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Health minister issues Ebola threat alert in Tanzania

Tanzania’s northwestern Kagera, Mwanza and Kigoma regions are most at risk.

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Health workers stand at a non-gazetted crossing point in the Mirami village, near the Mpondwe border as Tanzania issues Ebola threat alert

Tanzania’s health minister issued an Ebola ‘alert’ Sunday after the disease, which has killed over 1,400 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, appeared in their shared neighbour, Uganda. “I want to alert the public that there is the threat of an Ebola epidemic in our country,” Ummy Mwalimu tweeted days after officials confirmed that members of a family who had travelled to the DRC had died in western Uganda.

The minister said the alert was necessary given the frequent interactions between Tanzanian and Ugandan people “via the official borders or by other, unofficial channels.” Tanzania’s northwestern Kagera, Mwanza and Kigoma regions were most at risk, said Mwalimu. But “given that this disease transmits very easily and very quickly from one person to another, nearly the entire country is in danger.”

The minister began a tour of the frontier regions on Saturday to assess the measures in place at ports and border posts to deal with potential incoming Ebola cases. The country has not yet been touched by the often fatal viral disease that causes violent vomiting and diarrhoea, impairs kidney and liver function, and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids. The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people.

On Friday, the World Health Organization said the outbreak does not yet warrant being declared a “public health emergency of international concern”, meaning it would require a “coordinated international response”.The UN body declares public health emergencies when a disease outbreak in a country risks spreading beyond its borders.

Two members of a Ugandan family, a woman and her five-year-old grandson died of Ebola this week after travelling to the DRC to take care of a dying family member and attend the funeral. The boy’s brother, aged three, is also infected, and several family members are in isolation. To date, no locally-acquired Ebola cases have been reported in Uganda.

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world’s first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya, which joins Malawi and Ghana, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the WHO

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Kenya becomes 3rd country to adopt world's first malaria vaccine, RTS,S

Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world’s first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.

The vaccine — RTS,S — targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-born illness.

Kenya, which is rolling-out RTS,S in the western county of Homa Bay, joins Malawi and Ghana, which, earlier this year, commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades,” Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO’s co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told reporters before the Kenyan launch, which will expand to other malaria-prone areas of the country.

“Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria.”

The vaccine will be added in these pilot areas to the other routine shots given to young children under national immunisation schedules.

RTS,S acts against ‘Plasmodium falciparum’, the deadliest form of malaria, and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remains high despite some gains.

The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.

The vaccine prevented about 4 in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.

RTS,S will be considered for use more broadly as a tool to fight malaria, alongside other preventative measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets.

The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 were children under five. 

WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world. 

Most of these are in Africa, where more than 90 per cent of the world’s malaria cases — and fatalities — occur.

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Rwanda agrees to receive African migrants stranded in Libya

The first group “is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa,” the AU and the UN said in a statement

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Rwanda agrees to receive African migrants stranded in Libya
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. (Photo by Cyril NDEGEYA / AFP)

Rwanda agreed Tuesday to take in hundreds and potentially thousands of African migrants stranded in Libya, a deal the African Union hopes to replicate with other member states.

“We will be receiving the initial number of 500 in a few weeks,” Hope Tumukunde Gasatura, Rwanda’s ambassador to the AU, told a news conference after signing a memorandum of understanding alongside representatives of the AU and the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The first group “is principally made up of people originating from the Horn of Africa,” the AU and the UN said in a statement.

They will be housed in a transit centre in Rwanda before being resettled elsewhere unless they agree to return to their home countries.

In the chaos that followed the fall and killing of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 uprising, Libya became a key transit point for sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to embark on dangerous journeys to Europe.

The UN says some 42,000 migrants are currently in Libya.

“We have been desperately searching for solutions for those people,” said Cosmas Chanda, UNHCR’s representative to the AU at the news conference in Addis Ababa, the seat of the pan-African body.

The Rwandan government is prepared to take in as many as 30,000 Africans from Libya, though the plan is for the process to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country from becoming overwhelmed.

“Fewer countries around the world are more than prepared to admit refugees,” Chanda said.

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame first offered to take in Africans stuck in Libya back in November 2017, the same month a CNN report showed what appeared to be a slave market there.

The issue took on new urgency in July when more than 40 people were killed in an air strike on a migrant detention centre in the Libyan town of Tajoura.

The Rwandan government is prepared to take in as many as 30,000 Africans from Libya, though the plan is for the process to unfold in batches of 500 to prevent the country from becoming overwhelmed. 

Lessons from Niger –

The UN has been criticised for its handling of a transit mechanism for evacuees from Libya established in 2017 on the other side of the continent, in Niger.

The facilities there have struggled with overcrowding and the slow processing of asylum applications.

Rwandan and UN officials “have learned from the Niger experience and we have fine-tuned the procedure,” Chanda said.

“The process is going to be very lengthy,” he said, however.

Tumukunde Gasatura, the Rwandan ambassador, said refugees and asylum-seekers would be housed in facilities that have previously been used for Burundian refugees fleeing that country’s political crisis in 2015.

The AU hailed the deal with Rwanda as an example of African governments stepping up to solve the continent’s problems.

“It is a historical moment because Africans are extending their hands to other Africans,” said Amira Elfadil, the AU’s social affairs commissioner.

“We kept on talking about finding durable solutions. My belief is this is part of the durable solutions.”

Officials hope that other African countries will offer similar assistance, though Elfadil said so far none have been forthcoming.

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Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius

The Pope will celebrate mass at the Mary Queen of Peace Monument, the same hillside location where John Paul II celebrated in 1989

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Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius
Pope Francis waves as he arrives prior to leading a mass at the Monument of Mary Queen of Peace, Port Louis, Mauritius, on September 9, 2019. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Pope Francis arrived in Mauritius on Monday on the final stop of a three-nation Africa tour where he is expected to celebrate the diversity and tolerance of one of the continent’s richest, most stable nations.

Thousands of faithful gathered in the capital Port-Louis, some before dawn, waiting for the Argentine pontiff to address the Indian Ocean island, a melting pot of religions and ethnic groups.

The Pope will celebrate mass at the Mary Queen of Peace Monument, the same hillside location where John Paul II celebrated the eucharist during the last papal visit to Mauritius in 1989.

READ: Pope Francis begins Africa tour in Mozambique

“More than 3,500 of us came from Reunion” island — about 175 kilometres — from Mauritius, said Josette, who is among those awaiting the Pope.

Giant screens have been put up in Port Louis to allow devotees to watch the papal mass, and billboards adorned with Francis’ image have sprung up across the coastal city.

Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius
Pope Francis (R) arrives at the Port Louis airport, Mauritius, on September 9, 2019, on the final stop of an Africa tour. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

“It is very important for us to meet the Pope. It is an occasion,” said Genevieve, 47, from Mauritius.

Mauritius comprises four volcanic islands and lies roughly 1,800 kilometres off the eastern coast of Africa.

The population of 1.3 million is predominantly Hindu but has sizeable Christian and Muslim minorities.

About 30 per cent of Mauritius is Christian, with most being Catholic.

The island nation was briefly colonised by the Dutch, French and the British and since independence in 1968, has developed from a poor, agriculture-based economy, to one of Africa’s wealthiest nations.

It is best known for its position as a global tax haven and idyllic tourist beach destination.

The Pope is on the last stop of his tour which has taken him to Mozambique and Madagascar.

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said the Pope would encounter a “true model of pluralism” during his visit.

READ: Pope Francis arrives Madagascar during three-nation tour

“Our cultural diversity has never prevented us from creating an environment conducive to dialogue, understanding and peace,” he said.

“It will not be a visit of Pope Francis to the Catholics but to the Mauritian people in all its religious diversity,” said Cardinal Maurice Piat, Bishop of Port Louis, ahead of the papal visit.

Francis’ visit coincides with the 155th anniversary of the death of Father Jacques Desire Laval, a French priest who died in Mauritius in 1864 and was beatified in 1979. 

Pope Francis ends three-nation Africa tour in Mauritius
Pope Francis (C) arrives prior to leading a mass at the Monument of Mary Queen of Peace, Port Louis, Mauritius, on September 9, 2019. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

The Pope will visit the mausoleum of Laval, known as the “Apostle of Mauritius” for his missionary work.

Every year about 100,000 pilgrims visit the tomb of Laval, northeast of Port Louis, on the night of September 8-9, to commemorate his death.

This year, it was brought forward to September 7-8 to accommodate the Pope’s visit.

READ: Pope Francis to tour Madagascar in locally-made Karenjy popemobile

The pontiff will also visit the official residence of President Barlen Vyapoory, whose role is largely titular, and will also meet with Jugnauth. 

Mauritius has begun planting some 200,000 trees ahead of the Pope’s visit. It is expected Francis will be offering a blessing for the island’s natural environment.

According to the World Bank, one of the greatest challenges for the island is adapting to the effects of climate change — which has worsened tropical storms and floods affecting it.

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