Military Drone Attack Kills 85 People in Nigerian Village

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu is calling for an investigation into a weekend military drone attack that killed 85 people.

The deadly attack occurred in the village of Tudun Biri in northern Kaduna state Sunday during a celebration of a Muslim holiday.  

Dozens of villagers were also wounded in the attack.  

President Tinubu’s office issued a statement expressing his grief over the incident, which he called “very unfortunate, disturbing and painful.”

The Nigerian air force has denied any involvement in Sunday’s attack.  

Nigeria’s military have used drones in their battle against Islamic extremists who have waged an insurgent campaign in the country’s northeast and northwest for several decades.  

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse. 

A Decade After Mandela’s Death South Africa in ‘Decay’

Nelson Mandela was a global icon who inspired the world, spending 27 years in prison for his fight against the South African apartheid regime and going on to become the country’s first black president.

Former comrades, family and analysts say Mandela, who died 10 years ago, would have been disappointed in the state of South Africa today.

Mandela, arguably the world’s best-known and most beloved South African, died on Dec. 5, 2013, at the age of 95.

His greatest achievement was bringing freedom and democracy to South Africa with his African National Congress, or ANC, party, after decades of brutal white minority rule.

He forgave his former enemies and ushered in one of the world’s most progressive constitutions. South Africa was seen as a moral example and beacon of hope worldwide.

Mandela served one term in office.

Even before his death, however, while he was in retirement, his once-storied ANC had become embroiled in corruption scandals – most notably under one of his successors, former President Jacob Zuma.

Today, critics accuse the party of only caring about self-enrichment and failing to deliver a better life for most of South Africa’s impoverished citizens.

They say Madiba, as he was widely known, would have been disappointed.

Peter Hain was a friend to Mandela and noted anti-apartheid activist whom apartheid security forces attempted to assassinate with a letter bomb in 1972.


“He would have been absolutely appalled at the decay in the country, the continued rampant corruption, including by some Cabinet ministers…. who are members of his once proud African National Congress,” Hain said.

Many other ANC stalwarts and surviving Mandela contemporaries declined to comment.

However, one of the statesman’s grandsons, Ndaba Mandela, echoed the view that Mandela would have been disappointed.

“Of course, my grandfather Madiba would have been very disappointed to say the least, to see what’s happened with the current ANC, with this party that he loved so much,” he said. “Do I think some of the party members are letting down the ANC? Of course they are. We have ministers who are on a feeding frenzy.”

Lumkile Mondi, an economics professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, described what he said are the main problems facing South Africa today.

“Levels of unemployment are very, very high, at about 32.5%; more importantly, inequality has deepened. So has poverty. Infrastructure, whether it’s water infrastructure, road infrastructure, energy infrastructure, has collapsed,” he said.

Next year marks 30 years since the first democratic elections in South Africa and voters will head to the ballot box once again. Numerous polls are suggesting the ANC will lose its majority for the first time. 


UN Says Gender-Based Violence in DRC is Increasing

The United Nations humanitarian agency, OCHA, says it is working with other humanitarian agencies to help mitigate and respond to increasing incidents of gender-based violence in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. 


The U.N. deputy humanitarian coordinator for the DRC, Suzanna Tkalec, said at a briefing Monday in Washington that women and girls in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri continue to be exposed to alarming rates of gender-based violence due to the resurgence of violence between militant groups and government forces. 

Tkalec said a recent report from the aid organization Doctors Without Borders found that some 90,000 women and girls had sought medical assistance after being assaulted and raped this year. The report said those who came forward likely represent only a fraction of the total number of victims.

Tkalec says survivors may be unable to reach lifesaving gender-based violence services or report their abuse, out of fear of stigmatization by their communities or retaliation by perpetrators. 

“A lot of this is really, due to the extreme vulnerability of women and girls,” Tkalec said.

She says OCHA’s ability to help is largely inadequate because its 2023 humanitarian response plan is only 38% funded.

“Because there is always a competition among the new crises that arise, the DRC keeps falling down the line of international crisis that need attention,” Tkalec said.

Marrakech Kicks Off Film Festival in Shadow of War in Middle East

Film industry leaders in Marrakech attending one of the Arab world’s largest film festivals emphasized Friday the importance of elevating cinema and artistic expression amid a shadow cast by Israel’s war with Hamas and an earthquake that struck Morocco less than three months ago.

“In the weeks leading up to the festival, we were not sure that we would even be able to be here. The world we share is shattered and devoured,” said American actor Jessica Chastain, serving as the president of the festival’s jury, in a speech on the festival’s opening night.

“Throughout history, art has been used as an accessible tool for communication, raising awareness about social issues and affecting positive change,” she added.

Surrounded by red carpet crowds and flashing camera lights, others agreed.

“We know what’s happening and don’t forget it,” said Melita Toscan Du Plantier, director of the Marrakech International Film Festival. “But heart is important. Heart is a weapon against obscurity and against conflict. We’re here to talk about heart, show movies and talk about directors from this region.”

Organizers said they looked forward to showcasing cinema from Morocco, the Middle East and Africa. Throughout the week, they plan to honor Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi, and workshop films from throughout the region in a developmental program presided over by director Martin Scorsese.

The festival opened Friday with Richard Linklater’s action-comedy Hit Man. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen was honored with a career achievement award for his films including Another Round, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Casino Royale, in which he played a Bond villain.

The festival is expected to feature more than 70 additional films, including Michel Franco’s Memory, starring Chastain, and Matteo Garrone’s Italian immigration drama Io Capitano.

It’s one of Morocco’s most widely publicized international events and comes in the aftermath of an earthquake that wreaked particular havoc on the mountain communities surrounding Marrakech. Moroccan Prince Moulay Rachid, who leads the foundation responsible for the festival, called it a “bastion of peace that brings people closer together.”

The prince said in a statement that the festival was an “invitation for discovery, empathy and sharing.”

The Marrakech International Film Festival, along with Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Festival that is scheduled to open next week, are taking place as protests sweep North Africa and the Middle East, including Morocco, over the war in Gaza. That’s in contrast to the Cairo International Film Festival and Tunisia’s Carthage Film Festival, both of which were canceled because of the war.

The festival is scheduled to run through Dec. 2.

WHO Confirms First Sexual Spread of Mpox in Congo Amid Record Outbreak

The World Health Organization said it has confirmed sexual transmission of mpox in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the first time as the country experiences its biggest outbreak, a worrying development that African scientists warn could make it more difficult to stop the disease.

In a statement issued late Thursday, the U.N. health agency said a resident of Belgium traveled to Congo in March and tested positive for mpox, or monkeypox, shortly afterward. The WHO said the individual “identified himself as a man who has sexual relations with other men” and that he had gone to several underground clubs for gay and bisexual men.

Among his sexual contacts, five later tested positive for mpox, the WHO said.

“This is the first definitive proof of sexual transmission of monkeypox in Africa,” said Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist who sits on several WHO advisory groups. “The idea that this kind of transmission could not be happening here has now been debunked.”

Mpox has been endemic in parts of central and west Africa for decades, where it mostly jumped into humans from infected rodents and caused limited outbreaks. Last year, epidemics triggered mainly by sex among gay and bisexual men in Europe hit more than 100 countries. The WHO declared the outbreak as a global emergency, and it has caused about 91,000 cases to date.

The WHO noted there were dozens of discrete clubs in Congo where men have sex with other men, including members who travel to other parts of Africa and Europe. The agency described the recent mpox outbreak as unusual and said it highlighted the risk the disease could spread widely among sexual networks.

The WHO added that the mpox outbreak this year in Congo, which has infected more than 12,500 people and killed about 580, also marked the first time the disease has been identified in the capital, Kinshasa, and in the conflict-ridden province of South Kivu. Those figures are roughly double the mpox toll in 2020, making it Congo’s biggest outbreak, the WHO said.

Virologist Tomori said that even those figures were likely an underestimate and had implications for the rest of Africa, given the continent’s often patchy disease surveillance.

“What’s happening in Congo is probably happening in other parts of Africa,” he said. “Sexual transmission of monkeypox is likely established here, but [gay] communities are hiding it because of the draconian [anti-LGBTQ+] laws in several countries.”

He warned that driving people at risk for the virus underground would make the disease harder to curb.

The mpox virus causes fever, chills, rash and lesions on the face or genitals. Most people recover within several weeks without requiring hospitalization.

The WHO said the risk of mpox spreading to other countries in Africa and globally “appears to be significant,” adding that there could be “potentially more severe consequences” than the worldwide epidemic last year.

Tomori lamented that while the mpox outbreaks in Europe and North America prompted mass immunization campaigns among affected populations, no such plans were being proposed for Africa.

“Despite the thousands of cases in Congo, no vaccines have arrived,” he said. Even after mpox epidemics subsided in the West, few shots or treatments were made available for Africa.

“We have been saying for years in Africa that monkeypox is a problem,” he said. “Now that sexual transmission has been confirmed here, this should be a signal to everyone to take it much more seriously.”

Suspected Militants Kill at Least 14 in Congo Night Raid

Suspected Islamist militants killed at least 14 people in an attack on a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday night, a local official, a civil society leader and a survivor said on Friday.

The assailants are believed to be rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces, or ADF, a Ugandan armed group based in eastern Congo that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and frequently raids villages, sometimes with machetes and hatchets.

The militants attacked the village of Makodu at night when locals were sleeping in their homes.

Nobody was expecting it, civil society leader Marcel Nzanzu and survivor Dieudonné Kakule told Reuters.

The mayor of Oicha, a town located in eastern North Kivu province, told Reuters that ADF rebels killed civilians with knives and firearms before fleeing.

“For the time being, calm has returned to the area, even if the residents are afraid,” said Mayor Nicolas Kikuku, adding that some bodies have arrived at Oicha’s morgue.

Nzanzu said that after the attack some residents headed for areas considered to be safe.

South African Runner Oscar Pistorius Granted Parole

Double-amputee Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was granted parole Friday, 10 years after shooting his girlfriend through a toilet door at his home in South Africa in a killing that jolted the world. He will be released from prison on January 5 but will be constantly monitored by parole officials for five years until his sentence expires, the Department of Corrections said.

Pistorius’ parole will come with other conditions, Department of Corrections spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said outside of the prison where Pistorius has been incarcerated in the South African capital, Pretoria.

Pistorius will not be allowed to leave the area of Pretoria without permission from authorities. He will also attend a program to deal with anger issues and another program on violence against women. He will have to perform community service.

“Parole does not mean the end of the sentence. It is still part of the sentence. It only means the inmate will complete the sentence outside a correctional facility,” Nxumalo said. “What will happen is that Mr. Pistorius will be allocated a monitoring official. This official will work with him until his sentence expires.”

Nxumalo said the monitoring official would need to be notified of any major events in Pistorius’ life, including if he wants to move or get a job.

“We have to be informed of each and every activity,” Nxumalo said.

Pistorius will not wear a monitoring bracelet as that is not part of South African parole procedure, Nxumalo said. Pistorius’ sentence will expire on December 5, 2029.

The decision to grant parole was made at a hearing at the prison earlier Friday.

Pistorius, who turned 37 this week, has been in jail since late 2014 for the Valentine’s Day 2013 killing of model Reeva Steenkamp, although he was released for a period of house arrest in 2015 while one of the numerous appeals in his case was heard. He was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.

Serious offenders in South Africa must serve at least half of their sentence to be eligible for parole, which Pistorius has done.

Pistorius was at the height of his fame and one of the world’s most admired athletes when he killed Steenkamp. He shot her multiple times in the bathroom of his Pretoria villa in the predawn hours with his licensed 9-millimeter pistol.

Pistorius’ parole hearing was his second in the space of eight months. He was wrongly ruled ineligible for early release at a hearing in March. That was due to an error made by an appeals court over when the sentence officially started.

Pistorius was initially convicted of culpable homicide — a charge comparable to manslaughter — for killing Steenkamp. That conviction was overturned, and he was convicted of murder after an appeal by prosecutors. They also appealed against an initial sentence of six years for murder, and Pistorius was ultimately sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.

Pistorius testified at his murder trial that he killed Steenkamp by mistake when he fired four times through the door thinking she was a dangerous intruder hiding in his bathroom in the middle of the night. Prosecutors argued that Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star, had fled to the toilet cubicle during a late-night argument and that Pistorius killed her in a rage.

Pistorius was eventually convicted of murder on a legal principle known as dolus eventualis, which means he acted with extreme recklessness and should have known that whoever was behind the door would likely be killed. It’s comparable to third-degree murder.

Steenkamp’s father, Barry Steenkamp, died in September. Her mother, June Steenkamp, did not oppose Pistorius’ parole but said in a statement before the hearing that she did not believe Pistorius had been fully rehabilitated and was still lying about the killing.

Rob Matthews, a South African man whose 21-year-old daughter was murdered in 2004 and who became a Steenkamp family friend, read out June Steenkamp’s statement. She said she was not opposing Pistorius’ parole and didn’t attend the hearing because “I simply cannot muster the energy to face him again at this stage.”

Nevertheless, “I do not believe Oscar’s version that he thought the person in the toilet was a burglar,” June Steenkamp said in the statement. “In fact, I do not know anybody who does. My dearest child screamed for her life. … I believe he knew it was Reeva.”

While out on parole, Pistorius is expected to live at his uncle’s luxurious mansion in a wealthy Pretoria suburb, where he stayed during his murder trial.

There have been only occasional glimpses of Pistorius’ life behind bars. His father has said he has been holding Bible classes for fellow prisoners, while a criminologist who worked with him said he had been driving a tractor at a part of the prison where vegetables are grown.

Pistorius’ lawyers have said he has been a “model prisoner.” There have been flashes of trouble, though, including an altercation Pistorius had with another inmate over a prison telephone that left him requiring medical treatment.

Pistorius killed Steenkamp just months after he had become the first double-amputee to compete at the Olympics. He was also a multiple Paralympic sprinting champion and one of sport’s most marketable figures, having overcome the amputation of both his legs below the knee as a baby to run on specially designed carbon-fiber blades. He was known as the “Blade Runner.”

At his sensational trial, prosecutors argued there was another side to Pistorius’ life that involved guns and angry confrontations with others. Pistorius was also found guilty of a second charge of recklessly firing a gun in a restaurant.

UN Urges Probe After Zimbabwe Activist Found Dead

The United Nations called Friday for an independent investigation after an opposition activist in Zimbabwe was found dead following his abduction ahead of controversial by-elections.

The body of Tapfumanei Masaya, a pastor and an activist with the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), was discovered Monday, 30 kilometers (18 miles) outside Harare, the UN rights office said.

He and fellow activist Jeffrey Kalosi had been snatched by armed men in broad daylight two days earlier while campaigning in the Zimbabwean capital for a CCC candidate.

“Both were reportedly tortured,” UN rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell said, adding that Kalosi had been released in the same area where Masaya’s body turned up.

The killing follows a string of reported abductions, arrests and other violent acts that the CCC says are part of a campaign of intimidation against its supporters following disputed general elections last August.

Throssell noted that Zimbabwean authorities had said Masaya’s killing was being investigated.

“We urge them to ensure there are thorough, prompt and independent investigations not only into his death but also into all allegations of people being tortured and kidnapped,” she said.

“Perpetrators should be held accountable in fair trials that follow due process.”

Throssell warned that crimes like Masaya’s killing “violate not only the right to life, but also have a stifling effect on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of association and equal participation.”

In August, CCC leader Nelson Chamisa, 45, lost his bid for the presidency to incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, 81, in elections that also gave the ruling ZANU-PF party a majority in parliament. 

International observers said the vote fell short of democratic standards.

Dozens of CCC lawmakers have lost their seats recently after what they say is an impostor posing as a party official recalled them, and parliament went along with it. 

The move has triggered by-elections to be held on December 9 that could hand ZANU-PF, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, a two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

Analysts believe the party might use a super majority to remove a two-term presidential limit and enable Mnangagwa, who came to power on the back of a coup that ousted long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017, to rule beyond 2028. 

West Africa Responds to Huge Diphtheria Outbreaks by Targeting Unvaccinated Populations

Authorities in several West African countries are trying to manage their huge diphtheria outbreaks, including in Nigeria where a top health official said Thursday that millions are being vaccinated to cover wide gaps in immunity against the disease.

At least 573 people out of the 11,640 diagnosed with the disease in Nigeria have died since the current outbreak started in December 2022, though officials estimate the toll — now on the decline because of treatment efforts — could be much higher across states unable to detect many cases.

In Niger, 37 people had died out of the 865 cases as of October, while Guinea has reported 58 deaths out of 497 since its outbreak started in June.

“As far as the history that I am aware of, this is the largest outbreak that we have had,” Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, told The Associated Press.

The highly contagious bacterial infection has been reported in 20 of Nigeria’s 36 states so far.

A major driver of the high rate of infection in the region has been a historically wide vaccination gap, the French medical organization Doctors Without Borders, or MSF, said in a statement on Tuesday.

In Nigeria, only 42% of children under 15 years old are fully protected from diphtheria, according to a government survey, while Guinea has a 47% immunization rate — both far below the 80-85% rate recommended by the World Health Organization to maintain community protection.

The fate of the affected countries is worsened by the global shortages of the diphtheria vaccine as demand has increased to respond to outbreaks, MSF said.

“We’re not seeing vaccination happen, not at the scale that is needed,” said Dr. Dagemlidet Tesfaye Worku, emergency medical program manager for MSF in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. “What is needed is a truly massive scale-up of vaccination, as soon as possible.”

The Nigerian government is ramping up vaccination for targeted populations while assisting states to boost their capacity to detect and manage cases, said Adetifa, the Nigeria CDC head.

But several states continue to struggle, including Kano, which accounts for more than 75% of cases in Nigeria but has only two diphtheria treatment centers, according to Abubakar Labaran Yusuf, the state’s top health official.

“Once people have to travel or move significant distances to access treatment, that becomes a challenge,” Adetifa said.

Cameroon Says Nigerian Refugee Trees Reduce Conflicts

Officials in northern Cameroon say conflicts over food, water and other resources have greatly declined due to the planting of about half-a-million trees in and around a refugee camp. U.N. officials and rights groups visited the area to collect success stories on reforestation projects that also reduce climate shocks to share during the upcoming COP 28 climate conference.

Residents and officials in northern Cameroon, near the borders with Nigeria and Chad, say clashes between refugees, displaced people and host communities over food and water have declined in the past year, mainly due to the new forest growing in their midst. 

The area is home to about 120,000 refugees from Nigeria, along with a number of internally displaced Cameroonians and returnees whose lives were uprooted by terrorist group Boko Haram.

Ten years ago, UNHCR set up the Minawao refugee camp on about 630 hectares of land near the borders to house 15,000 refugees. But unending violence swelled the camp’s population to 72,000, exerting pressure on natural resources.

A 26-year-old mother of two, Liatou Habila fled Nigeria and came to the camp to escape Boko Haram violence in 2016. She says conflicts between local residents, refugees and displaced persons over resources like food and firewood happened almost on a daily basis.

Habila says she is very happy now because she can cut tree branches and use them for cooking unlike in the past when it was very difficult to find wood at the Minawao refugee camp. She says besides cutting down a few tree branches to use as fuel wood, the refugee agency UNHCR has taught them how to make nurseries to plant more trees and make briquettes or compressed blocks of coal dust that help them in cooking.

Cameroon’s northern border with Chad and Nigeria is one of the most ecologically fragile areas in central Africa. The Cameroon government says climate change, population growth and rampant exploitation of wood and non-timber plant resources threatens ecological biodiversity and has plunged civilians into deep poverty.

The United Nations reports that in 2016 five Nigerian refugee leaders got together and decided to plant trees in the Minawao camp to alleviate the situation.

Trees planted included cassia, neem, acacia, moringa, cashew and leucaena, which are all drought-resistant and have branches that can be pruned and used for fuel. Some of their leaves are also used for medicine, food or fertilizer.

The UNHCR reports that close to half-a-million trees have been planted in and around the Minawao camp. Refugees and host populations say the trees make it possible for them to create gardens in shade, feed and care for animals and reduce conflicts related to sharing resources. 

Women say they are no longer exposed to sexual abuse and violence while trekking long distances to fetch firewood and carry water.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and environmental activist Emtithal Mahmoud visited northern Cameroon this month. She says she listened to refugees’ success stories and experiences about the impact of the reforestation project in their daily lives.

“The stories that we are seeing in Cameroon are not just stories of crisis but they are also stories of triumph, stories of resilience, stories of resourcefulness that people are doing to not only survive but thrive in the face of adversity, in the face of our changing climate,” said Mahmoud. “I do believe that the solutions created by refugees, led by refugees seeing this work in Minawao, tells me it can work in Darfur, Nepal, and it can work in Bangladesh because there are similar contexts.”

Speaking to Cameroon state broadcaster CRV, Mahmoud, who is also a former refugee, said she documented what she called powerful messages and insights to bring to the attention of the world during COP 28. She said addressing climate change and supporting initiatives like the refugee reforestation project in Cameroon should be a priority on all development agendas.  

Niger Coup Leader Visits Mali in First Foreign Trip 

Niger’s military ruler General Abdourahamane Tiani on Thursday arrived in Mali to meet his counterpart Colonel Assimi Goita in his first international visit since seizing power in July, an AFP journalist noted.   

Niger’s neighbors, Mali and Burkina Faso — which are ruled by military leaders who seized power in 2020 and 2022, respectively — have pledged solidarity to Niger’s coup leaders.   

The three Sahel countries in September signed a pact that includes provisions for mutual defense in the event of an attack on the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of any of the countries.   

They also plan to strengthen economic ties.   

The regimes are also united in the fight against jihadism in their countries.   

Tiani is due to stay a few hours in Mali’s capital Bamako and meet Goita for a “friendship and working” visit, the Malian presidency said.   

Shortly after taking power, Tiani pledged to return Niger to civilian rule within three years.    

Mali, meanwhile, has indefinitely postponed a presidential election that was scheduled for early 2024.   

Mali plans to host ministers from the three countries for several meetings in the coming weeks with the aim of ironing out the operational details of the new Sahel alliance, it said in a statement Thursday. 


Longer Droughts in Zimbabwe Take a Toll on Wildlife and Cause More Frequent Clashes with People

In a remote southeastern corner of Zimbabwe, people watched from cars or towers in an annual wildlife census, peering through binoculars at animals coming to drink at waterholes and jotting down notes, often by torchlight.

Around 140 volunteers slept in shifts through the 24-hour exercise, which is a valuable indicator of the status of the southern African nation’s wildlife resources during a worrying regional drought. 

Before dawn, an elephant guided a calf to a stream. Lions roared in the distance. Noisy baboons stopped to drink. To everyone’s relief, the rains had come and the grasslands were looking green again in Gonarezhou National Park, whose name means “place of elephants.” 

But keen eyes can pick out signs of trouble. The split and shattered trunks of the massive baobab trees and the damage to the umbrella-like acacia trees, the savanna’s shade providers, are evidence of desperate elephants searching for food and water in the 5,000-square-kilometer park. 

In other reserves in wildlife-rich Zimbabwe, animals have suffered even more as climate change-induced drought conditions take their toll. 

The animals in Gonarezhou are “the fortunate ones,” said Tinashe Farawo, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. In his office in the capital, Harare, he has received regular reports of anguish this year from national parks. 

“It’s normal for animals to die, but now they are dying young,” he said. “They starve, they die. They get stuck in the mud desperately looking for water and they die. It’s heartbreaking.” 

Farawo said the parks agency was still compiling statistics, but 15 elephants died in a week in Hwange, the country’s largest park, this month, with 16 buffaloes also found dead. 

The dry spells are becoming longer and more severe. For decades, Zimbabwe’s rainy season ran reliably from October to March. It has become erratic in recent years, sometimes starting only in December. 

“Climate change is turning out to be our biggest challenge,” Farawo said. “Weather patterns have become unpredictable, so animals often have no food and water. Right now we are in November and most of the country still has no rains.” 

Across Africa’s national parks, similar effects of climate change are felt. Multiple studies show that extreme weather events are leading to the loss of plants and animals, which struggle to cope with longer dry spells and hotter temperatures. 

Zimbabwe’s parks agency has intervened to ease the problem with 100 solar-powered boreholes to pump underground water into pools for animals to drink. But with so much surface water drying up, animals are still forced to walk longer distances, sometimes across national borders, in search of food and water. 

The Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area is the world’s largest multi-country conservation area, spanning 520,000 square kilometers over five southern African countries including Zimbabwe. The area is larger than Germany and Austria combined and provides a corridor for animals to freely trek for hundreds of kilometers. 

Many are taking that option, Farawo said. 

“We often joke that unlike humans who stay close to the parks, animals can eat breakfast in Zimbabwe, lunch in Botswana and supper in another country,” he said. 

The parched environment affects animals like elephants in multiple ways, according to a recent study by researchers from Zimbabwe, Britain and South Africa. 

Their report, published in late October in the journal Nature Communications, cited a combination of heat, drought and population density as likely contributing factors for an outbreak of a blood-poisoning bacterial infection that killed 35 elephants during the dry season in Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe in 2020. The report followed extensive tests on carcasses. 

Zimbabwe is home to about 100,000 savanna elephants, second only to Botswana’s 130,000. Zimbabwe and Botswana over the decades have built large herds of elephants that far exceed the capacity of some parks, and both countries now say the effects of that overpopulation are worsened by resource depletion caused by climate change. 

Birds are another victim. They need baobab, acacia and other trees for breeding, but hungry herbivores like elephants and giraffes leave little behind. 

“They can only breed at a certain tree height, and it means it affects their breeding cycle because the trees are now too low for the security of their young ones,” Farawo said. 

He warned that the future of some tree species is at risk, and “you can hardly see a young acacia or baobab tree because they are destroyed by the animals.” 

And across Zimbabwe, there is increased conflict between humans and animals. 

Many people living close to national parks, forests or mountains were already struggling to put food on the table due to depressed economic conditions. With the drought, they clash more frequently with animals that are encroaching into human settlements in search of food and water. 

Farawo said the parks agency received about 4,000 distress calls from communities battling hyenas, lions, elephants and baboons in 2022, and the human-animal conflict has been rising over the last five years. The agency received 900 calls in 2018, he said. 

People sometimes dig trenches, establish bee hives or bang pots and pans to keep away animals. They are not always successful. 

In Hwange town and surrounding areas, residents have raised the alarm with parks authorities over herds of elephants venturing from the park to eat from people’s gardens and fields, even destroying water pipes so that they can drink. 

In the eastern Manicaland province, residents described what they called a new phenomenon: A hyena killed a man, ripping off his lips and a limb. “Now they are turning to humans,” the state-run Manica Post newspaper quoted a resident as saying. 

Farawo confirmed the incident. 

“It’s because the animals are looking for food,” he said. “Hyenas are an indicator species of food availability. If there is no food, they move all over looking.”

El Nino-Worsened Flooding a Disaster for Somalia

First, some families fled drought and violence. Now they say they have nowhere to hide from intense flooding as rainfall exacerbated by the weather phenomenon El Nino pummels large parts of Somalia.

Among the worst hit towns is the densely populated Beledweyne, where the Shabelle River has burst its banks, destroyed many homes and caused thousands to flee to higher ground near the border with Ethiopia.

Hakima Mohamud Hareed, a mother of four including one who is disabled, said her family constantly looks for shelter.

The family recently moved to Beledweyne, fleeing battles between the extremist group al-Shabab and Somali government forces. “We left our home in search of safety and stability, but little did we know that we would end up facing another calamity,” she said by phone.

In the displacement camp of Kutiimo in Beledweyne, the floods destroyed the family’s small, tattered tent. Wind lashes the damp and flimsy fabric.

“The floods washed away all our belongings, so we were left only with our lives,” she said. “It was a traumatic experience for all of us.”

They are not alone. According to the humanitarian group Save the Children, the flooding has forced an estimated 250,000 people, or 90% of Beledweyne’s population, out of their homes.

Somalia’s federal government declared a state of emergency in October after extreme weather exacerbated by El Nino destroyed homes, roads and bridges.

An El Nino is a natural, temporary and occasional warming of part of the Pacific that shifts weather patterns across the globe, often by moving the airborne paths for storms. It its hardest in December through February. Scientists believe climate change is making El Nino stronger.

Many parts of Somalia, as well as in neighboring Horn of Africa nations Kenya and Ethiopia, are still receiving torrential rainfall. At least 130 people have died in the three countries in what aid agencies have described as a rare flooding phenomenon.

The U.N.-backed Somali Water and Land Information Management project has warned of “a flood event of a magnitude statistically likely only once in 100 years,” the U.N. food agency said in a recent statement.

Some 1.6 million people in Somalia could be affected by flooding events in the rainy season lasting until December, it said.

Beledweyne, in the central region of Hiran, may be the most devastated community. As floodwaters swept through, homes were washed away.

Hakima said her family may be safe from flooding in their camp, but they are hungry and desperate for warm shelter.

“We ask our Somali brothers and sisters to help us get out of this situation, as we are struggling to survive,” she said.

Mukhtar Moalim, the owner of a retail shop, described frantic attempts to save his property in Beledweyne’s market after the river burst its banks. He and a relative swam towards the shop to try to prevent the water from flowing in, putting concrete blocks against the door.

But the water level keeps rising, also threatening their residence on the floor above the shop from which they monitor the destruction.

At least 53 people have been confirmed killed by flooding across Somalia, said Hassan Issee, who manages emergency operations at the Somalia Disaster Management Agency.

“The situation is grave, and we are doing our best to provide relief to the affected people,” he said.

Mogadishu, the Somali capital, has also been affected. The city’s main streets, including the road to the airport, have flooded.

Speaking on Wednesday in the Dollow district of Gedo region, where many families have been displaced by flooding, Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre urged the international community to help.

“We are doing our best, but we need more support,” he said.

Nigeria Hopeful of Economic Boom Following Investment Deals

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu is welcoming new trade agreements with Germany, including a deal that calls for the West African nation to export liquid natural gas.

The signing Tuesday of two memoranda of understanding between Nigerian companies and their German counterparts was the latest in a flurry of investment deals clinched by the Tinubu-led administration in recent months.

The signings come less than two weeks after Nigeria and Saudi Arabia agreed to a deal to revive the country’s nonfunctional refineries.

Tinubu is seeking to make the country attractive to investors in a bid to revive an economy bedeviled by slow growth, rising inflation and huge debt.

Under one deal, Riverside LNG of Nigeria will supply 850,000 tons of liquefied natural gas to Germany each year, working with German firm Johannes Schuetze Energy Import AG. The first delivery of gas is expected in 2026, and the president’s office said gas exports may increase in future years.

Authorities say the deal will make use of natural gas that otherwise would have been flared into the atmosphere. Nigeria has Africa’s largest gas reserves — over 5 trillion cubic meters — but due to poor processing infrastructure, the country burns off much of it every day.

Nigeria also secured a $500 million renewable energy deal with another German company. The deal calls for Germany’s DWS Group to supply funding for renewable energy projects in Nigeria, especially in rural areas.

The president’s spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, did not take calls for comment, but he spoke to Lagos-based Channels television about the president’s drive for foreign investments.

“He is personally conducting an open-door policy to investors from around the world, including here in Germany, to ensure that they have direct access to all of the regulators and government officials that will further enhance the environment in which foreign direct investments will be coming into the country,” Ngelale said.

This week Tinubu attended the G20 Compact with Africa Summit in Berlin that experts say is an avenue for African countries to expand their economies through investments and trade.

Emeka Okengwu, an economic analyst, said the investments are important.

“There’s no way $500 million can be wished away. It’s a big deal and should be celebrated,” Okengwu said. “Of course, it’s going to be creating jobs. The base of our productivity is energy. If we have energy, more industries will work, people can produce more, people can get jobs.”

He cautioned, however, “It is one thing to sign paper, and it is another thing to get the deal off the ground.”

Nigerian officials are also seeking investments in the electricity and rail transport sectors.

China’s Past and Present Ties with African Ruling Parties

Political analysts and opposition politicians in Africa accuse China of undermining the spread of democracy in the region by propping up entrenched ruling parties and promoting what Beijing sees as the advantages of one-party rule.

The beneficiaries in many cases are former liberation movements that won struggles against colonial and white-minority rule decades ago, often with Chinese support. Now organized as governing political parties, they have stayed in power ever since, often while accused of stifling any opposition.

A major instrument of Chinese influence is a $40 million political training school based in Tanzania and jointly established last year by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and six southern African former liberation movements.

Each of the six nations participating in the school — Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola — has been ruled by the same party since independence.

Promoting ‘weiwen’

“The CCP capitalized on an opportunity to relocate some of its political and ideological programs to Africa,” China-Africa scholar Paul Nantulya said of the school in a recently published paper for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

“The six FLMSA parties are focused on supporting one another to preserve their rule against perceived threats,” Nantulya explained. “The CCP term for this is ‘weiwen,’ meaning ‘stability maintenance’ or ‘regime survival.’

“The Nyerere Leadership School is the first political school the CCP has built overseas, a bold move by a party that often denies that it promotes its political system abroad. The school enables the CCP to proselytize and methodically share its governance model,” Nantulya continued.

“The CCP hopes to gain a return on investment as the school gives it a permanent home for year-round interactions with each party’s new recruits and senior party cadres. This puts it in an advantageous position to shape the African liberation parties’ China friendly policies and long-term influence.”

China’s position

China denies it plays a role in keeping ruling parties in power.

“We don’t interfere in the African countries’ pursuit for a development path that fits their national conditions. We don’t interfere, nor impose our own will on Africa,” wrote Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington in response to VOA’s inquiry.

VOA also asked whether China engages equally with political opposition parties in Africa.

“When it comes to party-to-party relationship, the Communist Party of China is ready to deepen interactions with political parties and organizations of all countries, including those in Africa. We seek shared views and expand shared interests,” Liu said.

The United States also provides training in its model of governance to foreign political parties through the congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy, whose website says it is dedicated to fostering democratic institutions “including political parties, trade unions, free markets and business organizations” while supporting “human rights, an independent media, and the rule of law.”

But China itself is a one-party state, and Ray Hartley, research director of the Brenthurst Foundation, a Johannesburg-based policy think tank, said the Tanzania school’s existence is problematic.

“It is concerning that this particular school is for leaders of selected ‘liberation movements’ only, especially since it teaches the doctrine that the party must be all powerful and trump the judiciary.”

“In Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola and Tanzania, these liberation movement governments have been in power for decades and have not hesitated to undercut democratic processes to keep it that way,” Hartley added.

Ruling party and the opposition

With some notable exceptions such as South Africa’s African National Congress party, Nantulya said many former liberation parties “have been largely intolerant of opposition challenges and have employed wide ranging measures to stifle, constrain and even dismantle opposition parties.”

One example is Zimbabwe, which has been governed by former liberation movement ZANU-PF since 1980, and whose elections this year were marred by widespread irregularities, according to observers.

While many Western nations expressed concern over the Zimbabwean polls, Beijing congratulated the winner, the ruling party’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“It’s a cause for concern for us in Zimbabwe and in Africa in general especially in view of the ‘no questions asked’ policy on the Chinese in their engagement with Africa, their tendency to view Africa as a dumping site and of course undermining human rights democracy transparency in favor of errant regimes,” said Promise Mkwananzi, spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the Citizen’s Coalition for Change (CCC).

His party’s members have been jailed, tortured and killed while mounting a challenge to the regime.

“It leaves opposition parties with no choice but to question the motives of the CCP in Africa. We believe that the CCP must have principled, non-partisan approaches to African countries and not blindly side and even aid ruling parties to rig elections violate human rights and undermine democratic entrenchment in Africa,” Mkwananzi added.

Zimbabwe’s governing party, ZANU-PF did not respond to a request for comment.

Change of guard?

However, historical friendships don’t mean China isn’t able to adapt to changes on the continent when necessary.

What happens to a ruling party when it loses an election or is removed from power is telling, Nantulya told VOA. He uses Zambia as an example, because it has had several changes of power and its former liberation movement lost to the opposition again in 2021 polls.

Zambia’s former liberation party is not part of the leadership academy in Tanzania, and Nantulya noted, “I think the Communist Party of China does not want to embarrass or complicate its relationship with Zambia. It has a policy of cultivating whoever is in office.”

He points to the fact that the CCP has been wooing new Zambian leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Likewise, in some countries in Africa, where things are less stable or specific political parties are less securely entrenched, Nantulya noted Beijing does cultivate relationships across the political spectrum, giving the examples of Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, it’s different “when a political party program is only training ruling parties and helping them to entrench their stay in office,” he said.

Climate Change Brings Fear and Uncertainty to South Africa’s Coastlines

Rising sea levels, extreme weather and rising temperatures are threatening coastal communities in South Africa. For VOA, Derick Mazarura has the story from Eastern Cape, South Africa. Camera — Buhle Ndamase and Norah Chisa.

Kenya’s Electronic Health System Transforms Rural Health Care Access

Kenya’s Health Ministry has rolled out a digital health information system to help workers diagnose patients and store their health records. Mohammed Yusuf reports from a village in western Kenya, where hospitals have recorded an increase in people seeking medical assistance since the deployment of the system

Libya Flood: Thousands Still Missing Amid Mental Health Crisis

In some places the water came on like a pack of cars, speeding more than 120 kilometers an hour over the tops of 30-meter-high palm trees. 

As Hani Elbah, a 47-year-old government worker, saw the flood approach, he mentally prepared for death. It was September 11, the day Storm Daniel swept into his city, Derna, in eastern Libya.

A nearby building, seven stories high with 21 families inside, collapsed. “The families were all upstairs,” recalls Elbah. “The flood crushed it like a milk carton.”

Lights from mobile phones could be seen careening into the chaos as people were swallowed by the water. Elbah, his wife, and three children survived on the roof of a neighbor’s six-story building.

They were spared, but more than two months after the flood, authorities have counted nearly 4,400 dead and more than 8,000 people missing, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

And residents of Derna say the region is still reeling from trauma and lack of humanitarian aid to replace what they lost—which for many people was everything. More than 43,000 people are still displaced amid increasingly dire reports of suicides and other mental health crises.

“The city was worn out even before,” says Elbah.  “Now we need everything from A to Z. We need infrastructure, housing projects and water supply projects. Mostly we need psychological support.”

Immediate needs

Some schools in Derna are operating a little, with damaged buildings and teachers missing or among the dead, adds Elbah, but others are destroyed or still occupied by homeless flood victims. Shallow mass graves appear in danger of being unearthed as workers continue to search for bodies.  

On the streets of Derna, one only needs to look to the children to see the lingering trauma from the floods and what has become a widespread mental health crisis, says Sanad Alowami, a Red Crescent volunteer who works in Derna.

“Whenever they see rain, they will run to the rooftops and shout at people to come up, saying ‘It’s coming, it’s coming,’” Alowami says.

This mental health crisis is among Derna’s most urgent needs, says Talal Burnaz the Libya Country Director at International Medical Corps, but it is also a difficult issue to address. Libya lacks trained psychologists and a culture of mental health care, he says. But the trauma has become deadly, he says, with rising suicide rates and not nearly enough psycho-social support.

“We started seeing lots of reports about cases who committed suicide or tried to commit suicide in that region,” he says. “And those people of course were… mentally affected by the loss of their family members. And that number is not… small.”

People in areas destroyed by the floods also have immediate physical needs, adds Burnaz.

Roughly 2,000 families are still crowded into temporary shelters in Derna, like schools, relatives’ homes or abandoned dwellings previously considered unfit for habitation. 

And in areas washed away by the floods, recovery has been slow, and sometimes haphazard, with aid suspended from time to time and other critical recovery projects still in the planning phase, says Alowami, from the Red Crescent. 

As winter rapidly approaches, many families still need basic things, like warm blankets and sheets, he adds. 

“At the beginning we received a lot of aid,” he explains. “It was not all distributed correctly, but the demands were met. But for two weeks now most aid isn’t coming in.”

Why the lack of aid?

In the days after the floods, people from all over Libya flocked to the ravaged region, working with aid groups, or just bringing what help they could from their homes and neighborhoods, according to Mary Fitzgerald, a Libya expert from the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based think tank. Libya’s two governments pledged their commitments to help the region recover.

But in the weeks that followed, many volunteers had to return to their families and jobs and the two governments’ moment of agreement did not blossom into a new era of joint efforts. Derna and the surrounding region remain isolated by political divisions, ravaged by years of war, easily ignored by the global community, and ripe for abuses and corruption, says Fitzgerald.

“The needs remain enormous,” she explains, “but there is increasingly a sense that the authorities have essentially moved on.”

In Derna, families are quick to say that help is needed, but they need it “direct to the people without any middle parties,” without explaining the problem exactly. 

Immediately after the floods, locals held protests, expressing anger over the corruption and mismanagement they believed lead to the collapse of the dams in the first place. But since then, international journalists and researchers have mostly not been allowed into the region and protests have stopped.

But the mental health crisis continues to deepen, according to Alowami, and many among the thousands of missing people are no closer to being identified. Bodies found now are as far away as 80 kilometers offshore. 

“The people are still shocked from the catastrophe,” he says. “People who lost their families and relatives didn’t cry for them. There wasn’t time to grieve.”

Boakai Declared Winner of Liberia Presidential Election

Political veteran Joseph Boakai was on Monday declared the winner of Liberia’s presidential election, beating incumbent George Weah, electoral authorities said after completing the ballot count.

Boakai won with 50.64 percent of the vote, against 49.36 percent of the vote for former international football star Weah, National Electoral Commission president Davidetta Browne Lansanah told reporters.

Boakai won by a margin of just 20,567 votes.

Weah had already conceded the election on Friday evening, based on the results of more than 99.98 percent of polling stations. 

The outgoing president won praise from abroad on Monday for conceding and promoting a non-violent transition in a region marred by coups.

“Liberians have once again demonstrated that democracy is alive in the ECOWAS region and that change is possible through peaceful means,” the Economic Community of West African States said in a statement.

But hours after Boakai’s victory was announced, a car plowed into a crowd of supporters outside his party’s headquarters, injuring at least 16 people, police said. His party said at least 10 people were killed in the incident.

Since 2020, ECOWAS states have seen abrupt regime changes with military forces seizing power in four of the 15 member countries: Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Niger. 

The election six years ago of Weah — the first African footballer to win both FIFA’s World Player of the Year trophy and the Ballon d’Or — had sparked high hopes of change in Liberia, which is still reeling from back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic.

But critics have accused his government of corruption and him of failing to keep a promise to improve the lives of the poorest. 

While his party lost, “Liberia has won,” Weah had said on the radio. 

Weah said he had spoken to the man he called the “president-elect” to congratulate him and urged his supporters to accept the election result.

“This is a time for graciousness in defeat,” he said, adding, “Our time will come again.”

The African Union sent its congratulations to Boakai on Monday. 

AU chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat also called on “all parties to continue to display maturity and embrace dialogue to consolidate democracy.”

U.S. President Joe Biden also sent congratulations to Boakai, while praising Weah for “respecting the will of the people and putting patriotism above politics.”

‘Defied the stereotype’

The ECOWAS bloc said that the post-election phase was “crucial” and called on “the people of Liberia to maintain and safeguard peace and security.”

However, the NEC head said that on Friday, the commission had received two appeals from Weah’s party concerning the conduct of the election in Nimba County. 

The commission has 30 days to investigate and reach a decision, she said. 

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who led a mediation mission for the election, said he was “deeply pleased with the successful outcome of the democratic process,” in comments posted on X, formerly Twitter. 

He went on to congratulate Boakai, urging him “to be magnanimous in victory and seek to continue the efforts to unite” Liberia. 

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is a heavyweight in the West African bloc, commended Weah’s concession, saying it had averted any form of socio-political crisis. 

“He has defied the stereotype that peaceful transitions of power are untenable in West Africa,” Tinubu said. 

Several presidential elections in the region are upcoming in 2024, including polls in Senegal, Ghana and Mauritania, as well as military-ruled Mali and Burkina Faso.

Namibia’s Small-Scale Miners Say They’re Displaced by Large Corporations

As industrial mining is expanding in Namibia to meet international demand, small-scale miners whose families have worked the land for generations say they are being displaced. Vitalio Angula has the story from Uis, Namibia.

Oscar Pistorius Will Have a Second Chance at Parole Friday

Oscar Pistorius will have a second chance at parole at a hearing Friday after he was wrongly ruled ineligible for early release from prison in March.

South Africa’s department of corrections said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Monday that a parole board will consider the former Olympic runner’s case again this week and decide “whether the inmate is suitable or not for social integration.”

Pistorius, a world-famous double-amputee athlete who broke barriers by competing on carbon-fiber running blades at the 2012 London Olympics, has been in prison since late 2014 for the shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He was initially convicted of culpable homicide, an offense comparable to manslaughter, for shooting Steenkamp multiple times through a closed toilet cubicle door in his home in the South African capital, Pretoria, in the predawn hours of Valentine’s Day 2013.

His conviction was upgraded to murder, and he was ultimately sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison after a series of appeals by prosecutors. Serious offenders in South Africa must serve at least half their sentence before they are eligible for parole.

Pistorius’ case and his parole eligibility have been complicated by those appeals by prosecutors, who first challenged his culpable homicide conviction and then a sentence of six years for murder, which they called shockingly lenient.

The Supreme Court of Appeal eventually ruled in 2017 that Pistorius should serve South Africa’s minimum sentence of 15 years for murder but considered the year and seven months he had already served for culpable homicide when it delivered the 13 years and five months sentence.

However, the court made an error by not counting another period Pistorius had served while his murder sentence was being appealed, meaning he was in fact eligible for parole in March when he was told at his first hearing that he would only be eligible in August 2024.

Pistorius’ lawyers took his case to the country’s apex Constitutional Court. The decision to give Pistorius another parole hearing Friday is effectively an admission of the appeal court’s error.

Pistorius is not guaranteed to be granted early release. A parole board takes a number of factors into account, including his conduct and disciplinary record in prison, his mental health and the likelihood of him committing another crime.

He could be released on full parole or placed on day parole, where he would be allowed to live and work in the community but have to return to prison at night.

Pistorius was once one of the world’s most admired athletes and one of sports’ most heartwarming stories. He was born with a congenital condition that led to his legs being amputated below the knee when he was a baby, but he took up track and won multiple Paralympic titles on his running blades. He is the only double amputee to run at the Olympics.

Known as the “Blade Runner,” he was at the height of his fame when he killed Steenkamp months after the London Olympics. At his murder trial, he claimed he shot Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, by mistake with his licensed 9 mm pistol because he believed she was a dangerous intruder hiding in his bathroom in the middle of the night.

Pistorius will turn 37 Wednesday and hasn’t been seen for nearly a decade, although there have been occasional glimpses of his time in prison.

He sustained an injury in an altercation with another inmate over a prison telephone in 2017. A year earlier, he received treatment for injuries to his wrists, which his family denied were a result of him harming himself and said were caused by him falling in his cell.

Experts Fear Nigeria’s Food Inflation Could Worsen Hunger Crisis

Millions of people in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, are struggling with economic problems analysts say were caused in part by government reform policies introduced earlier this year.

Nigeria scrapped fuel subsidies in May leading to price hikes in food, transportation and energy costs. Data released last week by the National Bureau of Statistics showed Nigeria’s inflation hit an 18-year high of 27.3%. Analysts say the trend could exacerbate suffering in a country with an estimated 25 million food-insecure people.

Nigerian roadside food vendor Vivian Nwankwo started her business four years ago to support her family after her husband died.

But as the cost of food items continues to rise, she said her profit margin has dropped by more than half and forced her to withdraw two of her children from school to free up cash for food.

“Before we were managing, but now things are too expensive,” Nwankwo said. “It’s difficult to cope or make profits. People are complaining and sometimes at the end of the day, I’m at a loss. Even my two children who are in school do not go every day because I cannot provide for them always.”

There are millions of people like Nwankwo in Nigeria struggling to meet basic needs.

The United Nations estimates 25 million people in Nigeria — or about 15% of the total population — are food insecure.

Analysts say regional instability, climate change and inflation are the major triggers of food insecurity in Nigeria. The situation worsened after the government stopped paying subsidies on fuel in May, sharply increasing costs for food, transportation and energy.

Nigeria’s currency devaluation is also impacting commodity prices and contributing to overall inflation.

Nigerian Humanitarian Affairs Minister Betta Edu said authorities are responding to the challenges, in part by declaring a state of emergency on food security.

“We have lots of interventions that we’re putting on the table and the payments of this conditional cash transfer is ongoing,” Edu said. “The conditions attached to it is that they invest in their businesses, ensure that their children go to school. These are all targeted at improving the lives of people and alleviating poverty. The third part is providing fertilizers for poor local farmers to be able to produce food that we’ll buy off from them and sell as food rations.”

According to the World in Data analysis, Nigeria is among countries with the highest food expenditure with an estimated 60% of total personal income spent on food.

Experts say the situation will worsen if food inflation continues to rise, and that vulnerable people will be most adversely affected.

The Nigerian Central Bank on Monday indefinitely postponed a crucial meeting on interest rates even as inflation worsens.

Analysts say unless something changes, many Nigerians like Nwankwo will struggle to get by from day to day.

Malians Suffer Under Unprecedented Power Cuts

Mali is experiencing a severe electricity crisis that analysts say will have dire economic consequences. For the first time, citizens are openly criticizing Mali’s military government, which has until now enjoyed widespread support in the capital. Annie Risemberg has more from the capital, Bamako

UN Plastic Treaty Talks Grapple With Re-Use, Recycle, Reduce Debate 

A third round of United Nations negotiations to try to deliver the world’s first treaty to control plastic pollution has drawn more than 500 proposals from those involved, participants said on the last day of the talks on Sunday.

Negotiators, who have spent a week meeting in the Kenyan capital at talks known as INC3, have until the end of next year to strike a deal for the control of plastics, which produce an estimated 400 million tons of waste every year.

The plastics industry, oil and petrochemical exporters, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, have said a global deal should promote recycling and re-use of plastic, but environmental campaigners and some governments say much less needs to be produced in the first place.

Environmental group Greenpeace said a successful deal would require the United States and the European Union to show greater leadership than they have so far.

“The hard truth is that INC3 has failed to deliver on its core objective: delivering a mandate to prepare a first draft of a treaty text,” Graham Forbes, head of delegation for Greenpeace, said.

“This is not progress. This is chaos,” he said referring to the number of submissions.

Two more rounds of talks will take place next year to try to finalize the deal.

Bethanie Carney Almroth, an eco-toxicologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who was involved in the talks, said delegates were also considering an extra session to analyze the scale of the problem.

“Plastics are connected to climate change, to biodiversity loss and other major threats and crises that we as the human population are facing on the planet,” she said.

The United Nations said a statement would be issued later after the talks close on Sunday.

Stewart Harris, a spokesman for the International Council of Chemicals Association, an industry body that favors measures like re-using plastic containers as opposed to production curbs, said the Nairobi talks had delivered ideas that would be whittled down in Canada where the next round of negotiations will be held.

One of the most popular proposals was from Switzerland and Uruguay to hold more discussions on curbing harmful polymers and chemicals of concern.

It had the backing of more than 100 states, said the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a global network of non-governmental organizations.

Less than 10% of plastic waste is recycled, the U.N. Environment Program says, while at least 14 million tons end up in oceans every year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature says.

Canada, Kenya, and the European Union are among those who said plastic production needs to be limited, while a coalition of Russia, Saudi Arabia and others has sought to emphasize recycling.

Members of the Saudi delegation at the talks declined to talk to Reuters, while Russian delegates could not immediately be reached for comment.