27 May 2022

Polio: The global eradication programme has run into trouble. A case of wild poliovirus in Malawi in February and another connected one in Mozambique a few weeks after are not the only wild poliovirus cases. Add to that the vaccine-derived poliovirus cVDPV which is also threatening the elimination effort (the oral vaccine contains live attenuated virus and can, on occasion, mutate and cause the disease that it is meant to prevent). Total eradication, that seemed so close (with poliovirus type 1 now endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan) has become elusive, with Covid, the wars in Yemen and Ukraine adding to the problem. There is even debate whether the great cost of total eradication is worth it, whether the money would not be better spent on other interventions that threaten many more lives. An in-depth overview.

Ethiopia: In what apparently is a crackdown on critical voices, 13 reporters and media workers have been arrested over the past week. This comes simultaneously with a “law enforcement operation” in the Amhara region where at least 4,500 people were arrested according to the authorities. Last year already, Ethiopia had been termed “one of the worst jailers of reporters” by the Committee to Protect Journalists (US-based).
BBC Africa Live 27 May 2022. 8:20

Gambia/USA: A 3.5m USD mansion at Potomac, Maryland has been seized by the US because it was bought by former Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh with corruption proceeds through a trust set up by his wife. The mansion will likely be sold and the money “used to benefit the people of The Gambia harmed by former President Jammeh’s acts of corruption and abuse of office”.
BBC Africa Live 27 May 2022. 4:39

South Sudan: As recommended by an expert panel and because of “‘persistent ceasefire violations’ and rising violence in the country”, the Security Council of the United Nations has extended the arms embargo first imposed in 2018 for another year.
BBC Africa Live 27 May 2022. 9:06

Eritrea: A reporter of Economist magazine reports from the capital Asmara that “(c)afes are mostly empty, shop shelves are almost bare and chemists are running low on supplies”. In the Tigre war, Asmara has been supporting Addis Ababa against its arch-enemy, the Tigrayan TPLF (its neighbour) which the Eritrean President absolutely wants “diminished in force”.
BBC Africa Live 27 May 2022. 10:59

Covid/South Africa: A study based on blood donors has found that 98% of South Africans have some Covid antibodies – has either been infected by Covid or vaccinated against it. Black donors are more likely to have been infected, white donors more likely to have been vaccinated – “white donors are both unusually likely to avail themselves of vaccination, and they are unusually able to avoid exposure, for instance by working predominantly from home, [and] living in smaller family units”
BBC Africa Live 27 May 2022. 14:29

Sudan/Women: The Irish NGO Front Line Defenders today Friday announced that Amira Osman Hamed will obtain the Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. A women’s rights defender for more than two decades, now in her 40s, though arrested several times, she “never deterred from her mission and actively participated in peaceful demonstrations”.
BBC Africa Live 27 May 2022. 11:44

Malawi: The Central Bank has announced a 25% devaluation of the kwacha, Malawi’s currency. It seems that the exchange rate had been kept artificially high. The Central Bank said the devaluation had nothing to do with ongoing negotiations with the IMF for assistance.
BBC Africa Live 27 May 2022. 15:23

26 May 2022

Malaria: Africa bears 94% of cases and 96% of deaths. Of the latter, there are estimated to have been 600,000 globally in 2020. Resistance of the parasites against drugs and diagnosis is increasing and mosquitoes are becoming more resistant to insecticides. Vaccines look promising. Using artificial light to disturb anopheles’ nightly feeding pattern could add one more arrow to our anti-malaria arc. But the technique is not ready yet – it needs further research and, if thought propitious, applied in real life.

Lesotho: The country’s 2014 political crisis was resolved by means of national dialogue (supported by the international community) and mediation by SADC (Southern African Development Community). But crucial reforms have still not been voted into law – though there is agreement about the content of such reforms (curtailing floor-crossing after elections; two-thirds instead of one-half majority necessary for impeaching the prime minister; appointment of high officials and ambassadors by the prime minister based on merit, not just political affiliation; the king to be the army’s commander-in-chief; etc.) – and this is becoming urgent as general elections will be held in October. The law still being at the committee stage, elections may have to be postponed to make passing of the law before them possible. On top of this, the security sector also needs to be depoliticised – and that before the elections.