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Giving Children a Fighting Chance against Malaria

Fight against Malaria

Malawi is rolling out a malaria vaccine pilot programme for children in a bid to prevent the disease which kills hundreds of thousands across Africa each year. The RTS,S vaccine, the first to give partial protection to children, trains the immune system to attack the malaria parasite, which is spread by mosquitos. After more than three decades in development and almost $1bn in investment, the cutting-edge vaccine is being rolled out in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe followed by Kenya and Ghana in the coming weeks. Children between 5 months and 2 years of age will be inoculated and, according to the WHO, the vaccine will reach some 360,000 children a year until the end of 2022 across the three countries. Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were selected for the pilot introduction due to the high number of malaria cases they record. The protein-based RTS,S vaccine went through five years of clinical trials on 15,000 people in seven countries. In one clinical trial, children who received doses of the vaccine had a lower chance of developing malaria and severe malaria, the WHO says. A study showed that the innovative vaccine prevented about four in 10 malaria cases among children and “overall, there were 29 percent fewer cases of severe malaria in children who received the vaccine.”


Imam Training to Help Sub-Saharan Countries Facing Militancy

Imam Training

Every year 100 women are admitted to study for up to three years at the Moroccan Muslim teaching institute in Rabat, run by Morocco’s ministry of religious affairs. Morocco, which is nearly 100 percent Muslim, has marketed itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy – and has offered training to imams and male and female preachers of Islam from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam. It currently trains 1,300 people mostly from the sub-Sahara nations of Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Guinea, Gambia and Chad, where Al Qaeda and Islamic State are active. Students at the institute receive $208.33 a month in addition to free accommodation, plane tickets, and health insurance. Admission criteria include having a Bachelor university degree. The curriculum covers Islamic studies along with philosophy, history of religions, sexual education and mental health. “We show them that the concepts of democracy and human rights serve purposes rooted in Islamic values,” said institute director Abdeslam Lazaar.


Counterfeit Medicines Circulating in African Countries

Counterfeit Medicines in Africa

Last month the World Health Organization’s Global Surveillance and Monitoring System for Substandard and Falsified Medical Products issued an alert over the circulation of confirmed fake meningitis vaccines in Niger. WHO called for increased vigilance at all levels of the supply chain—particularly in West Africa after it was discovered the meningitis vaccine’s batch number and expiry date did not correspond to genuine manufacturing records. In the same month, WHO warned of the circulation in Cameroon of fake hypertension drugs; that had been found to contain glibenclamide instead of hydrochlorothiazide, these have adverse effects reported for patients who took them. Genuine hydrochlorothiazide is used as an antihypertensive and diuretic medicine, whereas glibenclamide is an antidiabetic medicine. This alert came at a time the Cameroon Customs had just seized thousands of drugs of questionable quality. The proliferation of substandard and fake drugs in Africa is complex, making its understanding difficult. But initiatives to roll back the scourge whose impact remains extremely damaging are coming to the fore. In 2018, Tanzania was commended for reaching an important milestone, being the first confirmed country in Africa to achieve a well-functioning, regulatory system for medical products. Franck Verzefé, a Cameroonian pharmacist, developed True-Spec, a portable device that uses artificial intelligence called RAI (Real Active Ingredient) to enable hospitals, pharmacies, pharmaceutical laboratories and quality control centers verify if certain drugs are genuine.


One of West Africa’s more Peaceful and Moderate Countries in the Grips of Terror

Bartiébougou Terror

Like much of eastern Burkina Faso, the government has no control over what happens in Bartiébougou; local militants, backed by West African extremist groups, do. Over the past two years the authorities have lost control of large regions to a spreading insurgency. Conflict has escalated dramatically, researchers say. Over the past five months, the civilian death toll has risen by 7,000% compared with the same period last year. Much of the east has been carved up under several local leaders, allied with Ansarul Islam, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel (ISGS), and Mali’s al-Qaida affiliated Nusrat al-Islam (JNIM). There appears to be no conflict between the factions; according to Savadogo, they use the same techniques, meaning they probably have common trainers. No outsiders can openly enter these areas so it is unclear whether the extremist groups give instructions as well as supplies. The Bartiébougou resident, who for his safety cannot be named, said the town has been revitalised by the armed men, formerly local farmers and herders. Foreigners have been chased out of nearby gold mines. The solar panel trade is booming: the electricity provider cannot get to Bartiébougou to deliver bills, so has cut the supply.


Why Agriculture is often Unattractive for African Youths

African Youths and Farming

Agriculture is best suited to provide a great many jobs as it can absorb much labour, and because prospering farms trigger employment opportunities in the rest of the economy. To lure young people into farming, policymakers and development actors emphasise the need for modern technology, including agricultural mechanisation. But surprisingly little is known about the opinion of young people in rural areas. Few have asked them what farming and rural areas need to look like to be more attractive. Researchers spoke to young respondents who emphasised more low-tech solutions such as increasing farm diversity, having water wells and using draught animals, which is already an advantage over manual labour. This suggests that policymakers and development practitioners need to pay more attention to the actual aspirations of young people in rural areas to avoid well-intended but misguided policies. In addition, the findings suggest that there is a need for several policies to reflect several types of young people in rural areas.


Ethiopian Football Gets the German Touch

Ethiopian Football

German champion football club Bayern Munich has signed an agreement to open its first soccer school in Africa, locating it in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. FC Bayern Munich says that it is inspired by the young football players and fans in Ethiopia, which is ranked 150th worldwide, according to the international soccer governing body, FIFA. “Two-thirds of the Ethiopian population is younger than 25 years. We will support the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF) in terms of young development and coaches education programs,” Holger Quest, team leader of media operations at FC Bayern Munich. The international FC Bayern Youth Cup tournament took place in Nigeria in 2018 and 2019. The success of the tournament led to the idea to give young athletes around the world a way to showcase their talents, and include those players from disadvantaged areas. The soccer school would accept 30-40 young athletes aged of 8-10, with their training costs covered by Bayern Munich.


Investigating the Mysterious Deaths of Hippos in Protected Areas

Deaths of Hippos in Africa

The bodies of at least 28 hippopotamuses have been found in Ethiopia’s national park in the southwest of the country. The semi-aquatic mammals died in the Gibe Sheleko National Park, a part of the Gibe River, between April 14 and 21 and the cause of their deaths is presently unknown. The Gibe Sheleko National Park, was only established in 2011, is reportedly home to about 200 hippos and covers approximately 36,000 square kilometers in land area. Although the cause of death of the hippos remains unclear, the animals are described as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN). Hippo populations are threatened by poaching, disease, loss of habitat, deforestation, and pollution, according to experts. They are hunted by poachers who export their long canine teeth from African countries to places such as Hong Kong and the United States where they serve as substitutes for elephant tusks, says the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.


Algeria Goes After the Country’s Richest Man in Graft Probe

Algerian billionaires graft

Five Algerian billionaires, some of them close to former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika who quit over mass protests, have been arrested as part of an anti-graft investigation. The five are Issad Rebrab, considered the richest businessman in the energy-rich North African nation, who is especially active in the food and sugar refining business, and four brothers from the Kouninef family. Rebrab is chair of the family-owned Cevital firm, which imports raw sugar from Brazil and exports white sugar to Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. The Kouninef family is close to Bouteflika, who ruled Algeria for 20 years.


Egypt’s Food Challenge: A Good Effort But Not Enough

Egypt’s Food Challenge

A 2018 UNICEF report on Egypt explains maternal and child malnutrition are influenced by inadequate dietary intake and disease. The report further states that inadequate dietary intake refers to poor access to “a balanced diet among the poorest sections of society, as well as poor dietary habits, lifestyle and lack of nutritional awareness across the population, as opposed to issues of food availability.” It also notes that not being able to optimise breast feeding plays a role in this. In addition, poor sanitation and hygiene are also underlying causes of malnutrition. On the other hand, the undernourishment rate in the total Egyptian population between 2014 and 2016 was less than five percent according to the World Food Programme. Undernourishment, according to FAO, is “an estimate of the proportion of the population whose habitual food consumption is insufficient to provide the dietary energy levels that are required to maintain a normal active and healthy life.”  The prevalence of five percent is the same as most industrialised countries, showing that the situation is not as critical as in sub-Saharan Africa. In Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, for instance, one in every three people is undernourished. But the problem lies not only with Egypt. All Arab countries face complex food challenges, as identified by the Food Sustainability Index (FSI), developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCF). Overall, the picture of food security in Egypt appears positive and negative at the same time. The situation must be kept under control by authorities, farmers and all Egyptians themselves.


[WATCH] The Throttle Queens Take on East Africa

Kenyan women bikers

Six Kenyan women bikers have been riding across East Africa to raise awareness about road safety. Road accidents in the region are a serious problem, claiming scores of lives every year. Pot-holed and narrow urban roads are as dangerous as the highways on which most drivers break all the traffic rules. Thankfully, the bikers have made it safely to Rwanda, the last country on their itinerary.


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