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Health Chief Hails African Leadership In COVID-19 Fight

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Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and prevention (Africa CDC), John Nkengasong has praised African leaders for supporting a joint continental strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the continent’s experience with diseases like ebola had helped African countries to develop contact tracing measures that have helped in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

During a television programme, Nkengasong said public health initiatives on the continent, including increased testing, contact tracing and wearing of face masks, had led to a drop in new coronavirus cases.

The World Health Organization previously said the covid-19 outbreak in Africa may have passed its peak. It released fresh data on Monday that indicated Africa had reported a 12% drop in new coronavirus cases. He said the early interventions put in place by different countries also helped in containing the virus.

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France’s Macron Says Success In Sahel Enables Operational Change

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France is aiming to boost its military strength in Africa’s Sahel region where its troops have been helping to fight insurgency.

French president Emmanuel Macron says France could “adjust” its operations in the Sahel region following successes against jihadist groups.  Macron said the arrival of special forces from other European countries would allow France to make changes.

The French president assured that efforts at stability and victory against the jihadists will be maintained.

More than 5,000 French troops have been serving as part of operation Barkhane in support of the forces of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

The soldiers face a growing insurgency by jihadist groups, which have significantly stepped up their attacks in the Sahel countries since last year.

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EU Eyes Scheme To Share Surplus COVID-19 Vaccines With Poorer Nations

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The European Union says it wants to set up a mechanism that would allow the sharing of surplus COVID-19 vaccines with poorer neighbouring states and Africa, in a move that may undercut a W.H.O.-led global vaccine initiative.

The EU, with a population of 450 million, has already secured nearly two and a half billion COVID-19 vaccine doses and candidates from six companies, although most of them still need regulatory approval.

EU health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, told lawmakers on Tuesday the body is working with EU member states to propose a European mechanism to share vaccines beyond their borders.

She said the mechanism would get vaccines to poorer countries “before COVAX is fully operational.” COVAX is the global scheme co-led by the World Health Organization.  It was set up last summer to ensure a fair distribution of COVID-19 shots around the world.

COVAX is already operational but has so far struggled to secure vaccines. It announced in December deals for nearly 2 billion doses, but the largest part of these shots has been pledged by vaccine makers under non-binding accords because COVAX is currently short of money to book them in advance.

“Firms will not give you doses if you don’t pay in advance,” a senior EU vaccine negotiator said on condition of anonymity, noting that the EU initiative was the result of COVAX having fallen short of expectations.

Internal documents seen by Reuters showed in December that COVAX co-leaders saw high risks of failure for the mechanism because of insufficient funds and complex contractual arrangements.

The WHO has warned of risks to fair distribution caused by rich nations’ hoarding of available shots, but publicly remains upbeat about COVAX and the possibility of delivering the first vaccines this quarter.

Kyriakides said the EU vaccine-sharing scheme should prioritize health workers and most vulnerable people in the western Balkans, north Africa and poorer sub-Saharan African countries.

The EU official said the EU could give some vaccines to COVAX which would then distribute them to poor countries.

It is however unclear whether the EU will donate or sell its excess doses. Sweden has set up a mechanism to sell its surplus vaccines. Decisions on sharing vaccines are taken by EU governments.

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Violence Create Food Crisis In Northern Mozambique – WFP

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The United Nations has cried out on the humanitarian crisis situation in Mozambique caused by Islamist insurgency in the north.

The World Food Programme says the cost of food had soared and that the violence had limited access to water, sanitation and education.

Nearly six hundred thousand 570,000 persons have been forced to flee their homes.  Hundreds have been killed by the jihadists, who launched their insurgency more than three years ago.

Militant attacks have forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province.

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Tomson Phiri told a U.N. Briefing on Tuesday, “what is happening is nothing short of a food security and nutritional crisis,” which he further described as a “humanitarian disaster.”

The attacks have forced 570,000 people to flee, Mozambique president Filipe Nyusi said last month, saying he would defeat insurgents who stepped up attacks since pledging loyalty to Islamic state last year.

Speaking ahead of a joint briefing by U.N. agencies on Wednesday, Phiri said there were limited supplies so the cost of food had soared, while access to water and sanitation was also impacted, as was education.

The insurgent group, Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, staged its first attack in 2017. Known at first mainly for beheadings, the fighters declared allegiance to Islamic State in June 2019 and since then have increased attacks in scale and frequency.

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