Tag Archives: Africa

COVID-19: Bright colours to ‘soften the pain’

By: 

FRANCK KUWONU

Mounia Lazali, is a professional designer and a painter based in Algeria. Like, others around the African continent, she is playing her part in helping contain the COVID-19 pandemic. With many countries facing face mask shortages, Ms. Lazali is sewing hundreds of them using colorful fabrics to donate to fellow Algerians. She spoke to Africa Renewal’s Franck Kuwonu about her initiative:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Mounia Lazali and my artist’s name is MYA. I am 43 years old and I live in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria. I am a graduate of the École supérieure des Beaux-Arts (College of Fine Arts) in Algiers and the University of Language and Culture in Beijing, China. I’m also a professional painter as well as a textile, furniture and graphic arts designer.

When did you start producing face masks?

I started making face masks on 18 March this year. I remember that day because immediately I made the first batch, I published a photo of myself wearing the colourful face masks on Facebook. I like to share all my creations instantly on social media networks because I find it an interesting way to interact with other people, raise awareness about something and to share creative content.

What drove you to making the face masks?

My whole life revolves around beauty and aesthetics. Personally, I did not want to wear the usual surgical mask at this time of confinement because it reminds me of difficult phase of my life where I was sick for a long time and had to wear one. So, I thought that the colourful textiles I use for my designs could help soften all this fear and pain around this pandemic.

I had gone to China for my studies a few months after the end of SARS. That allowed me to adapt quickly to the hygiene measures prescribed, including wearing face masks. I remember that masks were worn during periods of great pollution too so I was familiar with this kind of accessory and other personal protection measures against such diseases.

On the other hand, when COVID-19 broke out, I knew we were facing a shortage of masks in Algeria, as was the case elsewhere. I’m good at sewing and I had a stock of fabrics I had brought from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, so I took the plunge!

How many masks do you produce per day?

I make more than 300 masks, some of which are distributed to friends, neighbours, local merchants, associations and medical staff. Others are sold for a small amount.

What materials do you use to make the masks?

I use African prints cotton and cotton waxed fabrics. They are also lined. To ensure that they are safe for use to make masks, the fabrics are first machine-washed at 60°Celsius, ironed several times during the creation process, and disinfected one more time by the last ironing.

How do you distribute the masks?

People come to my house and ring the intercom to make an order. I then pack the masks in an envelope and put them at the entrance of the house with the customer’s names on it. When it is a small quantity, I leave them in the mailbox for people to collect. It is very important for me to respect the safety and social distancing measures required around COVID-19, especially because of my health history, but also for my customers coming to collect their masks.

What role are women in Algeria playing in the fight against COVID-19?

At the moment, women are helping to raise awareness on social networks. This is not to forget that we have women medics – doctors and nurses – who are on the frontline in this fight against COVID-19. They risk their lives for us every day.

What is your message to fellow Algerians at this time of COVID-19?

Let us maintain solidarity! Let us remain aware of the changes we are experiencing, because from now on nothing will ever be the same again. Let us be more respectful of nature, wildlife and everything that makes up our ecosystem.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

WHO: How the lessons from Ebola are helping Africa’s COVID-19 response

BY: 

AFRICA RENEWAL

 Considerable effort is going into fighting COVID-19 in Africa and worldwide. WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti spoke with Africa Renewal about applying lessons learned from the continent’s Ebola virus disease response, as well as actions of continental and international solidarity to address the pandemic:

This is part 3 of a 3-part interview with WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti covering Africa’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, what WHO is doing in support of countries, lessons learned from the Ebola response and solidarity efforts underway to fight the spread of the virus.

Africa Renewal: What has the Ebola response taught Africa about how to prepare for COVID-19?

Dr. Moeti: The important lesson we learned from the Ebola outbreak, which is being applied now, is how to start work early at the community level, because communities are key at the start of an outbreak, in terms of surveillance and recognizing patterns of illness.

We have engaged the people strongly, working through community groups to disseminate information about the pattern of the coronavirus disease and how to protect oneself. We have also learned that it is important not only to tell people things, but to also listen to them and to incorporate that information into our strategies. There is a huge amount of information — some of it incorrect — circulating about this coronavirus, and we have learned from the Ebola experience to reach out; not just to send radio messages, but to talk to people and hear them.

We have also built on the capacity already put in place for the Ebola outbreak. For example, some of the laboratory testing capacity was built around the Ebola experience. We learned a lot about point-of-entry screening of people through work on Ebola and have now started a strong partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). We have learned a lot also about the rapid exchange of capacities, including those of laboratories, between countries.

In relation to the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak, one of the things that I’m hoping will help us is testing out therapeutics even as we are using them. In carrying out clinical trials, we learned how to bring partners together. We are seeing many coalitions of technical agencies, the private sector and WHO coming together to look at therapeutics and vaccine development. I think these are some of the precious lessons that came out of the Ebola experience and will be very useful during this pandemic.

What continental solidarity efforts are under way?

At the continental level, one of the first and most important issues for us, was that diagnostic capacity was very limited in the region. At the beginning we had only two laboratories able to diagnose COVID-19 and they offered their services to other African countries. We were shipping specimens to Dakar’s Institut Pasteur and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, who have also been training other countries.

We have seen an exchange of expertise between countries, and ministers of health networking among themselves to exchange their own experiences and offer each other ideas. I think there’s been a real openness towards providing support to each other among African countries and I’m certain that we’ll continue to see this solidarity.

And the private sector?

The private sector has also offered its services. We have seen an outpouring of support, particularly in terms of messaging from some of the communications companies. We will be partnering with them to make sure people get essential messages about how to protect themselves and others.

What are some of the international solidarity efforts under way?

We have seen real international generosity and solidarity around this outbreak. For example, the Jack Ma Foundation offered one of the most acutely needed commodities in the response: testing kits. We have also seen generosity on the part of international donors. Some, like the European Union, have offered funding particularly to low-income countries.

The World Bank has released $12 billion in funding and quite a few countries have offered financing. Foundations and pharmaceutical companies have offered their support too.

How will we know when we have COVID-19 under control and that it is safe for us all to stop social distancing?

The responses of individuals, families and households to facilitate the reduction or halt of transmission is one of the biggest adjustments [being made] and the most important part of this response. Right now, we are not certain when we will start to see the end of this outbreak. We have seen some countries, like China, emerge at the other end of the peak and we believe South Korea is on that path. They are being very deliberate in relaxing some of these restrictions. I’ve seen people in China very joyful as they came out into their gardens for the first time in the last few days, but even then, their movement is still limited.

We all need to make sure that when we open up the spaces to allow people to start moving around, we continue to carefully monitor the evolution of COVID-19 on a day-to-day basis for any new infections before we can allow life to go back to normal.

Do you have a final message?

My message is that we’re all in this together. Solidarity, sympathy, and helping and supporting each other are what’s going to bring us out of this outbreak. Starting at the individual level, I’ve been impressed to see how people have offered their time to support others. For example, where [free] movement of people is prohibited, young people have been willing to go and help elderly people get their shopping. We are starting to see more and more of this in African countries too.

People are prepared to share their knowledge and information to support each other and we’ve seen solidarity also among countries. So, for example, the fact that China was prepared to send some of its experts to a European country to help bring to bear quickly the lessons [it had] learned is the sort of international solidarity we expect to see.

One of the most important demonstrations of this solidarity, in my view, is to not only protect ourselves, but to be responsible for protecting others. So, what we have learned about not shaking each other’s hands; not greeting in certain ways; giving up going to church, even if we find that a very important part of our daily life, are demonstrations that we are thinking of other people, even as we think of ourselves. That’s the message that I’d like to leave. If governments announce measures that they think are going to make a difference, let’s not wait until we are policed or chased around to comply. It’s very important that we enforce these important practices that will help to stop the virus.

 For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

 

WHO: Africa needs more kits, surveillance and case management to tackle COVID-19

BY: 

AFRICA RENEWAL

As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to spread across Africa, countries are ramping up efforts to contain it. World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti spoke with Africa Renewal about the continent’s preparedness and response to the global pandemic:

This is part 1 of a 3-part interview with WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti covering Africa’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, what WHO is doing in support of countries, lessons learned from the Ebola response and solidarity efforts underway to fight the spread of the virus.

Africa Renewal: Where is Africa in terms of preparedness and response to COVID-19? We see more countries able to test for the virus.

Dr. Moeti: I’m very encouraged by the progress countries have made overall and as far as diagnostic capacity is concerned. Several weeks ago, we only had two labs in two countries [South Africa and Senegal] where testing for novel coronavirus was available. Now 41 countries in the African region can diagnose this virus. Countries have also made progress in point-of-entry screening and establishing follow-up surveillance mechanisms. They need to expand on this so that any health worker — and more importantly people at the community level — can recognize the signs and symptoms of this illness. These are some of the capacities that have been rapidly built up.

Where is progress on the COVID-19 response needed most?

The areas most in need of progress include making sure that countries have the necessary supplies and equipment. First, we need personal protective equipment, to protect healthcare workers, and laboratory testing kits — this is very important. Admittedly, some of this is beyond the control of individual governments. We have a global-level market distortion which means some of these items are difficult to obtain.

There is also a need to improve on surveillance in many of our member states. From the point of entry, there is a need for close follow-up of people travelling from highly-affected countries. Then when people are put in isolation, including self-isolation, there needs to be some means of following up to ensure that this is actually happening. We have seen how in countries like China this was robustly policed initially until people adjusted to the idea and started to implement the measures themselves.

What about establishing COVID-19 treatment centres?

We also need better case management and the establishment of treatment centres for people with COVID-19. We recognize that most of our countries do not have enough critical care beds in intensive care units, so this can be [addressed] by creating and equipping special temporary field-type hospitals in field-type spaces. Experience in providing care is relatively limited in most African countries, so we will need to find ways of using available capacities in the most efficient way. People who have mild illness or who are infected but asymptomatic do not need to be admitted to hospital, where the beds are needed for seriously ill patients. So, clearly defining models of care, and starting with an approach that leverages the capacities for those who are critically ill, is something that, in my view, needs to be improved.

Which African countries are good examples of COVID-19 preparedness and response?

We have seen different countries manifest diverse aspects that are critical, at the political level, to a successful response. For example, some heads of state have made commitments to or have established high-level response mechanism, while others have set up commissions to coordinate their response. This has happened in countries like Kenya, South Africa and Ghana, among others. The most senior politicians – Heads of state – are being briefed on a regular basis by their ministers of health, prime ministers (who are sometimes coordinating these mechanisms) and also by our WHO country representatives.

We have also seen many countries communicating and encouraging people to take protective measures. Others have put in place measures that encourage people to self-isolate at home. Schools have been closed in South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda and other countries all over the region.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

 

AU study: COVID-19 could cost Africa $500 billion, damage tourism and aviation sectors

Kingsley Ighobor

About the author: is a public information officer for the United Nations, New York. He is the managing editor at the Africa Renewal.

Up to 20 million jobs in the formal and informal sectors in Africa could be lost because of COVID-19, according to a new study by the African Union.Released in early April, the study found that foreign direct investment (FDI), tourism receipts

Kingsley Ighobor

and remittance flows will also suffer significant declines as the continent tackles the pandemic. Titled The Impact of Coronavirus on the African Economy, the study modelled two scenarios, each with equal chance of being realized. Under scenario one (realistic), the pandemic will be contained within five months, inflicting minimal damage; under scenario two, the pandemic will last for eight months and countries will be severely affected.

The more optimistic scenario one projects a 2020 GDP growth of -08% while the pessimistic scenario two will result in -1.1% growth. Given that the continent’s 2020 GDP growth had been projected at 3.4%, even the optimistic scenario is a significant decline of 4.18% while the pessimistic scenario projects a decline of 4.51%.

The negative growth would be due to a “disruption of the world economy through global value chains, the abrupt fall in commodity prices and fiscal revenues and the enforcement of travel and social restrictions.”

Furthermore, a 35% dip in exports and imports would be worth $270 billion. Yet, Africa will require $130 billion to “fight against the spread of the virus and medical treatment,” stated the African Union.

Drop in oil prices

Africa will lose between 20% and 30% of its fiscal revenue, which was 500 billion in 2019, forcing governments to resort to borrowing to meet the shortfall. Commodity-dependent countries such as Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Republic of the Congo will be most affected.

The slump in oil price to below $30 a barrel, and a nosedive of the tourism and air transport sectors, will upend countries’ development agendas.

The tourism and oil sectors represent 25% of the GDPs of Africa’s top five economies—Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. The study emphasized that, “The level of the impact of COVID-19 on these five economies will be representative for the whole of the African economy.”
Oil constitutes 90% of Nigeria’s exports and 70% of its national budget, meaning that any dip in price will have an impact on earnings. Both Nigeria and Angola, Africa’s top two oil producers, could lose up to $65 billion in income.

Effects on tourism

In South Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the countries’ main sources of income—mining and tourism. With 10.47 million arrivals in 2018, the country was second only to Egypt in tourism receipts, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. Overall, tourism contributed $194.2 billion or 8.5% to Africa’s GDP in 2018.

Tourism in Morocco will take a hit too, along with its automotive industry, which represented 6% of the country’s GDP in 2019.

The study mentioned that, “Tourism employs more than a million people in each of the following countries: Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, and Tanzania. … and more than 20 per cent of total employment in Seychelles, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Mauritius.”
Already, Africa’s tourism and aviation sectors are reeling from the impact of COVID-19 with hotels laying off workers and travel agencies shutting down.

“Under the average [realistic] scenario, the tourism and travel sectors in Africa could lose at least $50 billion… and at least two million direct and indirect jobs.”

Top African airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir, Kenya Airways and South African Airways, will be affected by travel restrictions across the world.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Africa’s air transport industry contributes up to $55.8 billion (2.6%) to Africa’s GDP and supports 6.2 million jobs. By 11 March, African airlines had lost $4.4 billion in revenue due to fallout from the pandemic.

Drop in FDI

The study estimated a drop of between -5% and -15% in FDI in Africa. Data published in 2019 by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) lists Africa’s top five FDI countries:
South Africa ($5.3 billion), Egypt ($6.8 billion), Republic of the Congo (4.3 billion), Morocco ($3.6 billion) and Ethiopia ($ 3.3 billion). In total Africa received $46 billion.

Remittance flows are also expected to decrease, crunching cash in many economies. “Remittances range as high as 23% in Lesotho and more than 12% in Comoros, The Gambia, and Liberia,” the study stated.

With advanced economies in recession, official development assistance (ODA), which many African countries rely on to finance development, will come in trickles, if at all.
COVID-19 will likely affect the launch of a free trade that was set to begin in July 2020 under the African Continental Free Trade Area. Total Africa trade for 2019 was $760 billion or 29% of the continent’s GDP. Of that amount, intra-Africa trade was just 17%.

For more information on COVID-19

Africa Renewal

Zambia to Host 2019 United Nations All Africa Games

PRESS RELEASE

LUSAKA 14 AUGUST 2019 – Zambia will from 10 to 12 October 2019 host the 12th United Nations All Africa Games 2019. The games, which will be organised and hosted by the United Nations in Zambia, will see about 1,200 participants from over 14 countries compete for honours at the annual United Nations sporting event to be held in Lusaka.

The objective of the UN All Africa Games is to promote good health and well-being among UN staff in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 3 as well as encourage unity in the UN family. This is the first time that Zambia is hosting this prestigious event, with last year’s games having been held in Mphumalanga, South Africa, under the auspices of United Nations South Africa.

The United Nations is open to partnership, sponsorship and co-branding with Government, private sector and sports associations, for Zambia to successfully host these annual continental games. Twelve disciplines including athletics, basketball, chess, football, netball, swimming, golf, tennis, volleyball and parasports present life changing opportunities for the private sector in the areas of brand marketing, sales, and Corporate Social Investment.

“As UN Zambia, we are honoured to host the games. This is a huge undertaking that needs sponsors to join hands with us. We invite the private sector to come on board and partner with us to ensure success of these games,” said UN Zambia Resident Coordinator, a.i
Dr George Okech.

Dr. Okech also noted the support so far received from the Zambian Government in the lead up to the UN games.

“We are grateful to the Government of the Republic of Zambia through line ministries such as Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Youth, Sport and Child Development for the support and guidance provided to us this far to ensure that we hold a truly memorable and professional sporting event,” Dr Okech added.

A local organising committee comprising UN staff and representatives from the Government has since been constituted to arrange games schedules, accommodation, venues, transportation and communication, among other issues.

About UN Zambia

Through resident and non-resident funds and agencies, the United Nations in Zambia delivers as one in providing development and humanitarian support to the people of Zambia and refugees through the Zambia-United Nations Sustainable Development Partnership Framework. UN Zambia has, through the Resident Coordinator and UN Country Team made significant progress in systematically moving forward the UN reform agenda in the country, striving to reach the highest standards of accountability, transparency and impact.

For more information, please contact:

Mark Maseko, National Information Officer
UN Zambia
P: +260-211-225-494 | M: + 260-955767062 | E: masekom@un.org

Michael Phiri, Chairperson, 12th UN All Africa Games Organising Committee
UN Zambia
P: +260-211-254421 | M: + 260-966743244 | E: mphiri@unfpa.org

Jacqueline Chishimba, Partnership and Sponsorship, 12th UN All Africa Games Organising Committee
UN Zambia
P: +260-211-253802 | M: + 260-977795416 | E: Jacqueline.chishimba@wfp.org

UN mourns death of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, ‘a guiding force for good’

Mr. Annan was the seventh man to take the helm of the global organization and the first Secretary-General to emerge from the ranks of its staff.

The current UN chief, Antonio Guterres hailed him as “a guiding force for good” and a “proud son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.”

“Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor. I was deeply honoured

Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General 1997-2006

Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary General 1997-2006

by his trust in selecting me to serve as UN High Commissioner for Refugees under his leadership. He remained someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom — and I know I was not alone,” Mr. Guterres said in a statement.

“He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world.  In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all us.”

Kofi Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938.

He served as UN Secretary-General for two consecutive five-year terms, beginning in January 1997.

Mr. Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, rising to hold senior-level posts in areas such as budget and finance, and peacekeeping.

As Mr. Guterres noted: “In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”

From his beginnings in Geneva, Mr. Annan held UN posts in places such as Ethiopia, Egypt, the former Yugoslavia and at Headquarters in New York.

Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he was tasked with facilitating the repatriation of more than 900 international staff as well as the release of Western hostages.

He later led the first UN team negotiating with Iraq on the sale of oil to fund purchases of humanitarian aid.

Immediately prior to his appointment as Secretary-General in January 1997, Mr. Annan headed the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations during a period which saw an unprecedented growth in the Organization’s field presence.

His first major initiative as UN chief was a plan for UN reform, presented to Member States in July 1997.

Mr. Annan used his office to advocate for human rights, the rule of law, development and Africa, and he worked to bring the UN closer to people worldwide by forging ties with civil society, the private sector and other partners.

As Secretary-General, he also galvanized global action to fight HIV/AIDS and combat terrorism.

Mr. Annan and the United Nations jointly were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

In his farewell statement to the UN General Assembly in December 2006, Kofi Annan expressed emotion over leaving what he called “this mountain with its bracing winds and global views.”

Although the job had been difficult and challenging, he admitted that it was also “thrillingly rewarding” at times.

“And while I look forward to resting my shoulder from those stubborn rocks in the next phase of my life, I know I shall miss the mountain,” he said.

However, Mr. Annan did not rest, taking on the role of UN Special Envoy for Syria in the wake of the conflict which began in March 2011.

He also chaired an Advisory Commission established by Myanmar in 2016 to improve the welfare of all people in Rakhine state, home to the minority Rohingya community.

His homeland, Ghana, established an international peacekeeping training centre that bears his name, which was commissioned in 2004.

Source: UN News 

A Continent of Hope

By António Guterres

Far too often, the world views Africa through the prism of problems. When I look to Africa, I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

I am committed to building on those strengths and establishing a higher platform of cooperation between the United Nations and the leaders and people of Africa. This is essential to advancing inclusive and sustainable development and deepening cooperation for peace and security.

That is the message I carried to the recent African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — my first major mission as United Nations Secretary-General.

Above all, I came in a spirit of profound solidarity and respect. I am convinced that the world has much to gain from African wisdom, ideas and solutions.

I also brought with me a deep sense of gratitude. Africa provides the majority of United Nations peacekeepers around the world. African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees. Africa includes some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

The recent resolution of the political crisis in the Gambia once again demonstrated the power of African leadership and unity to overcome governance challenges and uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

I left the Summit more convinced than ever that all of humanity will benefit by listening, learning and working with the people of Africa.

We have the plans in place to build a better future. The international community has entered the second year of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an all-out effort to tackle global poverty, inequality, instability and injustice. Africa has adopted its own complementary and ambitious plan: Agenda 2063.

For the people of Africa to fully benefit from these important efforts, these two agendas need to be strategically aligned.

It starts with prevention. Our world needs to move from managing crises to preventing them in the first place. We need to break the cycle of responding too late and too little.

Most of today’s conflicts are internal, triggered by competition for power and resources, inequality, marginalization and sectarian divides. Often, they are inflamed by violent extremism or provide the fuel for it.

The United Nations is committed to working hand-in-hand with partners wherever conflict or the threat of conflict endangers stability and well-being.
But prevention goes far beyond focusing solely on conflict. The best means of prevention and the surest path to durable peace is inclusive and sustainable development.

We can speed progress by doing more to provide opportunities and hope to young people. More than three out of five Africans are under 35 years of age. Making the most of this tremendous asset means more investment in education, training, decent work, and engaging young people in shaping their future.

We must also do our utmost to empower women so they can play a full role in sustainable development and sustainable peace. I am pleased that the African Union has consistently placed a special focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

I have seen it again and again: When we empower women, we empower the world.

I travelled to Africa as a partner, friend and committed advocate for changing the narrative about this diverse and vital continent. Crises represent at best a partial view. But from a higher platform of cooperation, we can see the whole picture – one that spotlights the enormous potential and remarkable success stories in every corner of the African continent.

With that perspective, I have no doubt we can win the battle for sustainable and inclusive development which are also the best weapons to prevent conflict and suffering, allowing Africa to shine even more vibrantly and inspire the world.
António Guterres is Secretary-General of the United Nations