Thursday, 23 January 2020
Thursday, 23 January 2020 11:35

Coronavirus: WHO postpones decision on China

World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday postponed taking a decision on whether the mysterious coronavirus that killed at least 17 people and sickened hundreds of others in China a global health emergency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said physicians need more information and asked the committee which he is leading, which held an emergency meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday to reconvene on Thursday.

Tedros told roughly 150 reporters on a conference call that was delayed for almost two hours while the committee met that “today, there was an excellent discussion during the committee meeting, but it was also clear that to proceed, we need more information.”

Tedros said the emergency committee on Wednesday was split on whether to designate the illness a global health emergency, noting that “WHO has researchers in China collecting data.

“The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence.”

Chinese authorities said many of the patients with the new illness had come into contact with seafood and meat markets, suggesting the virus is spreading from animals to people.

WHO physicians said they found evidence of human-to-human transmission within close contacts, citing family members, and within a health-care environment and that the virus was stable and not showing any kind of unusual activity.

WHO defines a global health emergency, also known as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, as an “extraordinary event” that is “serious, unusual or unexpected.”

The virus that emerged from Wuhan, China, had spread throughout Asia, infecting more than 540 people in China, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan and the Republic of Korea, according to WHO and Chinese state media.

The U.S. had also confirmed its first case on Tuesday, a Washington state man who was travelling in China, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Gostin, a professor and Faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said “WHO does not enact emergencies easily. The international health agency only applied the emergency designation five times since the rules were implemented in mid-2000.

“The last time WHO declared a global health emergency was in 2019 for the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that killed more than 2,000 people.

“The agency also declared global emergencies for the 2016 Zika virus, the 2009 H1N1 swine flu, and the 2014 polio and Ebola outbreaks.”

Published in World
Thursday, 23 January 2020 10:51

AfDB to invest $600m in Africa

The African Development Bank says it has freed up $600 for investment in renewable energy in Africa.

The President, African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who disclosed this in his keynote speech at the UK-Africa Investment Summit, said, “Huge opportunities exist for investment in renewable energy, especially for hydropower, wind, solar, thermal and geothermal.

“But many of these opportunities can’t be realised unless we invest a lot more in project preparation to make the projects bankable. The African Development Bank through its NEPAD infrastructure project preparation facility has helped to mobilise financing for $8.5bn of infrastructure projects.”

The AfDB said the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa, based at the bank, had supported investments in excess of $800m in renewable energy.

He said, “With global climate change, and increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, there is an urgent need to climate proof infrastructure investments.

“The devastating cyclones in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe led to massive destruction of critical infrastructure. The same applies to coastal states, which are more vulnerable to coastal erosion and floods. Infrastructure investment must now be climate-resilient.”

According to Adesina, the bank used a partial risk guarantee to support the Lake Turkana wind power project in Kenya, the largest wind power generation project in Africa, which will produce 300 megawatts of electricity.

“The African Development Bank’s €20m Partial Risk Guarantee essentially backstopped the government of Kenya’s obligations to developers against delays in the construction of transmission lines,” he said.

He noted that the bank launched a $1bn synthetic securitisation that it used to transfer risks on its private sector portfolio assets to the private sector.

Adesina said, “We are currently exploring with the DFID the use of synthetic securitisation for the sovereign portfolio of the African Development Bank. This will be used to transfer sovereign risk to the market, working with insurers and reinsurers in the UK. This could be a huge game changer for how governments can transfer their sovereign risks on infrastructure to the market.

“Because the bulk of infrastructure is financed through foreign loans, and the revenue streams are in local currency, it introduces high financial and forex risks to investors. Using swaps and hedging are effective, no doubt, but more can be achieved by focusing on local currency financing. This will also help with debt sustainability as the bulk of Africa’s external debt is on infrastructure.”

Published in Bank & Finance

Three American crew helping to battle Australia’s devastating bushfires were killed Thursday when their water-bombing plane crashed in mountainous terrain during a sortie to tackle another outbreak of the deadly blazes.

Officials said the Hercules C-130 plane erupted in a large fireball on impact in a national park the Snowy Mountains shortly before 1:30 pm (0230 GMT).

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but New South Wales Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons had said earlier in the day that high winds were making flying the water tankers “very difficult”.

“We’ve got a number of firefighters and a number of crew that are in the area and working to contain and work around the fire,” Fitzimmons said.

The incident brought the death toll in Australia’s bushfires to at least 32 since the crisis began in September.

The highly experienced US firefighting trio was working for Canadian firm Coulson Aviation, which had been contracted to help fight the fires.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the crash highlighted the danger faced by firefighters as they attempted to extinguish massive blazes across Australia’s southeast.

“There are in excess of 70 aircraft that have been used today alone and today is a stark and horrible reminder of the dangerous conditions that our volunteers, (and) our emergency services personnel… (face) on a daily basis,” she said.

The crash happened as at least seven fires, whipped up by scorching temperatures and strong winds, flared to emergency status following a brief lull brought by rain and cooler temperatures.

Bushfires also forced the closure of Canberra Airport Thursday, with all flights in and out of the country’s capital suspended to allow the deployment of aerial firefighting crews to battle the approaching flames.

Temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sydney, where a bushfire also broke out in a northwestern suburb of Australia’s biggest city.

Wind gusts had been forecast to reach 90 kilometres per hour (55 miles per hour) in some areas, but Fitzsimmons said the winds were stronger than expected, especially in the fire-ravaged southeast.

Published in World

The U.S. is moving to add more countries to its travel ban list, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, but gave no other details, saying the changes would be announced soon.

The Trump administration is planning to add seven countries – Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania – to the list, U.S. media reported on Tuesday.

Trump on Tuesday confirmed he plans to expand his travel ban that bars citizens of certain countries from entering the U.S.

He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he is looking to add more countries, though he would not say which ones.

The president’s comments confirm an Associated Press report from earlier this month.

Any additions or alterations to the travel ban would draw immediate legal challenges.

Trump’s openness to expand one of his most controversial policies at the outset of an election year signals that he will seek to rev up his base of supporters and double down on the isolationist ideas that he rode to the White House in 2016.

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling in 2018 upheld a version of the ban that blocked nationals from five Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

The ban applies to people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

The ban upheld by the high court was a watered down version of the original White House proposal, which barred people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan from coming to the U.S. for 90 days and banned all refugees for 120 days.

The proposal drew nationwide protests at airports and other public places from critics who decried it as Islamophobic, Reuters reports.

Published in Travel & Tourism

Angola's billionaire former first daughter Isabel dos Santos has been charged with money laundering and mismanagement during her stewardship of state-owned oil firm Sonangol.

Documents leaked this week alleged the daughter of ex-president Jose Eduardo dos Santos, plundered state coffers to build her fortune, estimated at $2.1 billion.

Isabel dos Santos is accused of mismanagement and embezzlement of funds during her tenure at Sonangol and is thus charged in the first instance with the crimes of money laundering, influence peddling, harmful management ... forgery of documents, among other economic crimes," prosecutor general Helder Pitta Gros told a news conference late Wednesday.

Investigations into Isabel dos Santos's 18-month tenure as Sonangol head from June 2016 were opened after her successor Carlos Saturnino raised the alarm about "irregular money transfers" and other dodgy procedures.

Dubbed Africa's richest woman, Isabel dos Santos is accused of using her father's backing to plunder state funds from the oil-rich but poor southern African country and moving the money abroad with the help of Western firms.

She stopped living in Angola after her father, who ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 40 years, stepped down in 2017 for his anointed successor Joao Lourenco.

Gros said dos Santos was among five suspects, all of whom were currently residing abroad.

"At the moment, the concern is to notify and get them to voluntarily come to justice," said Gros.

 

Published in Business

Young Nigerians make up the largest population of the growing flow of migrants from Africa to developed countries. In 2016, over 20,000 involved in the Mediterranean Sea crossing were reported to be from Nigeria.

In addition, from 2017 until late 2019, hundreds of Nigerian migrants were deported from various destinations including Italy, Libya and South Africa.

These young people embark on very risky journeys across the globe, and casualties continue to increase on a daily basis.

Understanding their reasons for leaving the country is important if Nigeria is going stem the tide.

I conducted a study to establish the extent to which young people aged between 15 and 35 were susceptible to illegal migration and whether they were aware of what it entailed. I also examined the attitudes and survival strategies adopted by irregular migrants returning to Nigeria.

I focused on three groups of migrants who fall into the “irregular migration” category. The first were those who arrived in a country illegally. The second, those who arrived legally – for instance on the basis of tourist or student visas – and then overstayed the period covered by their visas. And finally, asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected and who have not left the country as required.

My findings showed that most young people who migrated under irregular circumstances were motivated by three factors: economic reasons, family dynamics and social media.

Most said they believed that the “end will surely justify the means”. And that they perceived ability to travel abroad as a sign of success.

Research

We conducted interviews with 63 young people who had not yet left the country in four Nigerian cities: Lagos, Ibadan, Ile-Ife and Benin City. We targeted those susceptible to migration. These included those who were unemployed, in their final year at a tertiary-level education institution and those engaged in Nigeria’s compulsory National Youth Service Corps. We also included seven young people who had tried to migrate but had been returned.

We also ran separate focus group discussions for men and women. We chose people on the basis of whether or not they were familiar with the process of irregular migration.

Once in the groups we asked questions to determine their familiarity with the concept of irregular migration. Most said they were. We also established that most were unfamiliar with formal immigration procedures and that more than half did not have a valid passport.

Most knew someone personally who had travelled out of the country through illegal means such as forging a passport, using unauthorised agents, and travelling to “Europe by road” – as irregular migration is referred to in the popular idiom.

Most expressed positive attitudes about irregular migration, stating that the end would justify the means. They all shared the view that migrants were far better off than those who stayed behind because they had access to a better quality of life.

Bola, a 29-year-old female unemployed youth from Osun State, asserted:

Sincerely, those who migrate outside the country often live far better than we in Nigeria. They enjoy constant power supply, good weather, eat good diet and to a reasonable extent, they are secured.

The drivers

Irregular migration tends to fester in the face of economic adversity. Nigeria’s economy is in a bad shape. Unemployment among young people is particularly high at 36.50% in 2018.

In addition, poverty levels have got worse. In 2019, the number of extremely poor Nigerians was estimated at 91.6 million, nearly half of the country’s total population. Nigeria also has 87 million people living in poverty.

This increase is one of reasons Nigerians leave the country in search of “Eldorado”. In other words to find security, work and new ways of life in other countries.

A recent report launched by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on irregular migration echoed my findings. In documenting the experiences of Africans who had migrated to Europe using irregular means, it identifies a lack of opportunity to exert influence on their governments as reasons for migration.

Solutions

Finding answers isn’t easy. For example, some of the recommendations made in the UNDP report, such as creating more incentives for young people at home and expanding legal pathways for migration – come across as rhetoric. Most aren’t new either.

Several suggestions have been put forward by scholars and development bodies. These include: facilitating circular migration between European and African countries, tackling the issues of unemployment and underemployment in countries of origin, and addressing the problems resulting from violence and other forms of political instability.

The common denominator is that all efforts must be designed with the aim of making the home a place people don’t want to leave. And programmes to discourage young people from irregular migration must go beyond deterrence and punishments.

There should also be a concerted effort to challenge the fundamentally erroneous beliefs about migration. This must include demystifying fantasies about life abroad and educating young people about the realities of life as an irregular migrant.

Finally, those who stay home and succeed must be celebrated.

The Conversation

Lanre Ikuteyijo, , Obafemi Awolowo University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
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