The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is targeting 50 per cent increase in its sport programme for persons living with disabilities in nine new countries by 2020.
The countries are: Guinea Bissau, Laos, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Togo, Ukraine and Vietnam.
ICRC disclosed this in a statement it issued from its headquarters in Geneva to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is globally celebrated annually on Dec. 3, to promote understanding of disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
According to ICRC, the expansion in nine countries will bring the number of countries to 27 where the ICRC is helping to support those with disabilities through sports.
It stated that the long-term goal was big to break down the stigma associated with physical disability and create structures in societies that allowed people with disabilities to reach their full potential.
“Let’s make sure persons with disabilities are not held back by misconceptions of what they are capable of.
“Let’s promote pathways to employment and education, and let’s counter the assumption that someone who had childhood polio or was hit by a landmine cannot function as a parent or productive employee.
“They can function,” Jess Markt, ICRC’s Disabilities, Sport and Inclusion Advisor said.
Markt also said the Day served as a reminder and a conversation starter about people who lived with disabilities, year-round.
ICRC described Markt as “an athlete in the high jump at the University of Oregon in the United States before a car accident put him in a wheelchair“
This development it said led to sports programmes for the disabled, worldwide.
“Dec. 3 has become a day that we can focus on issues like inclusion. It’s an important day to call out disability rights and awareness worldwide.
“The challenge is the need to remember and include this community, year-round.’’
“Markt is currently attending a major wheelchair basketball tournament in Pataya, Thailand, where six ICRC-supported teams are competing as part of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics qualifier.“
According to ICRC, 80 wheelchair basketball players, including 15 women, are now gather in Juba for three weeks training that will culminate in a tournament from Dec. 12 to Dec.13.
“When I’m playing, I forget about my disability. “I put all my heart in it because it is an opportunity to learn.
“Nothing would be impossible for people with disabilities, if we were given the right means.But we are seen as nobodies,’’ said one player, Mary Hezekiah.
ICRC noted that were few services available in South Sudan for people living with disabilities and only three orthopedic centres.
The Red Cross, however, said it supported the three centres to enable persons receive physical therapy and mobility devices like prosthetics and wheelchairs.
Also, James Reynolds, the ICRC’s Head of delegation in South Sudan said: “we see new patients every day at the orthocenters, many of whom suffered amputations, following gunshot wounds.
“It is a stark reminder of how this conflict has irreversibly altered the lives of so many.
“We hope that this tournament helps to break the stigma and exclusion around disabilities.’’
Nigeria News Agency reports that ICRC, established in 1863, works worldwide to ensure humanitarian protection and assistance for people affected by conflict and violence.
Edited & Vetted By: Dada Ahmed
Chile’s capital sees 150 new Chinese-made electric buses
A fleet of 150 electric buses manufactured by Chinese company BYD have joined the Chilean capital’s public transport system, the company said in a statement released on Monday.
The buses were incorporated Saturday into the line serving Santiago’s central Bernardo O’Higgins Avenue, the capital city’s main east-west axis.
The new units bring BYD’s total electric bus fleet in Chile to 455.
Tamara Berrios, country manager of BYD Chile, said the new buses will both “provide residents of Santiago with more quality transport and decontaminate the air” as part of the city’s Alameda Project.
“The Alameda Project is of great importance due to its visibility and the structural transformation of the axis of Chile’s capital,” Berrios said.
“We are convinced that it is necessary to continue promoting the transformation of public transport through electromobility, and BYD will continue to move forward in that regard,” she added.
BYD highlighted in the statement that it has consolidated its status as a leader in Chile’s electric bus market with a 65 percent share, and also as a “leader in electromobility in Latin America” with presence in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Uruguay, as well as Chile.
BYD vehicles form part of the RED, a public transportation network which integrates Greater Santiago’s subway system, bike-sharing program, bus lines and suburban trains.
Santiago’s electric bus fleet is projected to reach 800 units by the end of this year.
Roundup: COVID-19 recoveries in Italy continue to rise, 28 positive migrants isolated
The number of people who recovered from COVID-19 infections in Italy reached 186,111 on Wednesday, as 1,526 new recoveries were registered over the past 24 hours, the country’s Civil Protection Department said in its daily bulletin.
There were 30 new fatalities over the 24 hours, which brought the country’s death toll to 34,644, the Civil Protection Department said.
The department explained the death figure resulted nonetheless lower than Tuesday’s 34,675, since the Autonomous Trento Province revised its toll down by 61 death cases.
Active COVID-19 infections kept following a downward path, down by 918 against Tuesday to a total of 18,655.
Of those active infections, 107 patients are currently in intensive care, down by eight compared to the previous day. Another 1,610 remain hospitalized with symptoms, down by 243, and the remaining 16,938 — or 91 percent, are isolated at home because they are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms.
Assessed cases in Italy increased by 190 to 239,410, including active infections, recoveries, and fatalities. The figure came after the Autonomous Trento Province revised its assessed cases up by 387 on Wednesday.
MIGRANTS IN ISOLATION
Also on Wednesday, 28 migrants rescued by the non-governmental ship Sea Watch at large in the Mediterranean — while trying to reach the Italian coasts — tested positive for COVID-19. They were put in isolation on board another ship anchored off Porto Empedocle in Sicily, according to Italian authorities.
The 28 patients — all of them asymptomatic or with light symptoms — are part of a larger group of at least 209 rescued migrants and refugees.
“Since their arrival, all migrants have undergone the proceedings provided by the guidelines on the protected isolation system developed by the Directorate-General for Health Prevention of the Health Ministry,” it added.
The alert was launched after a first rescued migrant (out of the 28) felt sick on board the Sea Watch on Tuesday, and was transferred to hospital in the city of Caltanissetta, where he tested positive to COVID-19.
After that, a swab test was carried out to all of the rescued people and the crew of the ship.
SUPPORT FOR VIRUS-HIT FIRMS
On the economic side of the COVID-19 crisis, the Finance Ministry on Wednesday said applications to benefit from a moratorium on loans exceeded 2.6 million, worth almost 280 billion euros (315 billion United States dollars) overall.
In addition, requests from micro, small, and medium firms for accessing new bank loans backed by the state’s Guarantee Fund now exceeded 690,000.
Both measures were made available through a governmental “Liquidity Decree” since early April in order to support the companies hit by the coronavirus emergency and the related lockdown on economic activities.
The task force managing such liquidity supportive measures involves the Economy Ministry, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Bank of Italy, the Italian Banking Association (ABI), and the SACE Export Credit Agency.
Italy’s economy — the third largest of the euro-zone — might contract by 12.8 percent this year due to the coronavirus impact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast on Wednesday, revising a previous 9.1 percent predicted in April.
In its “World Economic Outlook Update”, the IMF also said it expects Italy to grow by 6.3 percent in 2021, up 1.5 percentage points compared to the April forecast.
News Analysis: Why Africa’s anti-epidemic efforts yield better results than expected
Quick actions and cooperation among African countries helped slow down the spread of COVID-19 and avert a full-blown catastrophe in Africa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said last week.
His remarks were backed up by data from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC). As of Tuesday, the continentwide tally of COVID-19 cases surpassed 252,000, accounting for 3 percent of the global total. The death toll stood at 6,779, accounting for 1.5 percent of the global total. And the coronavirus-related mortality is lower than the global average and that of the United States and European countries.
On June 13, Africa CDC issued an announcement that 43 African countries stay under full border closure amid the epidemic, and night-time curfew has been activated across 35 countries in an effort to halt the spread of the virus.
Across Africa, about seven countries have banned international air traffic, two countries have imposed restrictions on travels to and from specific countries, and two others have activated entry/exit restrictions, according to Africa CDC.
It added that although some African countries still allow cargo, freight and emergency transport in and out of their countries and some African Union (AU) member states allow citizens and residents to enter, borders are essentially all closed.
It also noted that 54 countries in Africa have imposed limitations on public gathering, some 38 have forced country-wide closure of educational institutions, while prison and hospital visits have also been limited in 20 African countries.
Amid growing efforts against COVID-19, some 18 African countries have also initiated mass screening and testing, while 41 have mandated public use of face masks, the agency said.
According to a study released in May by the World Health Organization (WHO), slower rate of transmission, lower age of people with severe disease, and lower mortality rates have been observed in Africa, compared to the most affected countries in other parts of the world.
The study said this is “largely driven by social and environmental factors slowing the transmission, and a younger population that has benefitted from the control of communicable diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis to reduce possible vulnerabilities.”
However, it also warned that the lower rate of transmission suggests a more prolonged outbreak over a few years, and revealed that smaller African countries alongside Algeria, South Africa and Cameroon were at a high risk if containment measures are not prioritized.
According to an article published by France‘s Le Monde, people’s immunity has been mobilized in a continent that sees many epidemic diseases.
It suggested that the relatively small international movement of African people delayed the pace of the virus’ “landing” and spread on the continent.
In addition, the number of virus testings conducted in African countries is smaller than that in European and American countries, and the testings are mostly reserved for severe cases, which is also a factor behind a smaller number of confirmed cases.
GREATER SUPPORT NEEDED
Although Africa has achieved positive results in its epidemic control, it is still widely recognized that the international community should cooperate to support the continent, which is more vulnerable to the raging pandemic with its densely populated markets and housing, poor access to clean water and run-down health infrastructure.
At the Extraordinary G20 Leaders’ Summit in March, major economies reached a consensus that consolidating Africa’s health defense is key to the resilience of global health.
Speaking at the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping especially called on G20 members to jointly help developing countries with weak public health systems enhance preparedness and response.
And China, together with many other countries, is taking concrete actions to implement the consensus.
So far, China has sent to over 50 African countries and the AU their much-needed supplies, dispatched medical experts, and shared its anti-epidemic experience via video conferences.
A communique issued on June 13 by the AU said China has ensured the supply of 30 million testing kits, 10,000 ventilators and 80 million masks each month for Africa, a “significant contribution.”
In late April, the WHO launched an initiative to step up joint actions to fast track the development of technological tools for COVID-19 treatment, and called on the world to ensure equal access to treatments regardless of race, gender or wealth.
To avoid a heavy blow to the global battle against the pathogen, it is believed that the international community must move faster to support Africa and keep it from becoming the next “epicenter” of the pandemic.
“The importance of promoting effective containment measures is ever more crucial, as sustained and widespread transmission of the virus could severely overwhelm our health systems,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s regional director for Africa, was quoted by the organization’s study in May as saying.
Roundup: United States Fed chair Powell sees uncertainty in recovery, warning of widening economic gaps
United States Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that significant “uncertainty” remains about the timing and strength of the recovery, warning that a prolonged downturn could further widen gaps in economic well-being.
Despite the economic bounceback, most forecasters think “that will leave us well short of where we were in February, full employment with the economy really working broadly across all of its areas,” Powell said in a virtual hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
“There are parts of the economy that will struggle to return to their old ways of activity, because they involve getting people together closely in large groups,” said the Fed chairman. “It’s going to take some time to rebuild confidence.”
At the hearing entitled “The Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress,” Powell said in his opening remarks that beginning in mid-March, economic activity fell at an “unprecedented” speed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures taken to control its spread.
“Even after the unexpectedly positive May employment report, nearly 20 million jobs have been lost on net since February,” he said, noting that the reported unemployment rate has risen about 10 percentage points, to 13.3 percent.
The decline in real gross domestic product (GDP) this quarter is “likely to be the most severe on record,” Powell said.
The central bank chief reiterated that the burden of the downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, saying that “those least able to withstand the downturn have been affected most.”
“Low-income households have experienced, by far, the sharpest drop in employment, while job losses of African Americans, Hispanics, and women have been greater than that of other groups,” Powell said.
“If not contained and reversed, the downturn could further widen gaps in economic well-being that the long expansion had made some progress in closing,” said the Fed chair.
The Congressional hearing came shortly after the United States Commerce Department reported that retail sales increased by 17.7 percent in May following a record plunge in the prior month, as businesses continue to reopen across the nation.
Noting that the retail sales number was evidence that the economy was bouncing back, the Fed chair said, “the levels of output and employment remain far below their pre-pandemic levels, and significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery.”
“Much of that economic uncertainty comes from uncertainty about the path of the disease and the effects of measures to contain it,” he said. “Until the public is confident that the disease is contained, a full recovery is unlikely.”
As reopening efforts continue across the nation and employment starts to pick up, Powell said that “we have a long road ahead of us to get those people back to work,” especially those who work in the service industries.
ECONOMIC SUPPORT IN NEED
Noting that the unemployed will be hard pressed to find work, Powell said they’re going to “need support,” without making specific suggestions for Congress on future fiscal policy actions.
Also on Tuesday, more than 100 economists, including two former chairs of the Federal Reserve, three former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, and two Nobel laureates implored Congress to immediately pass a “multifaceted relief bill of a magnitude commensurate with the challenges our economy faces.”
The economists said Congress must pass another economic recovery package before most of the support in the 2.2-trillion-dollar CARES Act, or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, expires this summer.
“If Congress fails to act, state and local governments face potentially disastrous budget shortfalls,” the statement read, noting that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the unemployment rate will likely be more than 11 percent at the end of the year.
At the hearing, Powell highlighted the importance to support state and local governments, saying that if the states are in tight financial straits, they will cut essential services, and lay people off, which will “weigh on the economy.”