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S. African president warns against stigmatization of COVID-19 patients

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President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday urged South Africans to stamp out the stigmatization of people who have proven positive with coronavirus.

The stigmatization of COVID-19 patients has become one of the challenges confronting the country, Ramaphosa said in his weekly presidential address.

“As a society, we have a collective responsibility to stamp out the stigmatization of people infected with the coronavirus,” the president said.

His statement followed disturbing reports of individuals being ostracized from their communities and of communities protesting against coronavirus patients being admitted to local hospitals and clinics.

This stigmatization “must stop”, and South Africans must continue to be guided by facts and not rumors, Ramaphosa said.

“Just as we came together to promote acceptance of people living with HIV and stood firm against victimization, we must show understanding, tolerance, kindness, empathy and compassion for those who are infected with this virus and for their families,” said Ramaphosa.

The stigmatization is driven by fear of contracting the disease and lack of understanding, according to Ramaphosa.

The best way to overcome the instinctive fear of illness and contagion is to observe the hygiene protocols that are in place, the president said.

“The fear of infection is well-founded and real,” he said. “At the same time, we know what we have to do to protect ourselves and others.”

The time when anyone could say they do not know anyone who is infected or affected by coronavirus has long passed, said Ramaphosa.

“Now, more than ever, our friends, families, colleagues and neighbors need our empathy and support,” he said.

He urged South Africans to prepare for tougher times lying ahead “when we will at times find ourselves despondent and fearful as we see the numbers of people infected and dying continue to rise.”

Ramaphosa quoted scientists and medical advisers as saying the rate of infections will go up before it comes down.

“It may be that things have gotten worse, but we are certain that they will get better,” he said.

South Africa has seen the rapid spread of COVID-19 since the outbreak in early March, particularly in recent days when daily confirmed cases continued to surpass 6,000.

As of Sunday, the cumulative number of total cases in the country reached 138,134, of which 6,334 were reported in the past 24 hours, while a further 43 COVID-19 related deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 2,456.

(XINHUA)

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Science & Technology

Facebook selects 12 African community leaders for accelerator programme

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Facebook on Tuesday announced that it had selected 12 African community leaders to join its accelerator programme aimed at equipping societies with training mentorship and funding needed for growth.

The Facebook in a statement said that the accelerator programme would last six months.

It said the programme was also aimed at bringing people together and building communities.

The company said the community accelerator programme invested in leaders who were building communities around the world, offering encouragement and driving change.

It said that following the call for applications in March, 77 community leaders from around the world were chosen, with 12 selected from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the company, selected community leaders would receive up to 30,000 dollars in funding.

It said in the first three months of the programme, the leaders would learn from experts and coaches, focusing on developing customised curriculums on growing their own communities.

“The next three months will then be focused on iterating and executing their plans, with funding and continued support from their network as well as from a dedicated programme team,” it stated.

It said the community accelerator programme would then culminate in an event with community leaders to showcase their communities and progress to external funders and partners.

Commenting, Kezia Anim-Addo, Head of Communications for sub-Saharan Africa said: “We are delighted to be welcoming 12 African community leaders to Facebook’s first Community Accelerator.

“We have seen time and again the power of communities in bringing people closer together.

“We know community leaders can do extraordinary things when they have adequate support from others, tools to get the job done, funding to grow and belief in themselves’’.

Anim-Addo said the Facebook community accelerator programme would enable communities to make an even greater positive impact in the world.

She said that community leaders selected were from three Countries, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

Those selected for the Facebook community accelerator programme included: Hauwa Ojeifo She Writes Woman (Nigeria) Bright Shiitemii Mental360 (Kenya) Lauren Dallas Future Females (South Africa)and Tony Onuk, The Root Hub (Nigeria),

Others are, Esther Mwikalii, Metta NBO (Kenya), Refilwe Nkomo, Visual Arts Network South Africa and Eyitayo Ogunmola, Utiva (Nigeria).

The rest are, Naadiya Moosajee, WomEng (South Africa), Abiodun Adereni, Helpmum (Nigeria),

Dillion Phiri, Creative Nestlings (South Africa)

Rufaro Mudimu, Enke (South Africa) and Tariro Bure, MINDS (South Africa).

Edited By: Edith Bolokor/Adeleye Ajayi (NAN)

 

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General news

United States-based fertiliser coy to establish African branch in Kebbi

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A United State-based organic fertiliser company, Biowish-Crop, on Monday, said it would establish an African branch in Kebbi.

Biowish’s Chief Marketing Officer in Nigeria, Mrs Bill Stevens, gave the hint at a meeting with the state’s branch of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Birnin Kebbi.

Stevens said that the company, when completed, would employ over 1,000 workers.

She said that the company had earlier planned to establish the branch in South Africa but later opted for Nigeria.

“We don’t want to be importing fertilisers from the United States into Nigeria; rather, we want to have a factory here in this country.

“We have chosen Kebbi because the state has stable electricity for the industrial sector.

“Kebbi also has a lot of farmers and a lot of opportunities for the state to have a fertiliser company of pyre organics.

“So, we want to have such a company in Kebbi,’’ she said.

According to her, both the Federal Government and NAFDAC are aware of their presence of the company in Nigeria since 2014.

She pointed out that the company’s fertilisers have been experimented in Kwara, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kaduna and Kebbi, and were adjudged to be best for crops output increment.

“Once the consumers patronise our product and they appreciate it, we can now start producing in Kebbi.

“So, there is no need to be importing any more.

“We can just be importing the inputs and be manufacturing here in Kebbi.

“If we start the factory, within the first year to five years, we can employ from 250 to 1,000, as we are expanding.

“This is because we are not only going to be producing fertilisers for Nigeria alone but for other African countries,” Stevens said.

She hinted that the company has reduced the price of the 250g organic fertiliser from N5,500 per bag to N5,000, as approved by the government.

The reduction, she said, came after vigorous deliberations with the farmers’ association.

Earlier, the state Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Alhaji Abdullahi Shehu, said that the ministry had received a lot of complaints from farmers on alleged adulterated fertilisers in circulation.

“They bought the fertilisers at exorbitant prices without improved outputs.

“Now, the cost of the fertiliser is about N10,000 plus; and the suppliers told us that that is the cost of bringing it from Port Harcourt, in Rivers to Kebbi.

“We have received many complaints from the farmers that they used the adulterated fertilisers and no results,’’ Shehu said.

In his remarks, the Chairman of AFAN in the state, Alhaji Usman Dan-Gwandu, welcomed the company to the state and appealed for a reduction in the price of the commodity, to enable farmers to buy at an affordable rate.

Edited By: Folorunso Poroye/Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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General news

Don calls for restoration of African values in tackling corruption

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A don, Prof. Maduabuchi Dukor, has urged African leaders to promote the propagation of indigenous cultural values in the quest to tackle corruption.

Dukor, the Head of Philosophy Department at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Monday.

He said all schools’ curricula should include African moral values as a subject for impact on pupils and students.

“The good old days of oath taking before deities instilled fear in Africans and then made office holders to be upright and honest,” he said.

According to the don, working on people’s mindset would restore African culture which respects hard work and discourage the nefarious quest for instant wealth by youths.

“It should start in all stages of schooling and this calls for review of their respective curriculum that is a handout from the western world,” he said.

Dukor, however, commended the zeal of President Muhammadu Buhari in fighting corruption using the fundamental principles of life.

“Since Nigeria is not an island unto herself and for international best practices to be followed, President Muhammadu Buhari is trying his best in fighting corruption by setting a panel to try the country’s number one corruption fighter.

” The message being sent is for every other person to know that government is staging a revolution against corruption following the rule of law,” he said.

(
Edited By: Abiodun Esan/Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)

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Foreign

S/African president pays tribute to late Zindzi Mandela

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As tributes continued pouring in following the death of South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark Zindzi Mandela, President Cyril Ramaphosa said her passing was saddening.

Zindzi died at age of 59 in a Johannesburg hospital after a short illness. She was Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela’s youngest daughter.

“Her spirit joins Tata Madiba and Mama Winnie in a reunion of leaders to whom we owe our freedom,’’ Ramaphosa said on Monday.

Ramaphosa offered his condolences to the Mandela family and the rest of the diplomatic family.

At the time of her death, Zindzi was designated to become South Africa’s Head of Mission in Monrovia, Liberia.

She also served as Deputy President of the Soweto Youth Congress and was a member of the Release Mandela Campaign.

“I offer my deep condolences to the Mandela family as we mourn the passing of a fearless political activist who was a leader in her own right,’’ the president said.

He said the fact that her death was a few days before Nelson’s birthday which is on July 18 was sad.

“Our sadness is compounded by this loss being visited upon us just days before the world marks the birthday of the great Nelson Mandela,’’ Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa praised Zindzi’s involvement in the liberation struggle against apartheid.

“Zindzi Mandela was a household name nationally and internationally, who during our years of struggle brought home the inhumanity of the apartheid system and the unshakeable resolve of our fight for freedom,’’ Ramaphosa said.

He also applauded for the role she played after the country gained democracy.

“After our liberation she became an icon of the task we began of transforming our society and stepping into spaces and opportunities that had been denied to generations of South Africans,’’ he said.

Edited By: Halima Sheji/Sadiya Hamza (NAN)

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Defence/Security

Combating security threats: African countries have to work together at all levels – President Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said that in order for African countries to combat security threats effectively, they must continue to work together at all levels, be it tactical, operational and strategic.

President Buhari said this during the graduation of 181 students of the senior course 42 of the Armed Forces Command and Staff College (AFCSC), Jaji, Kaduna.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN ) reports that the President was represented by the Minister of Defence, Maj-Gen Bashir Magashi (Rtd).

Out of the 181 senior course participants,  84 were from the Army, 40 from Navy, 34 Air Force, 13 international students and 10 from the paramilitary.

President Buhari explained that most security challenges facing the world today are both asymmetric and trans-border in nature, and involved mainly non-state actors in different sub-regions and regions.

“The West Africa sub-region and indeed our beloved continent are not immune to these threats.

“As such, the specifics of your training which centre mostly on countering these threats is most timely.

“Combating these prevalent security threats effectively demands that African countries continue to work together at all level, be it tactical, operational and strategic.”

Buhari lauded the collaboration of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Cameroun, Niger Republic and Chad in a multinational operation to combat the Boko Haram Insurgency in the Lake Chad region.

According to him, the synergy achieved in operating together was enhanced by an understanding of doctrines of the cooperating forces.

“This would have been made possible through joint training and exercises similar to the curriculum of your course.

 “I therefore advise that you nurture the friendship and comradeship you have built within the one year duration of the course.”

He noted that the occasion provided another opportunity to reflect on the state of the Nigerian nation, particularly as regards National Security .

“The last 11 years have been particularly challenging for our nation, considering the plethora of security threats that have besieged the country, which threaten our fledgling democracy and collective existence as a sovereign nation.

“Our government is poised to promote national security and development, as well as remain committed to promoting a vision of secure, safe, just, peaceful, prosperous and strong nation .

“We shall be employing all elements of our national power in ensuring security, a just society, peaceful coexistence, national unity and sustainable development while promoting our good standing abroad.

” The response of the Nigerian Armed Forces to the Boko Haram Insurgency, banditry, militancy, kidnapping as well as activities of separatist and armed militias amongst others have been commendable.

“My administration will continue to give priority to the training and welfare of officers and men of the armed forces.

” This is exemplified in the implementation of the payment of the enhanced allowances contained in the latest manual of financial administration of the Armed Forces  of Nigeria earlier this year,” the president said.

Earlier, the Commandant of the AFCSC, AVM Abubakar Liman, had admitted the graduands into the league of officers entitled to adorn the prestigious emblem of Pass Staff Course (Psc) after 48 weeks of drilling to attain the professional level of competence.

He said the graduands, who are majors and its equivalent in other services, are good to take up higher responsibility in the National Defence architecture.

They are proficiently equipped and qualified to carry out any assigned task to accomplish National Security Aspirations of promoting peace and ending insurgency, banditry and other criminalities facing the nation, he added.

Edited By: Oluyinka Fadare/Maharazu Ahmed (NAN)

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General news

African refugees may starve as COVID-19 worsen – UNHCR, WFP warn

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The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have warned of an impending hunger and malnutrition among millions of refugees in Africa as COVID-19 impact worsens.

The UNHCR and WFP in a joint statement on Thursday said that the refugees might also be starved due to the dwindling funds of humanitarian aid.

The statement said that the supply chain challenges, rising food prices and loss of income due to COVID-19 would worsen if urgent actions are not taken.

It said that of the about 1.2 billion dollars needed to care for refugees in 2020, more than half was for operations in Africa, noting that the funds had gravely dwindled, already forcing cuts in food rations.

It stated that WFP was providing food assistance to more than 10 million refugees worldwide.

It said that the assistance include those in the world’s largest refugee settlements, such as Bidibidi settlement in Uganda, where rations were reduced by 30 per cent in April due to lack of fund.

”Refugee populations who were previously able to feed and fend for themselves, including many living in urban areas and those working in the informal economy, are also facing significant challenges.

“Large numbers have lost their only source of income as work possibilities disappeared due to COVID-19 prevention measures.

“Most are not covered by social protection schemes, leaving many families destitute and dependent on humanitarian assistance,” it stated.

It added that many refugees in South Africa were in danger of being evicted and had approached UNHCR helplines in desperate need of food and support.

”At the same time, import and export restrictions are squeezing supply chains.

“In the landlocked Sahel, COVID-19 prevention measures such as border closures and movement restrictions limits capacity to transport produce in a region where escalating insecurity, violence and conflict.

“Compounded by the impact of climate change and poverty, has disrupted food security and livelihoods for millions of people,” it said.

It noted that assistance for vulnerable groups, including more than 1.2 million refugees in the region, needed to be sustained.

It said that in Cameroon, WFP was forced to reduce its assistance to refugees from the Central African Republic by 50 per cent in May and June due to funding gaps, adding that based on current funding levels, it would have to stop cash assistance entirely from August.

It added that in the Republic of Congo, the average price of a basic food basket has increased by 15 per cent while in Rwanda, WFP market monitoring around refugee camps found food prices were already on average 27 per cent higher in April 2020 compared to 2019, and 40 per cent higher than in 2018.

“As a result of these challenges, many refugees are resorting to negative coping mechanisms, such as skipping meals or reducing meal portions.

“More than 80 per cent of refugees in South Sudan are estimated to be resorting to such measures. In some cases, refugees are resorting to begging, transactional sex or early or forced marriages to be able to afford food.

”UNHCR and WFP are, however, concerned about the negative impact of reduced assistance on refugees and urged donors in the international community to provide further funding to ensure refugees do not face starvation,” it said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi said that millions of refugees throughout Africa were currently reliant on regular aid to meet their food needs.

Grandi said that in view of the economic challenges and poor funding occasioned by the unending pandemic, the refugees needed the assistance of the UN now more than ever.

“Around half are children, who may develop life-long difficulties if deprived of food at vital stages in their development,” Grandi said.

David Beasley, WFP’s Executive Director, says, “Unless urgent action is taken to address the situation, levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anemia are expected to rise.

“In refugee camps in Ethiopia, 62 per cent of children is experiencing critical levels of anemia.

“While the situation continues to deteriorate for everyone, the disaster is magnified for refugees who have absolutely nothing to cushion their fall.

“In the best of times, refugees live in cramped conditions, struggle to meet basic needs and often have no option but to rely on outside assistance for survival.

“Now more than ever, they need lifesaving support”, he said.

According to him, globally, WFP activities supporting refugees have a net funding requirement of more than 1.2 billion dollars from July to December of which 694 million dollars was for operations in Africa.

“African governments are urged to ensure refugees and displaced populations are included in social safety nets and COVID-19 response plans.

“This is in line with commitments to the Global Compact on Refugees, to ensure they are able to access food and emergency cash assistance.”

Edited By: Chinyere Bassey and Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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Sport

Former African heavyweight boxing champion recovers from cancer

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Ngozika Ekwelum, a former African Heavy Weight Boxing Champion, has been  discharged from the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, after a successful treatment of cancer of the bladder.

Ekwelum was diagnosed of cancer of the  bladder and had been undergoing treatment since April 8.

Addressing newsmen in Enugu on Wednesday, during his visit for a checkup, Ekwelum said he had completed all the Radiotherapy for the treatment and would undergo chemotherapy once a month till November 2020.

The boxing champion, thanked Gov. Willie Obiano of Anambra, his Home Town Union President General, Mr Mezie Okwuokolo and Mr Ikechukwu Okoronkwo for their immense support throughout his ordeal at the hospital.

Ekwelum also appreciated the media for informing the world that he was in need and all others that contributed spiritually and financially to his successful recovery.

He also commended organisations and individuals who donated financially for his treatment both in Nigeria and outside the country.

” I was referred to UNTH Ituku Ozalla from a hospital in Anambra  and we arrived UNTH on April 8,” he said, adding that he was at that time unable to walk for four weeks because of the ailment.

Ekwelum recalled that patients were discharged from UNTH in their numbers at the time, because of the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

”It was my brother and my wife that brought me to the hospital and due to the massive discharge of patients, we rented an apartment outside the hospital.

” We used to visit the hospital from the rented apartment for treatment and thank God that I am now back on  my feet,” he said.

Ekwelum said he was never abandoned at the hospital, and  said his biggest surprise was the efforts and commitment  of a Personal Assistant to Anambra State Governor to his recovery,  whose name he did not disclose.

Ekwelum advised sports administrators in the country to always take good care of their athletes, both active and retired.

Edited By: Dorcas Jonah/Maharazu Ahmed (NAN)

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Foreign

UNESCO uncovers theft of African artefacts using its name

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The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says fraudsters are using its name to steal cultural artefacts from Africa.

In a report on Wednesday, the organisation said the fraudsters were selling artefacts to unsuspecting buyers using fake UNESCO stamp.

According to the organisation, fake documents falsely claimed that UNESCO authorised the transactions, and certified the monetary value of collections.

It said the warning followed numerous reports received by UNESCO on the  scam.

The organisation advised art lovers approached to buy such items bearing its stamp, to exercise the “utmost vigilance”.

Most victims of the fraud live in France, according to UNESCO, and many have links to Francophone African countries.

The report quoted the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, as saying artefacts worth over one million euros had been stolen from the continent.

Azoulay described cultural theft as a “lucrative global scourge” that was “in most cases connected to other forms of organised crime, including terrorism”. 

“It is 50 years since an international Convention was adopted to combat the illicit traffic in cultural property.

“Although African cultural heritage has long been the victim of looting and destruction, the Middle East has become a recent target in connection with conflict in Iraq and Syria

“The illicit trade is also growing on the internet, where tracing origins and intermediaries is difficult”.

It quoted UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ramirez, as saying illicit trafficking in cultural property is a worldwide, lucrative scourge.

Ramirez linked to other forms of organised crime, including the financing of terrorism. 

“Not only is it rife in Africa, whose cultural heritage has long been the victim of looting and destruction, but it has exploded more recently in the Middle East in connection with the conflicts in Iraq and Syria,” he said.

 

Edited By: Bola Akingbehin/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Foreign

African governments need to take a cue from China on combating COVID-19: analyst

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A Namibian analyst on Monday said the the country and its southern African counterparts have a lot to learn from China‘s response plan against the novel coronavirus.

Political analyst in the University of Namibia Ndumba Kamwanyah made the remarks following the release of a working document by the Chinese Embassy in Windhoek titled “Fighting COVID-19, China in Action”.

The document shows how China used its resources to deal with a potentially dangerous situation caused by COVID-19 through astute leadership.

“Through painstaking efforts and tremendous sacrifice, and having paid a heavy price, China has succeeded in turning the situation around. In little more than a single month, the rising spread of the virus was contained; in around two months, the daily increase in domestic coronavirus cases had fallen to single digits; and in approximately three months, a decisive victory was secured in the battle to defend Hubei province and its capital city of Wuhan,” the report noted in part.

Kamwanyah told Xinhua that China’s response plan on the COVID-19 pandemic contained in the document is a good guideline for Namibia and many African countries to deal with the virus.

“It’s pretty obvious that figures are spiking in the region and in Namibia per se. We need to look at and learn the way the Chinese government centralized their communication and emergency response plan,” he said.

The document also shows how Chinese President Xi assumed full command over the control efforts from the very beginning.

“He highlighted the need to put people’s lives and health first, to firm up confidence, strengthen solidarity, adopt a science-based approach, and take targeted measures. He called for a nationwide effort to block the spread of the virus and defeat it,” the report noted.

Kamwanyah added that Namibia and African governments also need to take a cue in strengthening home-grown solutions like China before relying heavily on outside help.

(XINHUA)

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