. This includes Kagame & #39;s Rwanda. Although Prince Charles is not a political figure, he can seek dialogue behind closed doors, or even ask to visit our father…we urge the Prince of Wales and all of the other leaders assembled not to stay silent and to ask Kagame to provide our father with a compassionate release now, before it is too late.”

That Rusesabagina was kidnapped by Rwandans is not far-fetched. Human Rights Watch, a UN agency, says between 2010 and 2017, they found evidence that Rwanda’s military “frequently arbitrarily detained and tortured people, beating them, asphyxiating them, using electric shocks, and staging mock executions in military camps”. They also maintained that most of the detainees were “forcibly disappeared” and held without communication with their families for months on end in “deplorable conditions.”

Rwanda has hundreds of documented cases of human rights abuses and just last year 99 UN Member Countries during a review of its human rights records found so many irregularities that they made 284 recommendations to improve the state of human rights in the country.

The United Kingdom was one of the 99 countries that admitted Rwanda had serious gaps in its upholding of human rights, which makes the decision to ship refugees there nothing short of baffling.

In fact not only did the UK recommend fixes to shortcomings in how Rwanda handles human trafficking victims they also recommended the country.

“Conduct transparent, credible, and independent investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture, and bring perpetrators to justice.”

Rwanda did not accept these recommendations, merely marking them as ‘noted.’  So far Prince Charles has not responded to the girl’s letter and the world will have to wait until

June 20th to see the outcome of the visit.

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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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