Washington, D.C., June 9, 2020 (PAHO)—The Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Carissa F. Etienne, said preparing for winter and hurricanes is critical to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the Americas.
With more than 3.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the region and many areas reporting exponential rises in cases and deaths, “We are concerned by data showing the virus surging in new places that had previously seen a limited number of cases,” Etienne said in a press briefing today.
The PAHO Director noted, “In South America, our response to the pandemic will be impacted by the arrival of winter, while hurricane season will complicate our efforts in North and Central America, and especially in the Caribbean.”
Preparing for respiratory infections during winter
Winter, now starting in South America, “fuels respiratory infections—like seasonal influenza and pneumonia—that can rapidly spread in colder climates and as more people gather indoors to stay warm,” she said.
“This is a problem for patients because respiratory illnesses leave them at greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection. Its also a challenge for strained health systems that will have to cope with the dual burden of a coronavirus pandemic and a spike in other respiratory illnesses. It does not help that the similar symptoms will make diagnosing COVID-19 even harder,” Dr. Etienne told journalists at the briefing.
Influenza vaccination “to prevent severe cases of flu is more critical than ever—particularly for high-risk groups like health workers, the elderly and people with chronic conditions. These same groups are also at high-risk of coronavirus infection,” she noted.
Seasonal influenza vaccination is ongoing in 14 countries, and more than 90 million people are being targeted. PAHO is helping countries buy vaccines through its Revolving Fund. “The Fund helped secure 24 million flu vaccine doses, despite the added logistical hurdles that were all facing in transporting essential supplies during the pandemic,” the PAHO Director explained.
Preparing for hurricane season
With hurricane season starting, PAHOs director suggested that officials in the Caribbean, Central America, and the East coast of the USA “review national hurricane response plans and conduct simulation exercises to ensure your disaster and COVID-19 responses are aligned. We should also plan for potential disruptions to the care of critically ill patients and refine evacuation plans.”
She said PAHO is working to provide emergency response supplies throughout the region, and “to secure critical facilities like laboratories, and quarantine and isolation centers so diagnosis and treatment for COVID-19 can continue even under difficult circumstances.”
”We must take action today to safeguard our progress and mitigate the spread of the virus during this time. That means redoubling our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, so that we reduce the dual burden the approaching winter and hurricane seasons might bring.” Dr. Carissa F. Etienne
Strengthening health infrastructure by hiring surge staff and expanding reserves of essential supplies and protective equipment is also important and “will help ensure the work done to prepare for COVID-19 is reinforced to address these seasonal threats, she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed our region to the limit. Our communities and health systems are under duress, and our collective efforts are laser focused on containing the virus, Dr. Etienne said.
“Preparing for winter and hurricane season is a critical part of this fight. We must take action today to safeguard our progress and mitigate the spread of the virus during this time. And that means redoubling our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, so that we reduce the dual burden the approaching winter and hurricane seasons might bring.”
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša congratulates Donald Trump despite no election result
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presi..
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has handed Donald Trump victory in the 2020 United States Presidential election, despite no official result being declared.
“Its pretty clear that American people have elected Donald Trump and Mike Pence for four more years,” Janša tweeted on Wednesday.
Donald Trump declared a premature victory at the White House and described the election process as a “major fraud on our nation”.
The campaign for Democrat candidate Joe Biden has described the bid to stop vote counting as “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect”, and say they are “ready to deploy” legal teams.
The Slovenian Prime Minister’s tweet generated an immediate response from several MEPs, including German Nicola Beer from Renew Europe Group.
“Donald Trump has his deeply undemocratic, unjustified playbook on elections EU Member States should not play along,” tweeted Beer.
“The European Union, with all Member States, has a duty to show respect for every single vote. Period.”
No other EU leader has issued congratulations or themselves announced a result in the US election.
“While we wait for the election result, the EU remains ready to continue building a strong transatlantic partnership, based on our shared values and history,” said EU Vice-President Josep Borrell.
The electoral college votes have not all been counted at time of writing.
“More delays and facts denying … [the] bigger the final triumph for the President. Congratulations to the Republican Party for strong results across the US”.
The US election is currently locked in a stalemate, with hundreds of thousands of votes still to be counted, and the outcome still unclear in key states.
Lessons for Africa from devastating Mauritius oil spill
The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and i..
The shipwreck of the MV Wakashio has caused one of Mauritiuss worst environmental catastrophes and its devastating impact is expected to last for decades. Over 1 000 tonnes of fuel oil leaked into pristine Mauritian waters, covering the nearby shore in toxic sludge and immersing the ecosystem in a desperate struggle for survival.
This environmental crisis couldnt have occurred at a worse time for Mauritius. The spill will seriously impede the recovery of a Mauritian economy highly dependent on coastal tourism and already battered by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Mauritius and other African states need to promptly review their contingency strategies and response capacities so we can start positing immediate lessons to be learnt.
The national and international response to the MV Wakashio crisis was commendable. France, India, Japan and the International Maritime Organization cooperated to support local Mauritian efforts in a race against time to pump out the fuel from the vessel, which eventually broke apart on 15 August. Meanwhile local volunteers flocked to the shore with improvised booms and barriers.
Mauritius and other African states need to urgently review their contingency strategies
While a full investigation and report is urgently required, it is possible to start piecing together a narrative of what has occurred and how it turned so bad so quickly.
The MV Wakashio left China on 14 July heading for Brazil. On 25 July it ran aground on the reefs located roughly a mile off Pointe dEsny and the Blue Bay Marine Park along the south-eastern shore of Mauritius. No oil leakage was reported at the time, and the Mauritius coast guard swiftly deployed booms and took other preventive actions. The government activated its National Oil Spill Contingency Plan the following day.
By 5 August a minor oil slick was observed surrounding the vessel. It was still assumed that the countrys contingency plan was sufficient and that the risk of oil spill was still low. But then the MV Wakashio flooded and began sinking. Oil started to spill into the sea.
On 7 August Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a national environment emergency. Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo suggested that this is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem. Mauritius called for international help once the scale of the emergency became apparent and quickly overwhelmed the resources and capacity of the countrys national contingency plan.
The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating
Some of these resources were acquired as part of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Highway Development and Coastal and Marine Contamination Prevention project from 2007-2012. The project also called for the establishment of the Regional Marine Pollution Co-ordination Centre (RCC) for Marine Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Western Indian Ocean.
South Africa will host the RCC, and its establishment must now be expedited. The disaster demonstrates how even seemingly small oil leaks and spills can be devastating, especially when they occur in sensitive and critically important environmental areas.
Will other African countries and regional organisations develop sufficient capacity to respond to crises on the scale of the MV Wakashio without depending on international assistance? There is a great risk of oil spills and leaks occurring elsewhere in the African maritime domain in the future, especially spills that occur during bunkering.
The Cape of Good Hope route is a maritime super highway. Some countries, like South Africa, are able to swiftly respond on their own, as demonstrated in May when the potential wreck of the Yuan Hua Hu, also carrying 4 000 tonnes of fuel oil, was narrowly averted.
Theres a great risk of oil spills occurring elsewhere in Africa, especially during bunkering
Many countries such as Mauritius lack at least some of the resources or capacities needed to deal with such a disaster. Governments require up-to-date assessments to plan future responses. Better and more collective resources and skills at a regional or continental level are required.
Improved accountability mechanisms are also important. The Japanese owners of the MV Wakashio have offered, under international obligations, to pay compensation for applicable damages caused by the oil spill. Yet in other cases it might not be as easy to track the owners and determine liability (as can be seen in the investigation into the tragic Beirut port explosion of 4 August).
It is time for African maritime institutions to review their approaches and develop appropriate expertise and response mechanisms. This should ensure fast and effective regional or continental action when the inevitable oil leaks arise.
The results should be reported to key multilateral organisations – ideally to the African Union (AU) – as part of the implementation of 2050 Africas Integrated Maritime Strategy. The AU could, for instance, convene a consultative forum for experience and skills sharing with inputs from all the regional economic communities such as that hosted by the Southern African Development Community in 2018.
Disaster relief is expensive, but is nowhere near as controversial as other maritime issues such as creating security frameworks and determining boundaries. It can also foster collaboration anchored in regional AU institutions that draw on indigenous expertise and capacities.
More than 100 children killed and injured as violence intensifies in Ituri, DRC – Save the Children
Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the..
Kinshasa, August 13 – At least 83 children have been killed in the northern province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of Congo between April and July. Save the Children is horrified by the recent escalation of extreme violence, in which also at least 17 children were injured and 12 were sexually abused.
In the same period, around sixty schools were attacked, and 17 health facilities – two of which were supported but the charity.
“The situation for children is getting worse by the day, in a conflict they should not have a part in. We need to ensure children can return to school, that they and their families can go to health facilities if they need to, and that they are protected”, said Malik Allaouna, Save the Children country director in DRC.
“We need more resources, and call upon the international community and the Government of DRC to help alleviate the suffering of these children. We are asking all involved parties to grant unhindered access to humanitarian workers, so they can support those who are most in need.”
Since January 2020, the situation in Ituri has deteriorated significantly in the Djugu, Irumu and Mahagi territories. At least 1,315 people were killed, including 165 children. An estimated 300,000 people have been displaced since January, adding pressure to the situation in Ituri, which already hosted over 1.2 million Internal displaced people in 2019.
“Children who had to flee from the violence told us they had to leave everything behind because militias came into the area of Djugu. Suddenly, they found themselves homeless and without any food, having to sleep in schools”, said Dr Macky Manseka, Humanitarian Health and Nutrition Programme Manager at Save the Children.
Save the Children, which has been responding to this crisis for over a year, warns that displaced populations do not have access to enough food. Communities are also lacking health and nutrition services, clean and safe water and hygiene materials, as areas become increasingly cut off by violence and resources are in low supply.
“For example, there were more than 235 new cases of severe acute malnutrition in July 2020”, Dr. Manseka continued. “But because of the violence, we cant follow-up properly on sick or malnourished children. As a consequence, their treatment is disrupted, which might lead to relapses or even deaths.”
Note to editors:
Save the Children supports 17 health facilities, and runs programmes in support of survivors of sexual and gender based violence. It has a strong presence in the field of nutrition, and water, hygiene and sanitation. The organisation is also running education programmes in Ituri, and working to improve access to education for girls.