International Aid Cuts to Affect Millions Across Africa 

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact has led to cuts in foreign aid from donors like Britain, which this month slashed its aid budget by $5.5 billion, hitting those on the ground in Africa. The funding loss is felt in Burkina Faso where it could possibly shut down a group that helps thousands of gender-based-violence and rape survivors. Henry Wilkins reports from Kaya, Burkina Faso Camera:  Henry Wilkins 

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Healthy Living, A Look at Cosmetic Surgery, S2, E108

This week on Healthy Living, a look into cosmetic surgery. We hear from Doctor Frédérique Yao-Dje, an Aesthetic and Regenerative Medicine Specialist in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire who tells us more about the growing demand for cosmetic procedures in Africa. Plus, would you alter your body to feel better about yourself? We have your reactions from Jos, Nigeria. These topics and more this week.

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USAID Chief to Visit Ethiopia to Press for Tigray Aid

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power will visit Ethiopia next week to press for humanitarian access into conflict-battered Tigray as fears of famine grow, it was announced Thursday.
 
Power will meet officials in Addis Ababa to “press for unimpeded humanitarian access to prevent famine in Tigray and meet urgent needs in other conflict-affected regions of the country,” USAID said in a statement.
 
Power will also travel to Sudan on her trip starting Saturday as Western powers seek to support the civilian-backed transitional government after decades of authoritarian rule, USAID said.
 
The United Nations has warned that food rations in the Tigrayan capital Mekele could run out this month if more aid is not allowed in.
 
All available routes into Tigray are impeded by restrictions or insecurity following an attack on a World Food Program convoy earlier this month.
 
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, in November launched an offensive in Tigray in response to attacks by the region’s then ruling party against federal army camps.FILE – Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, delivers a speech during a visit to El Salvador at the Central American University in San Salvador, June 14, 2021.The war took a stunning turn last month when the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front took back Mekele, with rebels then launching a new offensive.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has described some of the violence in Tigray as “ethnic cleansing” and repeatedly pressed Abiy by telephone, voicing alarm despite the long, warm U.S. relationship with Ethiopia.
 
Power, a former journalist who held senior positions under former President Barack Obama, is known for her advocacy of humanitarian concerns and often reflects on the failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
 
Power will also meet in Sudan with Ethiopian refugees who have fled the conflict and travel to Darfur — the parched western region where a 2003 campaign against the African ethnic minority was described as genocide by Washington.  
 
Sudan’s civilian prime minister, Abdulla Hamdok, has sought to end the vast nation’s myriad conflicts including in Darfur although renewed clashes have killed hundreds of people in recent months.  
 
Power will meet Hamdok as well as the military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who remains leader of Sudan’s transitional ruling body as Sudan prepares for elections in 2022.
 
Power will “explore how to expand USAID’s support for Sudan’s transition to a civilian-led democracy” and deliver a speech in Khartoum about the transition, the agency said. 

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African Death Toll From COVID-19 Increasing

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the continent’s death toll from COVID-19 has jumped 17 percent in the past month. In a media briefing Thursday, the Africa CDC said the infection rate has also increased and warned some countries are testing less often for the virus than needed.In his weekly online press briefing from Ethiopia, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengosong, gave a grim picture of the continent’s COVID-19 situation during the month of July.WHO Urges African Nations to Speed Up COVID-19 VaccinationsNearly 60 million vaccine doses from the United States, Europe set to arrive in the continent in the coming weeks”There has been an average increase of four percent of new cases over that time period … in terms of new deaths in the last four weeks, we’ve recorded an average of 17 percent new deaths [in the continent’s most populous countries] over same period … in terms of testing as a continent, as of today we have conducted about 58 million COVID tests and last week alone the continent conducted about 1.3 million tests but that represents a decrease of 19 percent over the previous week,” Nkengosong said. “Overall positivity rate stands at 11.2 percent.”Overall, the continent recorded 239,000 coronavirus cases last week and 6,700 deaths, an increase of 700 deaths over the previous week. The Africa CDC blames the increased deaths on virus-spreading events like the recent looting in South Africa and the celebration of Eid al-Hajj, the end of the Muslim pilgrimage in Mecca. It also blames the delta variant, the most contagious form of coronavirus, which has spread across the globe in recent weeks.  
 
The continent’s public health agency was happy that some African countries like South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya have managed to limit the virus while allowing economic activities to go on.
 
Africa has so far received about 80 million vaccine doses from COVAX, the UN-backed global initiative to distribute vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.
 
The senior director for Africa at the U.S. National Security Council, Dana Banks, said Wednesday her country has started to ship some ten million vaccines to Africa.COVID-19 Surging in Africa, WHO Warns Continent records 1 million cases in just one month”We are happy to announce that we will be sending over 5 million doses to South Africa … of Pfizer vaccines as well as 4 million doses of Moderna vaccine to Nigeria….  So we’re very excited about that and we hope that these will go a long way in helping to provide safety and health security for the people of Nigeria and South Africa, which will then enable them to get back to their regular activities, their economic activities, and help them to build back better,” Banks said.The World Health Organization has said at least 700 million vaccines will be sent to Africa by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate about 30 percent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
 
However, Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director, said African governments and health officials need to do more to encourage people to get the vaccines.”With the expected influx of vaccines, it’s crucial that countries scale up all the aspects of vaccine rollout to reach as many people as possible,” Moeti said. “This entails mobilizing adequate resources including finances for the vaccination activities, for the logistics and for the personnel as well as addressing any concerns by communities including those fueled by misinformation to increase vaccine confidence and demand.”So far, less than 2 percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  The continent has officially recorded 6.5 million cases of the disease, although the real number is believed to be significantly higher.  
 

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Malta Government Carries Responsibility for Journalist’s Murder, Inquiry Finds

An independent inquiry into the car bomb murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia found on Thursday that the state had to bear responsibility after creating a “culture of impunity.”Caruana Galizia was killed in a massive explosion as she drove out of her home on October 16, 2017.Prosecutors believe top businessman Yorgen Fenech, who had close ties with senior government officials, masterminded the murder. Fenech, who is awaiting trial for association to murder, denies all responsibility.Three men suspected of setting off the bomb were arrested in December 2017. One has since pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain and is serving a 15-year jail term. The other two are awaiting trial. The self-confessed middle-man has turned state witness and was granted a pardon.The inquiry, conducted by one serving judge and two retired judges, found that a culture of impunity was created by the highest echelons of power within the government of the time.”The tentacles of impunity then spread to other regulatory bodies and the police, leading to a collapse in the rule of law,” said the panel’s report, which was published by Prime Minister Robert Abela.It said the state failed to recognize the real and immediate risks to Caruana Galizia’s life and failed to take reasonable steps to avoid them.It was clear, the inquiry board said, that the assassination was either intrinsically or directly linked to Caruana Galizia’s investigative work.Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat resigned in January 2020 following Fenech’s arrest. He was never accused of any wrongdoing. Media later also revealed close links between Fenech, ministers, and senior police officers.The judges called for immediate action to rein in and regulate the links between politicians and big business.Abela said in a tweet that the report required “mature” and objective analysis. “Lessons must be drawn and the reforms must continue with greater resolve,” he said, without elaborating.The inquiry heard evidence from the police, government officials, the Caruana Galizia family and journalists, among others.

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Rights Groups Call on Morocco to Not Extradite Uyghur Activist

Rights groups are urging Morocco not to extradite to China a Uyghur activist who was arrested after arriving on a flight from Turkey.The nongovernmental group Safeguard Defenders said Yidiresi Aishan was taken into custody in response to an Interpol Red Notice issued at China’s request.The charges against Aishan are not clear.Morocco’s General Directorate for National Security said Tuesday the Interpol notice was linked to suspicions that Aishan belonged to “an organization on the lists of terrorist organizations.”Amnesty International said Aishan faces “arbitrary detention and torture if he is forcibly returned to China.”“Deporting Idris Hasan to China, where Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are facing a horrifying campaign of mass internment, persecution and torture, would violate international law,” Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Program director, Joanne Mariner, said in a statement.The World Uyghur Congress also demanded Moroccan authorities halt any deportation procedures. Eric Goldstein, Human Rights Watch deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa region, described the Interpol system as “tainted” and said Aishan should be given a lawyer to fight extradition.Aishan had been living in Turkey working as a web designer and activist since 2012. He flew from Istanbul to Casablanca on July 19. 

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Tunisia’s President Moves on Economy and COVID-19 After Dismissing Government

Tunisia’s president said on Wednesday he was addressing the dire economic and COVID-19 situation and probing widespread corruption after invoking emergency powers on Sunday to seize control of government in a move his foes called a coup. Kais Saied justified the moves, which included dismissing the prime minister and suspending parliament, by citing a surging pandemic and misgovernance, saying he had acted to save the country from corruption and plots to sow civil strife. Public anger had been growing in Tunisia over the political paralysis that had stopped any coherent response to the pandemic and after years of economic hardship and declining public services. France said on Wednesday it was paramount that Saied quickly name a new prime minister and Cabinet, while civil society groups, including the powerful labor union, have said he must produce a road map to exit the crisis within a month. A decade after ending autocratic rule through a popular uprising, Tunisia faces the sternest test yet to its democratic system, and Western countries that have applauded its political transition have expressed concern.   Saied, who says his actions are constitutional but has yet to set out his next steps, has been urged by the United States to stick to democratic principles. He met security chiefs on Wednesday, the presidency said.   Backed by the army, Saied’s actions included suspending parliament for 30 days. Opponents including the Islamist Ennahdha party, parliament’s biggest, have accused him of a power grab. On Wednesday he replaced the head of the television station after an incident in which two guests on a current affairs program said they had been denied entry to the building. The United States on Monday pressed Tunisia to maintain “scrupulous respect for freedom of expression” after police raided a foreign news bureau, but on Wednesday a New York Times reporter said police had detained her for two hours when out working in Tunis. Judicial probe   Late on Wednesday, the presidency published a video showing Saied telling the head of a business union that “wrong economic choices” had caused major financial problems. Tunisia is seeking a loan agreement from the International Monetary Fund to finance its projected budget deficit and debt repayments.   Saied in the video called on traders to reduce prices of goods and warned them against speculating or hoarding. He also targeted business figures accused of corruption, saying that 460 people had stolen 13.5 billion dinars ($4.8 billion) in public money. The judiciary had said earlier that it was investigating the two biggest parties in parliament, Ennahdha and Heart of Tunisia, on suspicion of receiving foreign funds during the 2019 election campaign.   The judiciary, widely seen in Tunisia as independent from politics, said its investigation started 10 days before the president’s moves. Ennahdha, a moderate Islamist party that has become the focal point of opposition to Saied’s seizure of powers after its leader, parliament Speaker Rachid Ghannouchi, accused him of conducting a coup, denied committing any violations. Heart of Tunisia could not be reached for comment.   Though Ennahdha called on Sunday for supporters to come out on the streets against Saied’s actions, it has since called for calm and sought national dialogue. There was no sign of protests or other disturbances on Wednesday, although a heavier security presence was in place in central Tunis. The army also remains at the parliament, government and television buildings it surrounded on Sunday. Saied reiterated a long-standing rule banning gatherings of more than three people in public, but there was no sign it was being enforced as people moved and gathered normally. Saied has also tightened some existing COVID-19 restrictions, including a nightly curfew and ban on travel between cities. On Wednesday, he issued orders to set up a pandemic response center to coordinate Tunisia’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, the presidency said. 

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South Africa Riots Reveal Political Failures

This month’s riots across South Africa have underscored concerns about inequality and stability after nearly three decades of democracy. In Soweto, owners of pillaged shops accuse the government of failing them.Mahamadali Randera watched helplessly from outside his electronics shop at a strip mall in Soweto as determined looters broke through its heavy metal gate.In a matter of hours, his livelihood of the past seven years disappeared.Neighboring shops were also emptied before the one-story building was torched.Nationwide, losses from the unrest that overwhelmed police, destroyed infrastructure and halted local economies are estimated in the billions of dollars.Poverty at Root of South Africa Violence and Looting: AnalystViolence left more than 200 people dead and hundreds injured, with damage to economy estimated at billions of dollarsSmall business owners like Mohamadali Randera in Soweto are left asking authorities: why?“I’m really disappointed in this government,” said Randera. “Why the government can’t open up their hands and do this targeting these people who are do this nonsense because not only my shop, there’s a million people who lost their business.”Experts say the riots were an eruption of frustrations that have long been simmering among South Africans.Extreme inequality has persisted since the ruling party — the African National Congress — was first elected in 1994.Nelson Mandela University’s Hlingwe Ndlovu says although it brought freedom to the nation, the ANC has since failed to deliver for the poorest.“We’re seeing now post 1994, we have a different governance with a different face, but the conditions pretty much are more or less the same… People are angry, people are hungry and they want to take out this frustration,” Ndvolu said.President Cyril Ramaphosa announced this week the return of a social grant for those who have lost their jobs during COVID-19 lockdowns.Uninsured business owners like Randera can also expect funding.But Johannesburg-based international relations expert Leaza Jernberg says the response has yet to restore public confidence in the state.”There is some frustration that everything moves too slowly and that we hear lots of wonderful promises but if you’re not actually going to carry them through then what’s the point?,” Jernberg asked.Corruption Trial of South Africa’s Zuma ResumesProsecutors accuse Zuma of accepting bribes from French arms dealer in relation to 1999 deal; hearing taking place after several days of deadly rioting over his imprisonment on contempt of courtDivisions within the big-tent party are also festering while allegations of corruption under former President Jacob Zuma’s administration mount.But voters are left with few alternatives. Jernberg said opposition parties fail to attract broad support by being too radical or appealing to old racial and ethnic ties.And yet, Jernberg says the unrest may have also revealed the strengths of the country’s democracy.”The constitutional court held firm, the different people in civil society and the institutions came out in support of the court and despite the unrest, President Zuma remains in prison, which has to be seen as a triumph for the rule of law,” Jernberg said.The country is now closely watching how the law is being enforced on those involved in the riots.More than 25-hundred people have been arrested, six of whom face charges for inciting violence. The government has said more arrests are expected.

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