Daily Archives: April 13, 2017

EL NINO CAN WARN ON CHOLERA OUTBREAKS IN AFRICA: STUDY

WASHINGTON, April 13 (NNN-AGENCIES) — El Nino, the cyclical climatic phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, is linked to shifts in cholera cases in Africa, providing an early warning that could save lives, scientists said.

During the years when El Nino is warming the eastern Pacific, East Africa has about 50,000 additional cholera cases a year, new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.

By contrast, the years when El Nino is not active, there were 30,000 fewer cholera cases in East Africa, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers analyzed more than 17,000 annual observations from 3,710 different locations between 2000 and 2014 in Africa, which has the most cholera deaths in the world.

The total number of cases of cholera across Africa as a whole were about the same in El Nino years as compared with non-El Nino years, but the geographic distribution of illnesses was “fundamentally different,” the study’s authors said in a statement.

In total, 177 million people live in Africa in the regions where cholera cases spike with El Nino, and even triple in certain areas.

Cholera is an infectious bacterial disease that can be fatal. It is typically caught from infected water supplies, resulting in severe vomiting and diarrhea.

“We usually know when El Nino is coming six to 12 months before it occurs,” said study leader Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School.

“Knowing there is elevated cholera risk in a particular region can help reduce the number of deaths that result,” he said.

“If you have cholera treatment centers available, fast, supportive care can reduce the fatality rate from cholera from as high as 30 percent to next to nothing.”

El Nino conditions in the equatorial Pacific strongly impact weather conditions globally, including increasing rainfall in East Africa and decreasing rainfall in drier areas of northern and southern Africa.

In some areas, heavy rainfalls can cause sewers to overrun and contaminate drinking water.

In other parts of Africa, the dry conditions can make clean water sources less available and people are force to consume water from contaminated sources, the researchers noted.

There is a vaccine against cholera but its protection is not lifelong. In addition, there is not enough supply of the vaccine to cover the populations in the African regions where the incidence of cholera is linked to El Nino.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

Environmental Affairs to probe recycled bag claims

Pretoria – The Department of Environmental Affairs says it will probe reports that some plastic supermarket carrier bags, which claim to be recycled, are allegedly not.

The department has noted with concern an article in the Sunday Times recently which claims that millions of branded plastic supermarket carrier bags claimed to be recycled are not.

The article further alleges that to cut costs, the plastic manufacturers, known as converters, started adding chalk (calcium carbonate) as a cheap filler to the mix, sabotaging the mechanical process used to recycle the bag.

The department will be liaising with the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to ensure that manufacturers of plastic carrier bags comply with the regulatory requirements and standards of their products.

In 2003, South Africa introduced plastic bag regulations in a bold move to address the challenge of plastic bag litter. The regulations essentially made the provision of thicker, more durable plastic bags compulsory.

The compulsory specification was subsequently developed, prescribing that only plastic carrier bags and flat bags of the minimum thickness of 24 microns can be manufactured or imported into the country at a levy of 3 cents (now 6 cents) a plastic bag, the department said.

In terms of the regulations, the plastic bags ought to be recyclable, thereby making them more environmentally friendly. The new thickness also made them more reusable.

Since the inception of the levy in 2004, National Treasury has been collecting the Plastic Bag Levy. The money collected goes into the National Revenue Fund and National Treasury allocates a portion of it to the department for regulation of the thickness of plastic bags, said the department.

The collected levy is not ring-fenced and can only be allocated to recycling programmes following submission to National Treasury of an approved and clear business plan on the implementation of such programmes.

The money is also used to support recycling initiatives through the establishment of the necessary infrastructure for recycling in the country and the implementation of the Compulsory Specification for Plastic Bags (VC8087) through the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications.

A contribution of R22.4 million will be allocated the NRCS for research on plastic bags over the next three financial years. As part of its mandate, the NRCS conducts compliance and enforcement of the specifications, the department said.

The department is implementing initiatives aimed at improving the regulation of the development and implementation of Industry Waste Management Plans in an effort to fast-track effective implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy, which promotes waste minimisation, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste in South Africa.

As part of the strategy, and in terms of section 34A (1) of the National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act, 2014 (Act No. 26 of 2014), the department has established a Waste Bureau, which monitors the implementation of Industry Waste Management Plans.

The department has published a call for the development of, among others, Industry Waste Management Plans for recycling purposes and diverting waste from landfills.

The Paper and Packaging Industry Waste Management Plan is one of these plans and comprises various waste streams, including plastic bags.

The Paper and Packaging Industry Waste Management Plan provides effective and efficient ways through which plastic bags can be recycled, thereby ensuring that they are diverted from landfill sites.

It is for this reason that the department has allocated a budget of R155 million towards regulation of the thickness of plastic bags and to support recycling initiatives for a period of three financial years. The funds are administered through the Waste Bureau, the department said.

The waste recycling economy will not only eliminate threats to the environment but also positively contribute to the growth and development of South Africa’s economy.

It is through this economic ingenuity that the department will also contribute to sustainable development and inclusive green economic growth, thus facilitating employment creation, infrastructure and skills development, and strengthening Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the waste management sector, said the department.

Source: South African Government News Agency

R&D SPENDING IN SOUTH AFRICA SHOWS SIGNS OF RECOVERY

PRETORIA, April 13 (NNN-SA NEWS) — The South African government aims to double investment in Research and Development (R&D) from the 2014/2015 figure of 0.77 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 1.5 per cent of GDP by 2020, says Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor.

This means doubling the 2014/15 investment of 29 billion Rand (about 2.15 billion US dollars) to roughly 60 billion Rand a year by 2020, she said when releasing the results of the latest survey on research and experimental development (R&D) spending in the country at the Innovation Hub in Pretoria on Wednesday.

She said the latest R&D Survey (2014/15) shows an improving outlook for R&D investment at 29.3 billion Rand, an 8.1 per cent increase over the previous year in constant 2010 rands. The improvement took place against a slowing rate of GDP growth that was 2.2 per cent in 2013 and 1.5 per cent in 2014, Pandor added.

Business enterprise expenditure on R&D (BERD) contributed most to the increase. The bulk of the increase came from the manufacturing industry. The financial and business services industry, which includes software development, continues to be the largest contributor to BERD, having surpassed the manufacturing industry in 2011/12.

The electricity, gas and water supply industries, and the transport, storage and communication industries that have reported declines over the past three surveys have now increased their R&D expenditure. R&D spending in mining and quarrying has declined by 20 per cent.

This is an area of concern, given the current interventions under the Operation Phakisa initiative to help revitalise the economy, said Pandor.

The Government was the largest funder of R&D, funding 43.9 per cent of GERD (gross domestic expenditure on R&D). The second largest R&D funding source was the business sector with 40.8 per cent, foreign sources with 12.2 per cent and other local sources with 3.1 per cent.

The continued year-on-year increases in government funding for R&D is important in sustaining the R&D spending and performance of science councils and higher education institutions. These two sectors are dependent on government R&D funding and have consistently increased their R&D spending since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

Al-Shabaab Biggest Threat to Peace in Somalia, Sanctions Committee Chair Tells Security Council, as Delegates Air Differences over Sanctions

Eritrea’s Representative Says Embargo Unjustified, Denies Links to Terrorist Group

In light of the threat posed by Al-Shabaab, drought and the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the Security Council Committee on sanctions in Eritrea and Somalia announced a possible future visit to the Horn of Africa today, as members expressed diverging views on arms embargoes imposed on those countries.

The region clearly demanded a peacekeeping presence, said Kairat Umarov (Kazakhstan), Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea. Outlining that panel’s efforts over the last four months, he said the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group had found no links between Al-Shabaab and Eritrea. It had also investigated the origin and destination of a cache of 25,000 firearms in Somalia.

Chief among the Group’s concerns were illegal fishing, Al-Shabaab’s involvement in the charcoal trade and the disappearance of troops following border clashes between Djibouti and Eritrea, he said. Going forward, Somalia must ensure access to all areas for the delivery of aid, he said, describing Al-Shabaab as the biggest threat to peace.

In the ensuing debate, speakers highlighted a range of concerns, from the humanitarian crisis and armed terrorist groups to reported pirate attacks. Many agreed that assistance was needed to build on recent gains, including Somalia’s successful elections.

Some speakers emphasized the priority of fighting terrorist groups, especially Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), with France’s representative urging the Somali authorities to swiftly develop the security architecture necessary for the police and armed forces to take over from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Several speakers called for modifying existing sanctions. The Russian Federation’s representative proposed loosening the arms embargo to allow Somalia’s armed forces to receive the materials they needed. The sanctions regime was not a dogma, he said, emphasizing that it must be revised to reflect changing situations. Others credited sanctions with having helped to prevent terrorist groups from arming themselves. The representative of the United States stressed the importance of a Monitoring Group visit to Eritrea, noting that without that Government’s engagement, the Council could otherwise not make informed decisions on sanctions.

Some Council members voiced support for the proposed visit. Ethiopia’s representative emphasized that any visit must remain free of preconceived assumptions, allowing the Committee to observe first-hand the boundary demarcation between Eritrea and Ethiopia, among other pressing concerns, including Eritrea’s compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions. The United Kingdom’s delegate said that country’s refusal to cooperate with the Monitoring Group left no other way to verify whether or not it supported Al-Shabaab and other armed groups.

Eritrea’s representative called on the Council to ensure Ethiopia’s immediate, unconditional withdrawal from sovereign Eritrean territory. It was also time to lift the sanctions, he said, describing the measures as unjustified. Maintaining them could only be viewed as a desire to spread crises in an already conflict-ridden region, he added. Pointing out that Eritrea had been cleared of wrongdoing in Somalia, had no links to Al-Shabaab and was committed to Qatar-sponsored mediation efforts to release all Djibouti prisoners of war, he said the Monitoring Group had visited Eritrea twice before and there would be no value in another trip.

Djibouti’s representative said he was deeply saddened that Eritrea had chosen to obstruct the Monitoring Group, denying it all access to the information needed to determine its compliance or otherwise with Council resolutions. Warning that Eritrea continued to provide support to Al-Shabaab, he urged that country to clarify the situation of 13 Djibouti prisoners of war who remained unaccounted for, and to comply with the 2010 Qatar Mediation Agreement on the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea.

Also speaking today were representatives of Senegal, Egypt, China, Sweden, Ukraine, Japan, Uruguay, Italy and Bolivia.

The meeting began at 10:57 a.m. and ended at 12:28 p.m.

Briefing

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea, provided an overview of recent developments. The Committee had received notifications related to the arms embargo on Somalia and was working on the issues of sanctions violations and actions of armed groups.

He said the monitoring group had reported a number of concerns, noting that Al-Shabaab remained the most pressing threat in Somalia. In addition, the discovery of about 25,000 guns aboard a vessel had led to an ongoing investigation into the origin and destination of those weapons. Expressing concern about security issues, he went on to urge Somalia to ensure aid delivery. Other concerns included illegal fishing and the involvement of Al-Shabaab in the charcoal trade.

Turning to Eritrea, he said no links had been found in tracking support for armed groups, including Al-Shabaab. The monitoring group had raised concerns about troop disappearances after the Djibouti-Eritrea border clashes and had examined Eritrea’s compliance with relevant Council resolutions, he said, noting the issuance of a report on those matters.

Given the current situation, he said the region demanded a peacekeeping presence and that discussions were ongoing for a possible visit of the Committee to the Horn of Africa.

Statements

MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom), emphasizing that Al-Shabaab remained a vicious threat, said armed groups could not be defeated by military means alone. The political process would lay a foundation for peace and security. The sanctions regime had supported the Government’s fight against Al-Shabaab, alongside AMISOM troops. Turning to Eritrea, he urged its Government to comply with its international obligations, including Council resolutions. Its refusal to cooperate with the Monitoring Group meant that there was no way to verify whether it was supporting Al-Shabaab and other armed groups. He encouraged Eritrea to take the opportunity for engagement being offered by the Council.

ALEXIS LAMEK (France) said the fight against terrorist groups in Somalia, including Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), remained a priority. Somali authorities must swiftly develop a security architecture so that the police and armed forces could take over from AMISOM. Operations by Somali and international forces must be pursued in full respect for human rights, he said, stressing that drought threatened millions of people and called for a sustained humanitarian response. Welcoming Eritrea’s apparent lack of support for Al-Shabaab, he said it was important for that country to deepen its cooperation with the Council and invite the Panel of Experts to Asmara. Welcoming Eritrea’s release of four Djibouti prisoners of war, he urged that light be shed on other cases.

FODA� SECK (Senegal) expressed concern over the growing threat of ISIL in the region, as illustrated by an operation in February on a hotel by a small faction that had declared allegiance to that group. He noted the Monitoring Group’s concern at the threat posed by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and condemned the diversion of humanitarian assistance. Regarding the charcoal ban, he said that while Al-Shabaab might no longer be involved in its trade, that group continued to levy taxes on its production and export. He went on to invite Eritrea to cooperate to a greater extent with the Monitoring Group, creating conditions conducive to the lifting of sanctions.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) raised a number of concerns, including increasing numbers of pirate attacks and the safety of the Somali people in the face of Al-Shabaab violence and the threat of famine. Successful elections had triggered progress in many sectors. To build on that, he underlined the importance of strengthening the arms and charcoal embargo, and extending assistance to African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). He approved of loosening the embargo to allow national armed forces to receive needed materials, stressing that a sanctions regime was not a dogma, but rather must be periodically revised to reflect changing situations.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said terrorist groups continued to be a major obstacle on the road to peace and rebuilding of State institutions in Somalia. The embargo’s strict implementation must continue and the Monitoring Group must examine any breaches. Turning to the sanctions on Eritrea, he commended the Monitoring Group’s findings that the Government had no links to Al-Shabaab. Periodic review of the sanctions was important to ensure they reflected the situation on the ground. Moving forward, he urged more cooperation between Eritrea and the Monitoring Group. Concerning the missing personnel from Djibouti, he called for answers. Regarding the Monitoring Group, he said Africans must be appropriately represented.

WU HAITAO (China) said neighbouring countries had an interest in maintaining peace in order to promote regional development, urging them to use dialogue to improve developments on the ground. The monitoring group should play a constructive role in peace and security in Africa, he said, recalling that China had provided assistance to AMISOM and the countries in the Horn of Africa.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), emphasizing that strengthening Somalia’s national security must be a top priority for the new President and Government, said Al-Shabaab remained the most significant security threat. Sustained engagement by the Council and the Monitoring Group would be needed in tackling it. Expressing concern about the severe humanitarian situation caused by the drought in Somalia and the region, he said safe and unhindered access was needed to provide relief. Noting reports of a possible breach of the arms embargo, he urged that the incident be thoroughly investigated and that vigilance be exercised regarding any possible exploitation of natural resources by Al-Shabaab. Eritrea must cooperate with the Monitoring Group in order to verify its encouraging findings that no Al-Shabaab presence existed in that country, he stressed, expressing support for the proposal of a visit to Asmara by the Monitoring Group Chair.

EDUARD FESKO (Ukraine) said Al-Shabaab stood in the way of a humanitarian response to the drought in Somalia. He expressed support for cooperation between the Somali National Army and AMISOM, and commended Kenyan forces for their recent successful operations. Further joint efforts to ensure implementation and enforcement of the arms embargo and charcoal ban would deprive terrorist groups of revenue and weapons. He asked for detailed information on unregulated and illegal fishing to be included in the next report to the Council. Regarding Eritrea, he said cooperation by that Government would allow the Monitoring Group to implement its mandate.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan) said that with Al-Shabaab a threat in Somalia, sanctions were an effective measure. Japan looked forward to the Somali National Army taking over responsibility for security, he said, noting that the London conference in May would be an opportunity to build political will. Japan had extended $30 million in emergency and humanitarian assistance to address the drought. Vessel hijackings highlighted the need for continued international anti-piracy activities, he said, urging that more support be provided to Somalia to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Turning to Eritrea, he called for progress on the case of combatants missing in action following the border incident with Djibouti.

ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said it was urgent to bolster Somalia’s security in order to combat Al-Shabaab. The international community must also boost efforts to provide assistance for security and the provision of services to citizens. The Monitoring Group should leave no stone unturned in its work concerning the illegal arms trade and other areas. In the face of a severe drought, Somalia must ensure aid delivery to all areas. The humanitarian crisis must be addressed, as should sexual violence, female genital mutilation and child marriage, he said, urging the Government to investigate and act on those issues.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said although Al-Shabaab’s capacities had been weakened, it remained a potent force capable of launching attacks. Close attention must be paid to developments. The Monitoring Group’s work on sanctions was critical, he said, emphasizing Ethiopia’s commitment to cooperate on that matter. Forging the necessary horizontal coordination with the Monitoring Group and other mechanisms was important. Somalia had cooperated with the Group and must meet its obligations in accordance to relevant Security Council resolutions, including on investigations involving missing soldiers. Any visit by the Council should remain free of preconceived assumptions, as it would allow the Committee to observe first-hand the boundary demarcation and other pressing concerns.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) noted that the Monitoring Group had stated that Somalia was cooperating fully in the implementation of the sanctions regime. Further progress in managing arms and ammunition should be taken into account in considering future sanctions. On Eritrea, he said Italy expected the Monitoring Group to be fair and impartial, encouraging that country to cooperate with the Council so that it could take decisions on the basis of established facts.

LUIS MAURICIO ARANCIBIA FERNA�NDEZ (Bolivia) said the long-standing sanctions regime targeting Somalia and Eritrea had been amended over time, but with no notable progress. It was time to consider its effectiveness, bearing in mind that sanctions were not an end in themselves. Expressing alarm at Al-Shabaab’s presence, he urged Somalia, AMISOM and other partners to protect humanitarian aid workers and ensure the charcoal ban was respected.

MICHELE SISON (United States), regarding Somalia and the Al-Shabaab threat, said robust efforts must continue to avoid backsliding on recent gains. She expressed support for sanctions as part of a comprehensive United Nations strategy to deter violence and corruption. On the arms embargo, she urged Somalia and Member States to comply with existing measures and advise promptly when using exemptions. She inquired about plans by one Member State to build a naval base in the region, adding that the United States would welcome any Monitoring Group reporting on an uptick in piracy and the nexus between unregulated fishing and piracy. Turning to Eritrea, she emphasized the importance of a Monitoring Group visit, noting that without that Government’s engagement, the Council could not make an informed decision on sanctions.

MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti), agreeing that Al-Shabaab continued to pose a serious threat to Somalia’s peace and security, expressed support for the call by the Head of AMISOM for a troop surge in order to tackle that group. Likewise, he echoed the Secretary-General’s call to provide enhanced logistical support for under-equipped African Union forces in Somalia, in particular force enablers and multipliers, including helicopters. Saying he was deeply saddened that Eritrea had chosen to obstruct the Monitoring Group, denying them all access to information needed to determine whether Eritrea was in compliance with the Council’s resolutions, he stressed that the country had formulated a victimhood narrative and cynically sought to be rewarded for its continued defiance of Council resolutions.

Warning that Eritrea continued to provide support to Al-Shabaab, he went on to say the country should be urged to clarify the situation of the 13 remaining Djibouti prisoners of war still unaccounted for, and must comply with the provisions of the 2010 Qatar Mediation Agreement on the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea. The latter continued to harbour, train, equip and provide logistical support to armed groups seeking to overthrow and destabilize the Government of Djibouti, in violation of Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations, he added.

AMANUEL GIORGIO (Eritrea) said the Council’s briefing was taking place exactly 15 years from the date the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission had given its final, binding ruling. Yet Ethiopia continued to occupy sovereign Eritrean territory, including the town of Badme, in violation of its treaty obligations and international law, dashing hopes for peace and security. The Council continued to avoid the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict. It could not continue its 15 years of inaction in the face of destabilizing acts of occupation and aggression in the region. This is not only morally and legally unacceptable but is it increasingly evident that the simmering tension is untenable and fraught with perilous escalation, he said, calling on the Council to ensure Ethiopia’s immediate, unconditional withdrawal from sovereign Eritrean territories.

Clearly, the time has come, in fact it is long overdue, to lift the sanctions on Eritrea, he said. They were unjustified and their continuation could only be viewed as a desire to spread crises in an already conflict-ridden region. For four years the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group had found no evidence of any Eritrean wrongdoing in Somalia. On Djibouti, Eritrea was committed to Qatar-sponsored mediation efforts to release all Djibouti prisoners of war, he said, adding that Eritrea has confirmed that there were no more Djiboutian prisoners in its hands. The Monitoring Group had visited Eritrea twice and ascertained the absence of Eritrea’s support for Al-Shabaab. As such, Eritrea does not see any real value in a visit by the Monitoring Group to the country, he said, stressing that its real concern was the public stance of certain countries against the lifting of sanctions even if the Group was to visit Eritrea.

Source: United Nations

VOA Exclusive: Dozens More US Troops Deployed to Somalia

PENTAGON � Dozens of American soldiers have deployed to Mogadishu to train and equip Somali and AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) forces fighting extremism in Somalia, U.S. military officials told VOA.

The troops’ arrival marks the first presence of American military forces in Somalia, other than a small unit of counterterrorism advisers, since March 1994 when the U.S. pulled out of the U.N. intervention operation in the war-torn state, five months after 18 U.S. special forces personnel were killed in a battle with Somali militiamen that inspired the movie Black Hawk Down.

“United States Africa Command will conduct various security cooperation and/or security force assistance events in Somalia in order to assist our allies and partners,” U.S. Africa Command spokesman Pat Barnes told VOA on Thursday.

The move is another example of the acceleration of U.S. efforts to help combat violent extremism across the globe, a second military official said. The goal of the operation is to build partner capacity while helping to improve the logistics of local forces battling the military group al-Shabab.

A few dozen troops from the 101st Airborne Division in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, arrived in Mogadishu on April 2 at the request of the Somali government, a U.S. military official told VOA.

The team is carrying out a train-and-equip mission that is expected to last through the end of September, according to the official.

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy DeLeon, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, said the U.S. team will help instill the professionalism and discipline that the local force can use to create the terms for security.

“It gives them the tools to help themselves,” DeLeon said in an interview with VOA.

The U.S. usually has a small unit of between 3 and 50 American troops in Somalia supporting U.S.-Somali military-to-military relations, and advising and assisting Somali troops. The new arrivals from the 101st Airborne Division will not be added to the mission of those Americans currently on the ground in Somalia, a military official said, “but there will be some overlap.”

Last week, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed called on al-Shabab fighters to surrender within 60 days in return for education and jobs.

Days later, a car bomb targeted senior officials leaving a military base in Mogadishu, killing at least 15 people and destroying a minibus carrying civilians, the Somali military said. Al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility.

Source: Voice of America