Over 33 million children vaccinated against wild poliovirus in southern Africa: WHO

BRAZZAVILLE, A year since Malawi confirmed its first case of wild poliovirus type 1 in 30 years, more than 33 million children across five southern African countries have been vaccinated against the virus, with over 80 million vaccine doses administered over the past year, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement.

A total of nine wild poliovirus cases have been reported so far, with one in Malawi and eight in neighboring Mozambique since the declaration of an outbreak on Feb. 17, 2022, in Malawi. The last confirmed case to date was in August 2022 in Mozambique.

The wild poliovirus in Malawi and Mozambique originated from Pakistan, one of the two last endemic countries, according to the WHO regional office for Africa, based in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo.

Concerted emergency response launched following the outbreak in 2022 has helped increase protection among children through vaccines in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The countries have also ramped up disease surveillance and community mobilization to help find cases and halt the virus.

To date, 19 vaccination rounds have been concluded in the most at-risk areas, and at least five more are planned for 2023 in the five countries.

“Southern Africa countries have made huge efforts to bolster polio detection, curb the spread of the virus and ensure that children live without the risk of infection and lifelong paralysis,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “We continue to support the polio control efforts across the region so that every child receives the protection they need.”

Additionally, more than 10 new environmental surveillance sites have been set up over the past year in the affected countries with support from WHO. The fully operational sites are playing a critical role in the efforts to detect silent circulating poliovirus in wastewater.

“Response teams have worked intensely in the fight against polio not only in Malawi but in the rest of the neighboring countries in a coordinated manner. We will not rest until we reach and vaccinate every child to stop polio transmission,” said Emeka Agbo, Acting Country Coordinator for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in Malawi.

Reaching all households where eligible children live is critical to protect them against the risk of paralysis. The national health authorities, with support from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, are paying efforts to map cross-border communities, migratory routes, border crossings and transit routes.

Polio is highly infectious and affects unimmunized or under-immunized children. In Malawi and Mozambique, the disease has paralyzed children younger than 15 years. There is no cure for polio, and it can only be prevented by immunization. Children across the world remain at risk of wild polio type 1 as long as the virus is not eradicated in the last remaining areas in which it is still circulating.

On Jan. 25, 2023, the WHO Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations concluded that the risk of the international spread of poliovirus remains a public health emergency of international concern.

Source: Nam News Network

Guinea: Two people killed in anti-junta clashes

CONAKRY, Two people died in clashes between anti-junta protesters and security forces in Guinea, a municipal official said, with the country’s opposition coalition reporting “many arrests” and injuries from live ammunition.

Protesters took to the streets to demand a return to civilian rule, and the release of arrested activists and other political prisoners under the military junta that seized power in the West African nation in 2021.

Young demonstrators hurled stones and erected barricades in the suburbs of the capital Conakry as police officers and gendarmes fired tear gas to try to disperse them. Gunfire was also heard.

Abdoul Karim Bah said his 18-year-old nephew had been shot in the neighbourhood of Hamdallaye and died before he reached hospital.

He said the teenager was not taking part in the protest but was working in the area as a motorcycle taxi driver when he was killed.

Another victim, who was 16 years old, was shot in the Sonfonia neighbourhood, according to his father, Mamadou Diallo. He was taken to hospital and later died of his injuries, the father said.

Cellou Kansala Diallo, vice-mayor of the Conakry suburb of Ratoma, confirmed both deaths.

The West African country’s ruling military junta has been in power since a 2021 coup toppled former president Alpha Conde.

Last May, it announced a three-year ban on all demonstrations likely to “hinder activities.”

The National Front for the Defence of the Constitution (FNDC), a coalition of opposition parties and civil society groups, has nonetheless called several protests, several of which have resulted in civilian deaths.

The FNDC said earlier that around 30 people sustained injuries, some from gunshot wounds, and reported “many arrests”.

The junta, led by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, has ordered the dissolution of the FNDC and pledged to restore civilian rule after implementing government reforms.

The transition period was fixed at two years beginning from January this year following pressure from the regional ECOWAS bloc, which has also had to deal with coups in Mali and Burkina Faso since 2020.

Guinea’s opposition — which accuses the junta of crushing dissent — has refused to engage with the regime on the terms of the transition period.

Source: Nam News Network

Suspended Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso push for return to AU in spite of coups

ADDIS ABABA, Suspended countries Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso are lobbying to be re-admitted to the African Union, more than a year after coups plagued the West African region.

In a series of meetings in Addis Ababa, the countries’ foreign ministers met and lobbied with members of the African Union Peace and Security Council, the organ that normally imposes sanctions on member states for illegal changes in government.

All three countries, as well as Sudan, remain suspended for coups in their countries, meaning they can neither take part in activities of the AU nor have a vote on decisions. But the ministers travelled to Addis Ababa just as the AU Executive Council, composed of foreign ministers, gathered to begin the annual African Union Assembly which will culminate in a summit on Saturday and Sunday by the heads of state and government.

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop met with Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra in Addis Ababa.

Algeria is the AU’s chair of the monitoring committee for the implementation of the Malian peace deal. A dispatch released from Algiers said Diop is seeking for removal of “obstacles” to the peace process in Mali.

Ebba Kalondo, the spokesperson for African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamt, said Faki had met the three ministers on Thursday on the side-lines of the executive council meeting. But she said the ultimate decision will rest with the Peace and Security Council.

“The organ (of the African Union) responsible for security matters on the continent is the AU Peace and Security Council,” she said.

Bankole Adeoye, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, said he had had an “in-depth discussion” with the ministers but did not say whether the matter for the three will be on the table when the Peace and Security Council meets on Friday ahead of the summit.

“I reiterated the AU’s support for inclusive political transitions and encouraged strict adherence to set transitional roadmaps,” he said.

The Peace and Security Council is this month chaired by South Africa and includes 14 other member states including Cameroon, Djibouti, Morocco, Namibia and Nigeria. It also includes Burundi, Congo, The Gambia, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

If it discusses the issue, Sudan may also fall into the programme of countries now suspended for more than a year since coups. According to an AU policy on governance and democracy, illegal changes in government often attract prompt suspensions until the countries in question re-introduce a plan to resume civilian-led governments. All the three countries were accused of failing to provide adequate timelines since 2021.

In West Africa, where Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso fall, regional bloc Ecowas imposed local sanctions including a trade ban. Ecowas has since adjusted sanctions but retained pressure on the countries to resume civilian-led governance.

Faki had told the executive council’s opening session that he had seen positive steps in the coup countries and called for the Au to encourage the reforms.

“My recent visits to Mali, Burkina Faso and Sudan give me hope for encouraging developments in these three countries where non-constitutional changes have taken place,” Faki said in Addis Ababa.

“However, they all deserve a real outpouring of African and international solidarity. I hope that your council will echo such a call for solidarity.

Earlier on Tuesday, Faki and several AU officials travelled to Sudan where they said they were satisfied with an ongoing dialogue to re-establish a transitional government.

“In this regard, the chairperson expresses the hope that current developments will lead to the finalisation of a consensual political agreement towards the formation of a civilian-led government, and the eventual organisation, within a reasonable timetable of credible elections,” a statement from his office said on Tuesday.

Source: Nam News Network