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Factbox: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

Factbox: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

Source: Reuters, 30 March 2020

(Reuters) – Countries affected by the novel coronavirus entered another week of strict quarantine and several nations introduced new economic stimulus to aid citizens and companies hit by the pandemic.

DEATHS, INFECTIONS

* Nearly 738,500 people have been infected across the world and about 35,000 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T

EUROPE

* Italy’s measures do not seem to be working and it should change its strategy by setting up centres to separate people with suspected symptoms from their families, a prominent Italian scientist said on Monday. In the last three days, new infections have continued at between 5,000 and 6,000 per day.

* The British prime minister’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings is self-isolating with symptoms just days after the British leader himself tested positive.

* France used army helicopters to transport patients from eastern France to hospitals in Germany and Switzerland as the country battled to free up space in life-support units.

* The Russian prime minister asked regional governors to consider Moscow-style restrictions a day after the capital announced a partial lockdown, ordering residents to stay home.

* Cyprus imposed a curfew, extending a broad lockdown introduced two weeks ago after a weekend spike in recorded cases.

* Germany hopes to launch a Singapore-style smartphone app within weeks to help trace infections.

* Hungary’s prime minister has secured open-ended emergency powers to fight the outbreak.

* Slovenia imposed restrictions on people moving outside their local municipalities.

AMERICAS

* White House health experts argued strongly with President Donald Trump to extend a stay-at-home order for Americans, a top U.S. health official said.

* Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) said that it and the U.S. government will invest $1 billion to create enough manufacturing capacity to make more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine it is testing.

* Colombia’s ELN guerrillas declared a unilateral cease-fire for one month from April 1 in an effort to help stem the spread

* Argentina extended a mandatory nationwide quarantine until mid-April.

* Uruguay and Bolivia confirmed their first deaths.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

* China will step up prevention and control of asymptomatic coronavirus cases, state media reported.

* Tokyo’s governor called on residents to avoid outings, but said it was up to Prime Minister to declare a state of emergency.

* Police in western India fired tear gas to disperse a stone-pelting crowd of migrant workers defying a three-week lockdown that has left hundreds of thousands of poor without jobs and hungry, authorities said.

* The World Health Organization has not shared with member states information Taiwan provided including details on its cases and prevention methods, its foreign ministry said.

* Vietnam suspended public transport services.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Iran had 117 new coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, prompting the Middle East’s worst hit country to consider tougher curbs.

U.S. members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wearing protective masks, gather at Toncontin International airport before heading home, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras March 29, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Cabrera

* Saudi Arabia will finance treatment for anyone infected with the coronavirus in the country, the health minister said, while the agriculture ministry took steps to boost wheat and livestock supplies.

* An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tested positive but initial findings indicate she had not posed an infection risk to the 70-year-old leader.

* Zimbabwe began a 21-day nationwide lockdown, following neighbour South Africa in implementing some of the world’s toughest anti-coronavirus measures likely to hurt an economy already suffering hyperinflation and food shortages.

* Nigeria ordered the cessation of movement in Lagos and the capital Abuja for 14 days.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Global equity benchmarks rose slightly on Monday despite a drop in oil prices to their lowest levels since 2002, as central banks and the United States tried to contain damage from the rapidly spreading coronavirus that has upended the global economy.

* The International Monetary Fund said relaxing the euro zone’s fiscal rules and support from the European Central Bank and European Stability Mechanism is critical to a strong regional response.

* Banks across the euro zone are ditching dividends to shore up reserves as the outbreak threatens to tip the world into a deep recession.

* Switzerland may have to expand its emergency fund for companies after banks loaned out $6.89 billion in the first four days of the scheme.

* Peru is readying a stimulus package worth around 12% of its gross domestic product.

* The outbreak will push Germany into recession in the first half of this year and could result in its output contracting by up to 5.4% this year.

* Collapsing oil prices are costing some OPEC members not only lost revenue when they most need it to tackle the coronavirus crisis, but also market share they may never recoup.

* South Korea will make emergency cash payments to all but the richest families and draw up a second supplementary budget next month.

* Nigeria’s currency eased to 415 naira per dollar on the black market on Monday after its president ordered a lockdown of two of the country’s biggest cities.

* Singapore’s central bank aggressively eased its monetary policy, with the city-state’s economy bracing for a deep recession.

Compiled by Sarah Morland and Milla Nissi; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, William Maclean

Somalia sending 20 doctors to help Italy fight virus

Somalia sending 20 doctors to help Italy fight virus


Source: Anadolu Agency, Saturday March 28, 2020

Somalia is sending over 20 doctors to help fight coronavirus in Italy, the country where the virus has claimed the most lives.

Ismail Mukhtar Orongo, a Somali government spokesman, told Anadolu Agency over the phone on Friday that the doctors are volunteers from Somali National University in the capital Mogadishu.

“Twenty volunteer doctors from National University in Mogadishu are registered at Italy’s Embassy and will go to Italy to help the country’s fight against coronavirus,” he said.

They are being sent in response to a call by Italy’s government for help, and they are now ready and waiting for their charter flight to Italy, he added.

On Thursday, Italy’s Civil Protection reported 712 new deaths, bringing the country’s death toll from the virus to date to 8,215.

Meanwhile, Somalia on Friday confirmed the third case of coronavirus in the Horn of Africa nation.

According to the UN assistance mission in Somalia, a UN commercial contractor tested positive for coronavirus on Friday.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, in December, the virus, has spread to at least 176 countries and regions, according to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The data shows more than 553,200 cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll over 25,000, and more than 127,500 recoveries.

Shabaab leaders split over funds control

Shabaab leaders split over funds control


Source: Daily Nation, Kenya, Saturday March 28, 2020

Infighting among the top leadership of Somali-based militia Al-Shabaab over finances is threatening to split the group, an intelligence report seen by the Nation shows

Late last month, the group’s leader Ahmed Diriye, aka Abu Ubeyda, attempted to expel head of finance and intelligence operations Mahad Karate and head of external operations Bashir Qorgab as the three fight over control of resources.

Intelligence reports show that Karate’s and Qorgab’s clans resisted the expulsion.

Two weeks later, Qorgab, who the United States said was the mastermind of the Manda Bay base attack, was killed in a US drone attack alongside his wife.

After his death, Gen Stephen Townsend, the head of Africom, in a statement, confirmed that the two were killed in Saakow, about 150 kilometres north of Jilib, the headquarters of the militant group.
“Since January 5, the US Africa Command and our partners have pursued those responsible for the attack on US and Kenyan forces at Manda Bay,” Gen Townsend said.

Now, the intelligence report seen by the Nation shows that Qorgab’s death has exacerbated wrangles and suspicions within Shabaab ranks.

CREDIBILITY LOST

In early March, the intelligence report said Diriye ordered the assassination of another key Karate crony, Muse Maalim Muawiye, the head of intelligence in Banadir, who was lured to Buale and executed in early March.

“Ubeyda is accusing Karate of hoarding all the money collected from forced taxation on farmers, herders and businessmen in Mogadishu and other Shabaab-controlled areas. On the other hand, Karate argues that his clan, the Hawiye, are the majority in Somalia and the ones who contribute much to the coffers and, therefore, the money belongs first to the Hawiye and then to other clans,” the report reads.
Sources say that Karate has also been citing an incident in October 2017 when Al-Shabaab detonated a bomb and killed over 1,000 civilians at KM4 junction in Mogadishu.

Most of the dead were members of Karate’s clan, the report said.

Diriye, it is understood, has been trying to wrestle control from Karate, something he finds hard due to deeply embedded clan allegiances within the group.

TRADERS LOSE

He is reaching out to smaller clans hoping to form a conglomeration of clans against the Hawiyes.

“The situation has been aggravated by the constant precise drone strikes which are taking out key leaders, thus causing allegations and counter-allegations of espionage,” the report said, adding that this, coupled with Amisom’s plan to flush Al-Shabaab out of its strongholds of Buale and Jilib, has put the group on the edge.

To deflect attention, Al-Shabaab has deployed fighters along the Kenyan border, albeit without food, due to the financial wrangles.

As a result, militants deployed along the border have been looting shops. On March 14, on the border of Somalia and Garissa County, Al-Shabaab militants vandalised two shops, stealing food.

A fortnight ago security forces intercepted and killed six militants in Korisa, Garissa County, and captured one.

Last week soldiers raided an Al-Shabaab hideout in Holawajir, on the border with Lamu County, and shot dead 12 militants, among them a local commander who had been providing intelligence and logistical support to terrorists hiding in the forest.

AU closes its Mogadishu base camp in light of COVID-19

AU closes its Mogadishu base camp in light of COVID-19


Source: Hiiraan Online, Monday March 30, 2020

MOGADISHU (HOL) – The African Union Mission in Somalia has announced a 30 days lockdown of its base camp in Mogadishu and suspended all construction works within the facility in response to the fight against the COVID-19 disease.

The Mission said in a statement Saturday there will be ‘enhanced restricted into the Base Camp in Mogadishu and movement into and within the Base camp for a period of 30-days’ effective today midnight.“The implementation of these instructions will entail suspension of all construction work, movement of resupply vehicles and business activities within the Base Camp, such as shops at Marine, Movcon, Sector 1 main kitchen and car wash area,” the statement read in part.

The announcement comes two days after the UN in Somalia announced one of its contractors who was under quarantine had tested positive for COVID-19 adding to three the number of recorded cases in Somalia.

The AMISOM Base Camp houses the headquarters of the AU force in Somalia and other shared facilities with the UN.

Africa’s window to curb coronavirus “narrowing every day”: WHO

Africa’s window to curb coronavirus “narrowing every day”: WHO

Source: Reuters, NAIROBI (Reuters) 26 March 2020– About half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa still have a “narrowing” opportunity to curb the spread of coronavirus in the local population, a World Health Organisation regional official said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: A worker disinfects shopping trolleys as customers shop in the Naivas Supermarket, to stock their homes amid concerns about the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Nairobi, Kenya March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi//File Photo

The virus has multiplied across Africa more slowly than in Asia or Europe, but more than 40 nations on the continent have now reported a total of 2,850 with 73 fatalities, according to a Reuters tally.

On Thursday, Kenya confirmed the death of its first patient over coronavirus, government spokesman Cyrus Oguna told Reuters.

“It has been a very dramatic evolution,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Africa head, told a media teleconference earlier on Thursday.

Governments across the region needed to invest their efforts in aggressively tracing all those people who have been in contact with imported cases, in order to isolate them and prevent transmission of the disease locally.

“Countries need to work on this containment while preparing for a possible, broader expansion of the virus,” she said.

The effort needs to be accompanied by public education campaigns to ensure people are maintaining physical distances, something that could help limit the spread of the virus, and should complement other measures like halting passenger flights.

South Africa has ordered a lockdown of its population for three weeks while Kenya has imposed a night-time curfew to prevent the disease from spreading.

“We still have a window… it is narrowing every day as data on the geographic spread to more and more countries tell us,” Moeti said.

John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a health body of the African Union, said African leaders were preparing to engage with their wealthier counterparts to secure vital supplies like respirators and ventilators in case infection rates worsen.

Nkengasong told the same teleconference that countries with advanced industrial bases like South Africa, Egypt and Morocco could be used to produce such equipment if needed.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; additional reporting by Katharine Houreld; editing by Omar Mohammed, William Maclean

Building South Sudan from Scratch

Building  South Sudan from Scratch

Source: 26 March 2020, The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training 
The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training just posted an oral history interview titled “Building a Country from Scratch–The South Sudanese Transition to Independence (2005-2011).” This is an interview with Gerald Hyman in 2016 based on his experience as a USAID officer in South Sudan until 2007. He signaled concerns that South Sudan was not ready for independence.

Rebuilding Somalia

Rebuilding Somalia

Source: The International Monetary Fund’s March 2020
The International Monetary Fund’s March 2020 issue of Finance and Development containains an interview titled “Rebuilding Somalia” with Somali Finance Minister Abdirahman Dualeh Beileh, who has three degrees from the University of Wisconsin. He provides an optimistic view of Somalia’s future.

DP World Berbera Orders 8 RTG Cranes

DP World Berbera Orders 8 RTG Cranes

Source: Maritime Logistics Professional
Thursday March 26, 2020

Photo: Liebherr Container Cranes

Liebherr Container Cranes and DP World Berbera have signed a contract for the supply of eight RTGs for DP World’s terminal in Berbera, Somaliland. The cranes are due to be ready for operation before the end of 2020.

The high performance, variable speed diesel RTGs are six containers plus a truck lane wide and will stack one over five containers high. The machines are supplied with DGPS autosteering and stack profiling. Like all Liebherr RTGs, the machines incorporate Liebherr’s eight rope reeving no-sway-system. Gantry cameras as well as a laser anti-collision system bring safety enhancements to operations.The Liebherr machines have been designed using high quality European components, specified for maximum loading conditions, significantly enhancing component life. Remote maintenance and Liebherr’s diagnostics and maintenance software, DiaMon3D aims to further enhance the RTGs appeal and help deliver exceptionally low maintenance costs. The variable speed diesel engine, helps reduce running costs and will significantly reduce emissions.

The port already operates three Liebherr LHM 420 mobile harbor cranes, which went into service in early 2019. The new cranes are part of a phased expansion of the port, with phase one including a new 400 m quay and a 250,000 m² yard extension.

Debt relief milestone in Somalia, as World Bank, IMF, call for global payment suspension in light of COVID-19

Debt relief milestone in Somalia, as World Bank, IMF, call for global payment suspension in light of COVID-19


Source: UN, Thursday March 26, 2020

James Swan, Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Somalia (UNSOM), said that by reaching the so-called “decision point” for debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries’ Initiative (HIPC), Somalia has passed an historic milestone on its path to peace and prosperity.

“Achievement of the HIPC decision point is a major step forward for Somalia’s economic progress, allowing the country to advance towards its long-term objective of inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction,” he said in a statement.

“All Somalis can be proud of this achievement,” he added.

The development is welcome news for Somalia – which is carrying $5.2 billion of debt – as it prepares for one-person, one-vote elections later this year against the backdrop of extreme humanitarian challenges.Some 5.2 million are in need of assistance, alongside ongoing attacks by the Al-Shabaab terrorist group and the worst locust outbreak in 25 years.

Global debt relief call: World Bank, IMF 

It also coincided with a call by the World Bank Group (WBG) and the IMF for all official bilateral creditors to suspend debt payments from the world’s 76 poorest countries and enable them to redirect funds towards confronting the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement, the two Washington-based institutions also asked leaders of the G-20 leading economies to task them at their spring meetings on 16 to 17 April with assessing the impact and financing needs of each of the countries, which are part of the International Development Association (IDA).

Mr. Swan, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, said that the country’s debt breakthrough was testament to the federal authorities’ ability to manage public finances.  “It also reflects strong collaboration between the Federal Government and the federal member states,” he added. “The World Bank Group and the IMF believe it is imperative at this moment to provide a global sense of relief for developing countries as well as a strong signal to financial markets,” it said.

The World Bank and the IMF established the HIPC Initiative in 1996, to ensure that no poor country finds itself in a situation in which it cannot service and manage its debt burden.

Reaching “decision point” not only confirms Somalia’s eligibility for debt relief, but also fully normalizes its relations with international financial institutions.  It will also now qualify for certain types of grant financing to meet its public finance and development needs and to access private-sector financing instruments.

The second and final step after decision point, known as the completion point, would open the way for full and irrevocable reduction in debt under the HIPC Initiative.

In a press release, the IMF said debt relief for Somalia – the 37th country to reach decision point – would help it make last change for its 15 million people by allowing its debt to be irrevocably reduced from $5.2 billion at the end of 2018 to $557 million once it reaches completion point in about three years’ time.

Somalia upbeat on economic reform as IMF, World Bank announce interim debt relief

Somalia upbeat on economic reform as IMF, World Bank announce interim debt relief


Hiiraan Online, Thursday March 26, 2020

MOGADISHU (HOL) –  President Mohamed Farmaajo and Prime Minister Hassan Khaire have lauded their country’s achievement of a major milestone in the debt relief process following the announcement Wednesday the country had qualified for interim debt relief.

A statement from Villa Somalia noted the President’s appreciation adding the decision by the World Bank and IMF was critical for reforms in Somalia.

“This debt relief decision by IMF, WB, IDA and the support from friends of Somalia, is a timely boost for our longstanding transformation and sectoral reforms in Somalia,” the statement read in part.

The president added his administration ‘will maintain our sustained efforts and institutional strengthening for the completion of this journey.’

The PM said reaching the Decision Point was crucial for the country to enhance its reform and recovery process.

“The Government and People of Somalia are very pleased by the IMF’s and World Bank Group’s decision which allows Somalia to fully re-engage with International Financial Institutions,” the PM said. “This decision is an important milestone which presents ample opportunities for Somalia as it relentlessly pursues its ongoing reform processes as well as its recovery and development agenda.”

BRIDGING LOANS

The IMF and World announced Wednesday Somalia had now qualified for debt relief after meeting reform benchmarks and clearing debts owed to its multilateral creditors.According to the Fund, Somalia has cleared all arrears due to the World Bank, IMF and International Development Fund through bridging loans.

Italy advanced a bridging loan which cleared Somalia’s arrears to the IMF while the UK and EU cleared the Africa Development Bank debt as Norway offset the World Bank debt. All the bridging loans have since been reimbursed, a statement from the Fund said.

The IMF said Somalia’s debt will ease off in three years’ time when the country is expected to reach the Completion Point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

“Debt relief will help Somalia make lasting change for its people by allowing its debt to be irrevocably reduced from US$5.2 billion at end-2018 to US$557 million in net present value terms (NPV) once it reaches the HIPC Completion Point in about three years’ time,” the IMF said.

Once the country reaches the Completion Point, the remaining debt will be cleared by the World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank through the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) process.

Somalia records second COVID-19 case

Somalia records second COVID-19 case


Source: Hiiraan Online, Thursday March 26, 2020

MOGADISHU (HOL) – Somalia has confirmed the second case of COVID-19 after one of the persons who was on quarantine tested positive.

Health Minister Fawziya Abikar said Thursday the second case was established Wednesday night adding the patient did not exhibit any symptoms of coronavirus such as fever, difficulty in breathing or cough.

Somalia registered the first case mid this month and instituted a raft of measures including banning all international flights and closing learning institutions.
However, there are no stringent measures on public gatherings as is the case in other COVID-19 affected countries.

It was not clear from the Minister’s statement if the patient was among those who arrived in the country this week following a two days flights easing to allow Somalis stranded travel into the country.

The Minister however indicated the affected person came from outside the country.

Somalia remains among countries with few cases of the disease as most African countries record double digit figures.

In neighbouring Kenya, the number has risen to 28 while in Ethiopia 12 cases have since been recorded.

UN Security Council stalemate over virus

UN Security Council stalemate over virus


Source: AFP, Tuesday March 24, 2020

A “physical” session would force around 50 people to come to the UN AFP/File

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council, which has not met for 12 days due to the coronavirus outbreak, is deeply divided over a proposed declaration on the crisis and holding “virtual” meetings to vote on resolutions, diplomatic sources said Monday (Mar 23).

The impasse comes as world leaders struggle to respond to the pandemic, with rivals US and China engaged in a war of words as medical experts plead for unified action.

“South Africa (a non-permanent council member) rejected (the proposed declaration) first. Russia and China engaged earlier, but later on also blocked it,” a source told AFP.

The draft proposal, drawn up late last week by Estonia, highlights “growing concern about the unprecedented extent of the COVID-19 outbreak in the world, which may constitute a threat to international peace and security.”It also calls for “full transparency” over the outbreak — wording seen by some to allude to US criticism of government secrecy in China, where the virus first emerged.

“The members of the Security Council urge the member states to put more emphasis on helping the ones most exposed and vulnerable to the virus and the populations in dire humanitarian situations,” the draft, seen by AFP, says.

It adds that “no country can succeed alone.”

A UN Security Council declaration requires the support of all 15 members to be adopted and published.

UNCERTAIN SCHEDULE 

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Monday that the pandemic was clearly “accelerating” as the number of deaths surged close to 16,000, with over 350,000 declared infections.

The Security Council, chaired in March by China, has not met since March 12, with most UN staff and diplomats from the national missions working from home to avoid infection, though the New York headquarters remains open.

On Thursday it must renew the mandate of UN experts responsible for sanctions imposed on North Korea for one year and extend the peace mission in Somalia for one year.

According to diplomats, the council must also extend the peacekeepers’ mission in Darfur by two months, without modifying the numbers of troops.

Originally, the Security Council was supposed to decide on a gradual withdrawal to create at the end of October a political mission in Sudan and close its peacekeeping operation in Darfur.

Council meetings on Syria and Libya this week have been canceled, but it remains unclear whether the council will meet as scheduled on Thursday.

For 10 days, Russia has repeatedly opposed “virtual” meetings by video to allow voting sessions.

Critics point out that a “physical” session would force around 50 people to come to the UN, with one diplomat describing the Russian stance as “idiotic.”

“We are for a physical presence (and) doubt that (voting) could be achieved otherwise,” Russian deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitri Polyanskiy told AFP.

 

World Water Day: Often overlooked, water resources are essential part of solution to climate change

World Water Day: Often overlooked, water resources are essential part of solution to climate change

On World Water Day, the United Nations launched a flagship report which says that reducing both the impacts and drivers of climate change will require major shifts in the way we use and reuse the Earth’s limited water resources.

Al-Shabaab Seen as Growing Threat to Americans

Al-Shabaab Seen as Growing Threat to Americans

Source: The New York Times published on 21 March 2020
The New York Times published on 21 March 2020 an article titled “Al-Qaeda Branch in Somalia Threatens Americans in East Africa–And Even the U.S.” by Eric Schmitt and Abdi Latif Dahir.

The article details increasing efforts by Somali-based al-Shabaab to attack Americans in East Africa and conceivably beyond.

Ethiopia prepares solution on dispute with Egypt over GERD: Minister

Ethiopia prepares solution on dispute with Egypt over GERD: Minister


Source: Egypt Independent, Monday March 23, 2020

Ethiopia has formed a solution to its dispute with Egypt over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and will submit it to Egypt and Sudan at the earliest time, the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gedu Andargachew announced.

In interviews with China Global Television Network and the Associated Press Andargachew denied that Ethiopia intends to use Nile water on its own, but stresses it does have the right to use it responsibly.

A “political commitment” to the “principle of fair use of the GERD” is needed from Egypt, he said.

Ethiopia is committed to resolving the GERD dispute, demanding fair and serious talks to take place for Ethiopia to return to negotiations under the US’s auspices, the minister added.Andargachew criticized an agreement reached during the latest negotiations as “rash” and not benefiting any party.

He justified Ethiopia’s withdrawal as due to being pressured “to sign the agreement without addressing the main issues of the tripartite dialogue in the United States.”

Andargachew also called on the Arab League to maintain good relations between the Horn of Africa and Middle East.

The Ethiopian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee also postponed a session including Andargachew and the participant team of negotiations for the GERD owing to concerns of the coronavirus, according to The Reporter website.

“The meeting was intended to hear the current affairs and outstanding issues from ministers and negotiator’s regarding the US government’s recent statements as well as the ongoing diplomatic pressure mounted against Ethiopia,” Chairman of Foreign Relation and Peace Affairs Standing Committee Tesfaye Daba said.

The US announced that Egypt had solely initialed the drafted GERD agreement, as Ethiopia was absent from the last round of negotiations on February 27-28 in Washington.

“Consistent with the principles set out in the declaration of principles, in particular the principles of not causing significant harm to downstream countries, final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement,” the US Treasury Department’s statement reads.

Ethiopia expressed disappointment towards the statement. In a joint statement issued Saturday, Ethiopia’s water and foreign ministers said that the GERD’s constructions will continue as planned alongside filling the dam’s reservoir.

Egypt has repeatedly blamed the Ethiopian side for the failure to achieve progress in the negotiations.

Ethiopia began constructing the GERD in 2011, costing US$4.7 billion in total to build. Ethiopia plans to fill the reservoir with water to power what is expected to become the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa.

Locust crisis poses a danger to millions, forecasters warn

Locust crisis poses a danger to millions, forecasters warn


Source: The Gardian, Saturday March 21, 2020
Kaamil Ahmed

A man tries to catch locusts as they swarm over Sana’a in July 2019. The insects have since reached east Africa, threatening the food security of 25 million people. Photograph: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

The locust crisis that has now reached 10 countries could carry on to endanger millions more people, forecasters have said.

Climate change created unprecedented conditions for the locusts to breed in the usually barren desert of the Arabian gulf, according to experts, and the insects were then able to spread through Yemen, where civil war has devastated the ability to control locust populations.

It was Cyclone Mekunu, which struck in 2018, that allowed several generations of desert locusts the moist sand and vegetation to thrive in the desert between Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman known as the Empty Quarter, breeding and forming into crop-devouring swarms, said Keith Cressman, locust forecasting expert for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“That’s fine, that’s quite good in itself, but just about when those conditions are drying out and the breeding is coming to an end, a second cyclone came to the area,” he said.“That allowed the conditions to continue to be favourable and another generation of breeding, so instead of increasing 400-fold, they increased 8,000-fold.

“Usually a cyclone brings favourable conditions for about six months and then the habitat dries out, and so it’s not favourable for reproduction and they die and migrate.”

The amount of cyclones in the area seem to be increasing, said Cressman, making it likely that locust swarms will also become more common.

The FAO has warned that the food security of 25 million people could be endangered by the locusts, which according to the agency’s locust monitoring service have been spotted in at least 10 countries over recent months. One swarm recently reported in Kenya covered an area the size of Luxembourg.

The organisation has requested $140m (£120m) to help fight the ongoing breeding of the insects, predicting that a continuation through late March and April could see the existing number of locusts grow by 400 times by June.

The current crisis is considered the worst in decades, and there are fears it could last longer than previous locust outbreaks.

Alongside the climate emergency impact, the war in Yemen is a key factor.

Cressman said Yemen is a “frontline” country for locusts, with the insects typically present throughout the year. But its once effective locust programme no longer has the same impact in cities where control is now divided between the government and Houthi rebels.

The head of the locust programme, Adel al-Shaibani, is based in the Houthi-controlled capital, Sana’a.

“Before the war we had a good ability to reach anywhere in Yemen,” he said. “In current times we’re just able to cover the Red Sea coastal areas – but not all – and some areas in the interior.”

He explained that there were two separate locust control centres in Yemen but neither was able to combat the outbreak effectively alone.

The Sana’a-based centre carried out control operations wherever they could in 2018, but they have been underfunded and have lost some of their vehicles.

“In spite of all our hard efforts, some areas remained out of control due to security reasons near the border with Saudi Arabia. The desert locust outbreak occurred and some swarms formed and moved to other areas,” said Shaibani.

A young desert locust without wings is seen on a stalk near Geerisa town, in Somaliland’s Lughaya district. Photograph: Daniel Irungu/EPA

By late 2019, the locusts had moved into the Horn of Africa, finding favourable conditions when an unseasonaal cyclone hit Somalia in December. This extended breeding time and allowed them to spread to areas authorities could not control because of the country’s security problems.

“This crisis could be quite long because of the Yemeni and Somali areas that cannot control the populations,” said Cyril Piou, an expert with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development.

He said that in previous decades locust outbreaks had only lasted roughly two years but, without preventive systems, they will last longer, happen more frequently and spread further.

“We are all linked in some way, what is happening somewhere else affects us all,” he said.

The last comparable locust outbreak was in the late 1940s and 50s, but Cressman said that was in a time when monitoring and reporting was a slow, cumbersome process and chemical pesticides were readily available for control operations.

Historically, the Arabian Gulf has very few cyclones. But the past decade has brought a significant increase thanks to the Indian Ocean dipole, a phenomenon linked to flooding in the western Indian Ocean, dry weather in the east and wildfires in Australia.

Cressman, part of whose job involves looking at historical conditions to understand current developments, said the climate’s behavioural changes made that difficult.

“This analogous forecasting methodology used to work pretty good up until five years ago, and it’s just not working very well any more at all because of the rainfall, the timing, the distribution. It’s very different,” he said.

 

Coronavirus pandemic: Experts say Somalia risk greater than China

Coronavirus pandemic: Experts say Somalia risk greater than China

Outbreak be could worse in Somalia than anywhere else if nothing is done before it spreads, medical experts warn.

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Source: Aljeezira, 19 March 2020

19 Mar 2020
Coronavirus pandemic: Experts say Somalia risk greater than China
Somalia does not have testing kits and samples have to be sent to South Africa, according to health officials [Feisal Omar/Reuters]

The coronavirus pandemic could kill more people in Somalia than anywhere else if preventive measures are not put in place urgently, medical experts and analysts have warned.

The East African country confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the infection caused by the novel coronavirus, on Monday in a student who returned from China and is now in quarantine, according to the country’s health ministry.

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“If this virus has killed thousands in developed countries like China and Italy, and also killed hundreds in Spain and Iran, you can imagine what the death toll will be in Somalia if nothing is done,” Mohamed Mohamud Ali, chairman of Somali Medical Association (SMA), told Al Jazeera.

“Currently, we don’t have a single testing kit in the country. We send samples to South Africa and wait for at least three days to know the results. This is a big challenge for us,” Mohamed said.

The outbreak reached Africa later than other continents, but at least 31 countries have now confirmed cases, with 13 reported deaths.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) called on African countries to “wake up” to the growing threat of the virus, which has killed more than 8,600 worldwide and infected at least 207,000 people.

‘It will not just kill people’

The SMA’s Mohamed believes the Somali people could do more to take the pandemic seriously.

“It will not just kill people. Economically, the consequences, if nothing is done, will be dire. We might not be able to recover from it,” he added.

The Somali government announced measures on Tuesday to reduce the potential spread of the virus. Schools and universities in the country have been closed starting March 19 for a period of 15 days, and large public gatherings have been banned, according to the prime minister.

Hassan Ali Khaire said in an address to the public on Wednesday: “We have set aside five million dollars … to deal with this disease. That money will be used to help any Somali affected by this disease, whichever part of the country they may be.  We are also in discussion with global financial institutions so that they can assist us [financially] to prevent the spread,” he added.

A Somali doctor and a nurse wear protective face masks as they prepare a ward for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients, at the Martini Hospital in Mogadishu
Somalia confirmed its first coronavirus case on Monday [Feisal Omar/Reuters]

Mohamed Ahmed Ali, an analyst based in the capital Mogadishu, also told Al Jazeera more needed to be done if lives are to be saved in the country.

“Businesses are open as normal. Public transport is operating as usual, and restaurants are open. The risks and consequences are unimaginable. If more is not done immediately, more people could die in Somalia than anywhere else in the world,” Mohamed said.

The government faces challenges to its authority in several parts of the country, complicating access and diluting efforts made at the centre.

Large swaths of the country are in the hands of the al-Qaeda-linked armed group, al-Shabab, which has not allowed any information to emerge from those areas with regards to the spread of COVID-19. A strained working relationship between the central government and the federal states makes the situation worse, according to Mohamed.

“Sadly, the government has limited power in what it can do,” he added.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Battle for Nile waters spills over to East African capitals

Battle for Nile waters spills over to East African capitals


Source: Daily Nation, Sunday March 22, 2020

Kenya has been thrust into the competing interests of Ethiopia and Egypt, who are jostling for regional support for a decisive agreement on a dam being built on the Nile.

The tussle, which kicked off two weeks ago, represents the latest haggling over the use of the Nile waters, a perennial discussion that has lasted 60 years.

At the centre of the debate is the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia, which Egypt sees as a threat to its water source. But it has roped in riparian countries like Kenya, who form a group aggrieved by a colonial-era treaty that gave Egypt massive rights and control over the waters of the Nile.

NILE BASIN

Sources said Ethiopia was tapping this grievance to seek support from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and other countries in the Nile basin affected by the old treaty. The Basin includes 11 countries. Egypt, in turn, is seeking to divide countries in the eastern Africa region and roil any joint statements.

That fight manifested this week when President Uhuru Kenyatta reportedly promised his Egyptian counterpart Abdelfattah al-Sisi Nairobi’s support.
Bassam Rady, al-Sisi’s spokesman, told Egyptian media that President Kenyatta had told his counterpart the Egyptian stand on the GERD was a result of “sincere political will”.

The revelations by Egypt were, however, clarified by Nairobi a day later, with officials insisting Kenya supports an appropriate agreement reached by negotiations between African countries themselves.

Officials who spoke to the Sunday Nation said Kenya sees sharing of water volumes of the Nile as one aspect that must be addressed through the African Union and not external bodies as the GERD issue has been negotiated, in order to benefit all riparian states.

The GERD, a $4.5 billion (Sh450 billion) project on the Nile’s main tributary in Ethiopia (the Blue Nile), was supposed to boost electricity generation once full, producing up to 6.5GW of power. But the project, largely funded by Ethiopians themselves, has seen opposition from Egypt, which argues that the programme to fill it might deny Cairo its “historical and rightful share” of the water.

NEGOTIATIONS

President Kenyatta’s call with the Egyptian leader had followed a cancellation of a trip by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry due to the Covid-19 outbreak. But the Ethiopians had sent President Sahle-Work Zewde to Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to “brief” the leaders on the negotiations between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt on GERD, which Addis Ababa says “collapsed”.

On March 12, the Ethiopian leader warned there could be problems if any contentious agreement on the Nile was implemented.

“The President also underscored Ethiopia’s commitment to continue working with all Nile Basin countries, and to ensure that only treaties that are properly entered into by the countries will apply to the basin,” a dispatch from Addis Ababa said of Mrs Sahle-Work’s visit in Nairobi.

In turn, President Kenyatta called for a review of agreements on the Nile to take into consideration the “needs of its increasing populations”.

“The President (Kenyatta) also emphasised the importance of ensuring equitable and reasonable utilisation of natural resources. The two leaders agreed on the importance of reaching a resolution in the spirit of African Solutions to African Problems and concurred on the need for the African Union to support the countries reach a win-win outcome.”

At a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on March 13, the Ethiopian leader was told Uganda supports equitable distribution of the Nile waters.

“The two leaders recognised the strategic importance of the Nile for all the riparian countries, the livelihood of their peoples and the need to solve any issues among the countries.”
President Museveni even called for “frank” discussions on the Nile, possibly through a summit by riparian countries, according to a statement from their meeting. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame also supported renegotiations to allow riparian countries more rights and control on their natural resources.

HISTORICAL RIGHTS

Egypt’s strategy on the Nile has been to seek support of blocs. A fortnight ago, Cairo tabled a motion to the Arab League which endorsed a communique supporting Egypt’s historical rights and urged for a rejection of any decisions that could alter or threaten the Egyptian share of the Nile.

Sudan, a member of the League, refused to endorse the declaration, warning such a move could risk cooperation between the League and Ethiopia, and did not serve its national interests. Somalia, though, endorsed the declaration. Last week Somali Prime Minister Hassan Khaire rushed to Addis Ababa to clarify Mogadishu’s stance on “horn of Africa integration”, interpreted to mean a change of mind from what a “junior officer” had voted.

Later, a statement from Addis Ababa said Somalia and Djibouti respectively called for bilateral and win-win solutions.

The dam itself became the central point of contention after negotiations facilitated by the US Treasury collapsed two weeks ago. Ethiopia had skipped the final negotiations, saying it wanted more time.

Washington had tabled a draft agreement and asked the three countries to sign. Cairo initialled on it, which in diplomatic parlance signals an end to negotiations. Addis Ababa was furious.

Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem Tekea told the Sunday Nation the issue on GERD should be seen as a beneficial project for all the three countries, and that Egypt should not force through its stances.

“If there was justice in the world, then Sudan and Egypt should have contributed for the completion of the dam as they also benefit,” he said on Friday. “The dam will boost the flow of water by reducing annual flooding and siltation, which affects Sudan most. Besides, all the three countries stand a chance to utilise the electricity produced at a reasonable price.”

Some observers, though, think the Nile debate could be a chance for riparian countries to settle scores among themselves by supporting Egypt, especially if they disagree on other matters.

An assessment by the International Crisis Group this week said the three countries could reach an amicable deal if they appointed a joint arbiter.

Coronavirus Hits Somalia’s Khat Sellers

Coronavirus Hits Somalia’s Khat Sellers


Source: VOA, Sunday March 22, 2020

The new coronavirus has woven itself into the daily lives of Somalis’ pocketbooks, hitting small businesses, including sellers of the herbal stimulant khat.

Khat, the red-stemmed, green-leafed plant that is chewed for its amphetamine-like properties, is grown in Kenya and Ethiopia but is very popular in Somalia, Djibouti and Yemen.

On Thursday, Somalia banned all international flights, including those carrying khat, for 15 days, as a part of measures the country has taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The normally bustling market in Mogadishu known as Beertakhat, which translates into khat farm, has been practically deserted because of the suspended flights.Hundreds if not thousands of Somalis who directly or indirectly depended on the khat business could be affected by the decision.

Despite its popularity, khat markets have always been fragile because there are no stockpiles available. Traditionally, it has to be sold fresh.

A mother’s income

One khat seller in Mogadishu, Faadumo Abdurahman, told VOA Somali that her family’s livelihood had been jeopardized because of the flight stoppage, which she said had come without warning.

“Vending khat was the only way I managed to feed my children. Therefore, this decision came at a time I was not prepared for,” she said.

“One side, the suspension of khat flights would hit us hard economically. On the other hand, I see the decision as temporary and lifesaving,” said liban Mohamed Isse, a spokesman for khat traders.

Not only Somali traders and consumers but also growers of khat in Kenya, where it is called “miraa” and nicknamed “green gold,” are feeling the economic effects of the coronavirus.

Normally, more than 15 cargo flights of khat arrive in Mogadishu and other major cities in the country every day from Kenya. Somali anti-khat activist Abukar Awale said the crop is worth $840 million a year.

“In research we have done only on the khat that is air transported into Somalia, at its peak, we have recorded 35 cargo flights, carrying about 95,000 bags of khat a day, which have a total retail value of $400,000,” Awale said.

 

Is South Sudan Transitioning to Peace

Is South Sudan Transitioning to Peace

Source: The US Institute of Peace published on 19 March 2020
The US Institute of Peace published on 19 March 2020 an analysis titled “South Sudan’s Transition: Citizens’ Perception of Peace” by Jan Pospisil, Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Oringa Christopher, University of Juba, Sophia Dawkins, Yale University, and David Deng, human rights lawyer.

The authors conclude that the power-sharing government in South Sudan set up last month is fueling hope for an end to civil war, but suggest layers of conflict remain.