06 February 2023

Seychelles: The Aldabra Atoll a long way south of the inhabited Seychelles islands is a Unesco world heritage site. Plastic waste deposited on its shores is a major threat to erstwhile untouched biodiversity. E.g., “the likelihood of coral disease increases from 4% to 89% when coral are in contact with plastic“. As the article’s authors’ research found, none of the waste comes from other Seychelles islands; instead, lots come from Indonesia and also from India, Sri Lanka and the Philippines – mostly between February and April when winds are favourable for plastic waste disposal on Aldabra beaches. But even more than these far off countries, the fishing industry has been found to be the main (83%) source of the plastic waste on Aldabra beaches. Negotiations for a global plastic treaty tackling plastic pollution are only just starting. Something needs to be done before it can eventually become effective. For Aldabra, a plastic clean-up operation conducted by the Seychelles Islands Foundation in 2019 removed about 25 tonnes of plastic waste. But 500 tonnes remain – their removal may cost 5m USD.

Guinea worm eradication: They were once 3.5 million every year. In 2022, only twelve cases were recorded in the whole world, so Guinea worm is almost gone and could become the second human disease (after smallpox) to be eradicated. But the final step is not easy and needs patience and vigilance. Guinea worms “live in ponds, rivers and creeks all across Africa but are mostly endemic to sub-Saharan Africa.” Drinking water contaminated with copepods (tiny crustaceans) infected with worm larvae is what mostly gets humans infected. A year after infection, the female pregnant worm need to get out and into water to expel her larvae – to do so, she “burrow(s) out through an incredibly painful blister in a process that can take weeks”. There are no vaccines, no medication – you can only treat the wound and extract the worm slowly over weeks of intense pain. Prevention comes in two forms: get people to only drink clean water by equipping them with filtration cloths, filters, chemical water treatments; and stop them from putting their blistered foot into water, thus interrupting the cycle. The challenge for eradication lies in doing this to remaining hidden water sources and also for nomadic and very remote communities.

Mali: The head of the human rights division of the UN peacekeeping mission has been given 48 hours to leave the country. He had allegedly “committed ‘subversive actions’ in his selection of witnesses to testify at UN Security Council briefings on Mali.”
BBC Africa Live 06 February 2023. 4:33

Music of the Afro-Indian Siddi: The Siddi, who now live mainly in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana, were brought from Kenya between the 13th and the 15th centuries. The article is about their creole practices, dances and music called “Dhamaal”, a mixing of ancestral African Muslim and Indian practices. A video of 14’45’’ about Dhamaal by the article’s author can be watched on https://youtu.be/DaEnwQoGFzE.

South Africa & Cannabis: Apartheid’s 1971 anti-drug law was extremely tough. It treated cannabis like stronger and harmful other drugs. Though it was mainly trying to prevent drug use by white youths, it proved harshest on blacks. The post-apartheid’s 1992 Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act continued more or less as before. It was only “(i)n 2017 and 2018 (that) the government’s cannabis policy was successfully challenged in the courts, on grounds of cultural and religious freedom.” This opened up possibilities for commercialising cannabis – but it is unlikely to benefit small black farmers who “now face losing out to corporate interests and the wealthy.”

Floods in Nigeria and Ghana: They have similar reasons: added to “unplanned urbanisation, inadequate drainage systems and waste management and poor physical planning” come increased rains because of climate change. While Nigeria has no concrete policy on flooding nor a national flood risk management framework, Ghana’s laws and policies in that respect are inadequate and poorly implemented. To reduce flood risk, the two countries could cooperate, in terms of research and also in developing the assessment of risks, of reporting procedures and monitoring and warning services.

Ethiopia: More than 3 million in the SNNP region (Southern Ethiopian Nations, Nationalities and People’s region) are called to vote in a referendum whether or not to establish a new “Southern Ethiopia region”. Two previous such referendums have led to the formation of Sidama respectively South-Western Ethiopia regions.
BBC Africa Live 06 February 2023. 8:14

Somaliland: There has been fighting between the army and a militia in the city of Las Anod. This is happening while Somaliland ministers and traditional leaders in Las Anod are trying “to resolve ongoing tensions between the government and the Sool, Sanaag and Cayn communities”.
BBC Africa Live 06 February 2023. 13:31

05 February 2023

South Sudan: The Pope (Jorge Mario Bergoglio), the Archbishop of Canterbury (Justin Welby) and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (Rev Iain Greenshields) had come to the country together on a mission of peace and reconciliation. The Pope ended his visit with an open-air mass celebrated before an estimated 70,000 at the John Garang Mausoleum.