Food security fear in Africa

NEARLY 70 per cent of people across Africa said food and water would be a problem if they were required to remain at home for 14 days – and more than half would exhaust their money, according to an Ipsos survey released recently.

The survey included nearly 21000 people from 28 cities in 20 African countries on potential Covid-19 stay-at-home measures. The results were released in global virtual conference hosted online by the World Economic Forum.
Among the countries surveyed were South Africa, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the UK and US.
Two weeks ago, income decreased significantly for 13% of the respondents in South Africa.
The survey was done in two waves, the first on March 25-26 before stringent restrictions were imposed on movement and business and the second on April 11-12.
The waves showed that South Africa’s respondents stocked up on food and other household goods as a result of the pandemic.
In the first wave, 54.59 per cent stocked up, while 64.68 per cent did so during the second.
Chief executive of public affairs at Ipsos Darrell Bricker explained that it was a substantial research project that had to be conducted speedily to assist them in their battle with the coronavirus.
World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti, said people who were food insecure were not able to earn their daily bread at a household level.
Director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention John Nkengasong said unique attention needs to be devoted to the issues of food security.
“The committee that is governed by the AU Commission Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture, are taking this seriously,” he added.
Tatjana von Bormann from World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa said there were three components to food security in the country—there are less than 30000 commercial farmers versus more than 2 million small-scale farmers, social issues were clear signs that the system is under strain and in the environment, food production resulted in transformation of natural environments. The Food Flow initiative supports small-scale farmers and food producers by buying their harvest that would have gone to restaurants, hotels and airlines, among other places.
They have been redirecting food into areas experiencing food insecurity, since founded in March by Iming Lin and Ashley Newell.
They work in the Cape Metro and Winelands, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.
Spokesperson for the Western Cape department of social development Joshua Chigome said: “The department made additional funding available for food relief programmes.”

Africa records 9,106 COVID-19 recoveries

As the world battles the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Africa has recorded 9,106 COVID-19 recoveries from its 30,329 confirmed cases in 52 African countries.

Data from the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), shows that as at 9 a.m. East Africa Time on April 26, the continent had recorded 1, 374 COVID-19 deaths.

The breakdown of the cases by regions, reveal that the Northern Africa region with 12,479 cases has the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases; Western region 7,373; Southern 4, 698; Eastern 3,127 and Central 2,652 cases.

Recoveries of COVID-19 patients by regions, shows that the Northern Africa region with 3,361 cases has the highest COVID-19 recoveries; Western region 2,283; Southern 1,553; Eastern 1,076 and Central 833 recoveries.

However, mortality figure by region, indicates that the Northern Africa region with 926 cases has the highest COVID-19 deaths; Western region 185; Southern 100; Eastern 71 and Central 92 deaths.

South Africa with 4,361 cases has the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa, Algeria with 1,479 has the highest recoveries of COVID-19 cases, followed by South Africa and Egypt with 1,473 and 1,114 recoveries respectively.

Countries with no COVID-19 mortality are Central Africa Republic; Chad; Sao Tome & Principe; Eritrea; Madagascar; Seychelles, Rwanda; South Sudan, Uganda, Mozambique, Namibia; and Guinea-Bissau.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Africa recorded its first COVID-19 case on Feb. 14 in Egypt.

Since then, considerable efforts had gone into fighting COVID-19 in Africa and worldwide, with African countries using lessons from the Ebola outbreak to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the continent.

Minister of Petroleum of the Republic of South Sudan joins OPEC, Russia, and Saudi Arabia to stabilise the Oil Market

nile explorer south sudan

Hon. Puot Kang Chol, Minister of Petroleum of South Sudan, joined its other OPEC and OPEC+ counterparts today to agree on a historic deal to cut 9.7 million barrels of oil per day of supply starting May 1st, 2020.

The agreement is historic in nature and should enable oil market to rebalance and keep prices stability until at least 2022.

“South Sudan is East Africa’s only producing country. Our production was over 350, 000 bpd before the civil war and following continuous efforts to put damaged fields back into production, we are currently producing about 185 000 bopd. Our target is to attract more investment into our oilfields to get our nation back to a production level of 300 000 bpd” stated Hon. Puot Kang Chol.

“The current price war and the coronavirus pandemic have affected our economy and prospects for investments so we naturally welcome all efforts to stabilize the oil market and the Republic of South Sudan will continue to play its role in ensuring market stability for the benefit of all stakeholders,” he added. “Our government will continue doing its utmost best in meeting the oil production adjustment targets and in fighting the coronavirus. These are priorities and we will continue collaborating with all our partners to preserve the interests of our industry and our economy,” he concluded.

Along with other African producing countries, South Sudan has been a key supporter of the Declaration of Cooperation and OPEC+ since 2016. Today, OPEC and OPEC+ member countries have decided to cut oil production by 9.7 million barrels a day starting on May 1st, 2020 and until June 30th, 2020. From July 1st, 2020, production cuts will be readjusted to 8 million barrels a day until the end of the year. Finally, OPEC and OPEC+ member countries have agreed on a production cut of 6 million barrels a day from January 1st, 2021 until the end of April 2022.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Energy Chamber.
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Chinese experts arrive to help Nigeria in coronavirus fight

A team of Chinese medical professionals on Wednesday arrived at Abuja’s Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Nigeria flying in medical equipment worth about 1.5 million US dollars.

The Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Zhou Pingjian, whiles welcoming the 15-man team said it is time to “reciprocate the friendship and kindness” offered by Nigeria.

The value of the equipment, medical supplies is about $1.5 million, and including the other cost like the chartered air flight, it’s around $2 million, the ambassador disclosed.

China where the COVID-19 disease was discovered in late 2019 has dispatched medics and supplies across the globe in a soft power push. The government placed the team into mandatory 14-day quarantine before they can start their duties.

The decision to welcome the Chinese doctors has however prompted a backlash from the Nigerian Medical Association which argued that Nigeria did not need external intervention to manage the ongoing pandemic. But top government officials including the Health Minister defended the deployment stressing that the Chinese team will help advise local authorities on handling the pandemic.

Minister Osagie Ehanire told reporters: “This is a global problem, you know that this is affecting the whole world in such a way that all countries must help each other and we must also be our brothers keeper.”

Nigeria as of April 9 has recorded 276 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with and six deaths. The West African country is the continent’s most populous and is classed highly vulnerable to the spread of the virus due to its weak healthcare system.

The country has already received medical supplies, including masks, gowns and testing kits from China’s richest man Jack Ma.

Meanwhile the opposition People Democratic Party, PDP, kicked against what it called the importation of Chinese medics.

A statement released by the main opposition party on Wednesday read in part: “The PDP charges Nigerians to hold President Buhari responsible should there be any upsurge in the rate of COVID-19 infection and death in our country following the importation of doctors from China, the epicenter of the scourge, by the Buhari-led Federal Government.

“The PDP is alarmed that President Buhari ignored the protests by Nigerians and professional bodies including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and allowed the importation of the Chinese doctors despite warnings that bringing in doctors from the hotbed of the plague will expose our citizens to further risks.

“This is even as Nigerians across board have continued to question the status, identity and interest of the Chinese doctors as well as the safety of kits and equipment from China, particularly following scary reports of escalation of the scourge in certain countries reportedly after the arrival of Chinese medical personnel in those countries.”

Lesotho First Lady charged with murder

Lesotho police on Tuesday charged first lady Maesaiah Thabane with murder for her alleged links to the brutal 2017 killing of the prime minister’s previous wife.

Maesaiah Thabane, 42, will spend the night in custody after she came out of hiding and turned herself into the police earlier on Tuesday.

“She has been charged with murder alongside eight others who are in Lesotho and South Africa,” deputy police commissioner Paseka Mokete told reporters, adding that investigations had been “satisfactorily completed”.

He said police had a “strong case” against the first lady, who was unable to appear in court on Tuesday due to logistical reasons.

The eight other accused will also be summoned by the police.

Maesaiah Thabane went missing last month after being summoned as part of an investigation into the killing of Lipolelo Thabane — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s estranged wife.

The couple was involved in bitter divorce proceedings when she was gunned down outside her home in Lesotho’s capital Maseru in June 2017, two days before her husband’s inauguration.

New evidence surfaced in early January when a letter from Lesotho’s police chief was made public alleging that communication records from the day of the crime picked up the prime minister’s mobile number.

Thomas Thabane, who is now 80, has since bowed to pressure and offered to resign at a date not yet disclosed. He has also been questioned by the police over the killing.

But his current wife vanished when the police called her in to testify last month, prompting the issuing of an arrest warrant.

The prime minister’s press attache did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the murder charge.

The murder of 58-year-old Lipolelo Thabane sent shock waves through the tiny mountain kingdom, which is ringed by South Africa and has a long history of political turmoil.

Senior members of the ruling All Basotho Convention (ABC) party have accused the prime minister of hampering investigations into the killing.

Thabane last month said he would leave office on the grounds of old age but gave no time frame for his departure.

Hundreds of opposition supporters marched through the streets of Maseru on the day the prime minister was quizzed by police, demanding he step down with immediate effect.

Maesaiah Thabane was picked up on the border with South Africa following an arrangement between her lawyer and the police

Zimbabwean billionaire pays striking doctors to return to work

Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN)

Striking medics in Zimbabwe have agreed to go back to work after billionaire Strive Masiyiwa offered a US$6.25m fellowship to help ease doctors’ welfare in the country.

Junior doctors in the country’s public hospitals downed tools in September to protest poor wages which had been worsened by the Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.

Two months later, the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA) joined their colleagues, saying they could no longer cope with the poor working conditions and the dire state of health facilities in the country.

Monthly allowances

Masiyiwa’s fellowship through his family’s HigherLife Foundation has brought an end the wage impasse between the striking unions and the government, at least for now.

The HigherLife Foundation Medical Doctors Fellowship will give monthly allowances to doctors working in the nation’s public hospitals for the next six months, the foundation said in a statement released to CNN.
It also includes free transport vouchers for beneficiaries during working days and on-call duties.

Masimba Ndoro from the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, which represents 600 doctors working at 1,600 government-run hospitals and clinics across the country, said half of its members have already enrolled for the fellowship.

However, nothing has changed, he said.

“Nothing really has changed based on the fact that the tools of trade and drugs are still inadequate, and remuneration still is inadequate,” Ndoro told CNN.

“Putting the patient first, we are furthering our commitment to supporting our healthcare system and enabling more people to receive the critical care they need and deserve,” HigherLife said.

The doctors union had described the deplorable state of health hospitals as a “silent genocide.”

They complained that they lacked basics like bandages, syringes, and medicines to carry out their duties.

The doctor’s association said it would continue to engage the government for a long-lasting solution to the dispute.

Militants kill 36 people in northern Burkina Faso

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Militants attacked a market in Burkina Faso’s Sanmatenga province, killing at least 36 people and wounding several others, the government said Tuesday.

The gunmen then burned the market, according to a government statement.

The violence is the latest in a surge of attacks in the West African nation’s north that led to the displacement of more than half a million people last year.

The government urged people to collaborate with defense and security forces to restore safety.

President Roch Marc Kabore called for two days of national mourning beginning Wednesday for the victims of the attack.

For years, Burkina Faso was spared the kind of Islamic extremism that affected neighboring Niger and Mali, where it took a 2013 French-led military intervention to dislodge jihadists from power in several major towns.

Militants staged a January 2016 attack in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, that killed at least 30 people at a cafe popular with foreigners. The following year, 18 people were killed at a Turkish restaurant in the capital.

Attacks intensified in 2019 across northern Burkina Faso, and jihadists have gained more ground.

‘Paramount leader’ title for Burundi’s President

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Burundi’s president could receive the title of “paramount leader” under draft legislation approved by the government Wednesday as his troubled third term nears an end.

FILE PHOTO: Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza claps after signing the new constitution at the Presidential Palace in Gitega Province, Burundi June 7, 2018. REUTERS/Evrard Ngendakumana/File Photo

Jean Claude Karerwa Ndenzako, a spokesman for the presidency, tweeted that the Cabinet took the decision to make President Pierre Nkurunziza “Paramount Leader, Champion of Patriotism and Leadership Core.”

It was not immediately clear what being “paramount leader” might entail or what powers it might have for one of Africa’s most divisive leaders.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader who has led Burundi since 2005, threw the East African country into chaos in 2015 when he ran for a disputed third term that some called unconstitutional. As security forces fought protesters, hundreds of thousands fled to neighboring countries. Allegations of abuses led to Burundi exiting the International Criminal Court and kicking out the U.N. human rights office.

Nkurunziza has said he will not run again when his current term expires this year. But he reportedly faces pressure from supporters who want him to prolong his stay in power.

Burundi’s ruling CNDD-FDD party will hold a conference Sunday to choose its candidate for the presidential election set for May. A military general who is a Nkurunziza ally is widely believed to be the front-runner.

Lofty titles have been given to Nkurunziza before. In 2018 the ruling party called him “the eternal supreme guide,” a description mocked by some of the president’s critics.

Starving lions in Sudan zoo spark global concern (AP NEWS)

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — At an impoverished, forlorn zoo in Sudan’s capital, the park’s few remaining lions are starving in rusted cages — their ribs protruding, eyes glassy and skin flaccid, desperate for food and water.

The unsettling images, shared on social media by a local animal rights advocate, drew impassioned responses from thousands around the world. But it wasn’t enough to save two lionesses at the Khartoum zoo, said local activist Zuhair al-Sarag.

“This is actually a crime,” he said, adding that the park once teemed with animals. “Someone should be held accountable.”

With the staff at the destitute Al-Qurashi Park, as the zoo in Khartoum is known, unable to feed and look after the animals, many have died off or were evacuated, leaving only three skeletal lions, including a lioness.

Locals concerned about the fate of the lions flocked to help recently, bringing food and medical items, despite the economic crisis gripping the country. Soaring food prices in Sudan triggered a mass protest movement last year that convulsed the large African country, ultimately ousting longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April.

Months later, a civilian-military transitional council replaced al-Bashir’s rule, and inherited its problems, including $60 billion in debt, rebellions in far-flung provinces and the country’s longtime status as a global pariah.

Price hikes and economic hardship have caused animals to suffer, too.

“Many international organizations are willing to help” the lions, including an emergency rescue group expected in Sudan soon, said Osman Mohamed Salih, the first activist who appealed for help online.

While many abroad have tried to donate via crowdfunding sites, Salih noted that U.S. sanctions on Sudan have prevented the zoo from receiving funds through popular platforms, such as GoFundMe. There was no immediate response from GoFundMe.

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok, formerly a World Bank economist, has made it his mission to get the United States to drop its designation of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism, so that the country can attract badly needed foreign aid and investment. The economic troubles are testing the government during its fragile transition to democracy.

“Despite all of this, the marathon of recovery, healing and redevelopment … continues,” Salih, the activist, wrote on Facebook.

On Wednesday, he shared a photograph of the remaining lioness after volunteers had brought food, saying she was making “beautiful progress.”

New Swarms of Locusts Threaten Crops, Food Security in Ethiopia

Source: VOA NEWS

By Sora Halake

A new round of locust swarms has hit Ethiopia and is again threatening crops and food security, say agricultural officials.

Dereje Hirpha, the Oromia region’s head of locust control, tells VOA’s Horn of Africa Service that the new generation of locusts was first reported weeks ago in the Raya district and has since spread across thousands of hectares in 40 districts of the region.

The fast-moving swarm is threatening crops in a country where more than 80 percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood.

An Ethiopian boy attempts to fend off desert locusts as they fly in a farm on the outskirt of Jijiga in Somali region, Ethiopia January 12, 2020. Picture taken January 12, 2020. REUTERS/Giulia Paravicini

A similar locust wave hit Ethiopia a year ago.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has said it believes heavy rainfall in East Africa has contributed to the growth of locust swarms in the area.

This new generation is arriving from Somaliland, while breeding has continued on both sides of the Red Sea, and in Sudan and Eritrea, according to experts.

USAID plans to work with the U.N. Food  and Agriculture Organization to prevent and control the spread of locusts, its office of communication says.  The agency is training more than 300 pest experts and providing 5,000 sets of protective equipment for locust fighters.

Hirpha says authorities are spraying the affected areas from planes and vehicles on the ground to ward off the pests.

Locals, meanwhile, are engaged in their own combat operation.  When a locust swarm approaches, residents try to scare them away by blowing whistles, drumming empty buckets, setting fires, and shooting into the air.

Locust chasers take position in green areas to disperse the swarms before the descend.

“From a distance the swarm looks like a brown cloud, a sandstorm,” says Sora Kura, one of the chasers in the Borana zone.

The swarm follows the wind direction and is also guided by hairy antenna on their heads that detect smells and other signals of food, Hirpha says. According to the FAO, the swarms can move up to 150 kilometers per day.

USAID says the swarms will likely spread next to southwest Ethiopia and northwestern Kenya, and may enter Uganda and South Sudan.

Desert locust can comfortably live in a warm, sandy environment like Eastern Ethiopia and Somaliland, Hirpha says.

Ethiopia has to report any assessment of the crops lost to the pests.  In 2003 and 2005, locust outbreaks in more than 20 countries, mainly in North Africa, cost farmers $3.6 billion, according to the FAO.