SALO Weekly News Briefs – 28 April 2020


COVID-19: China to deploy medical experts to Zimbabwe.


Date for medical experts’ arrival in Zimbabwe has not yet been confirmed, says Chinese Embassy official.

China is expected to deploy more medical experts to the southern African nation of Zimbabwe to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, local media reported Monday.

“The date for the arrival has not yet been confirmed, but we expect them soon. Zimbabwe has been working very hard to contain the disease and we want to share the experience with Zimbabwe,” the Zimbabwe Mail website quoted Zhao Baogang, minister-counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe, as saying.

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and regions. Europe and the US are currently the worst-hit regions.

Anadolu Agency

Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 Cases Rise To 31

ZIMBABWE’S COVID-19 confirmed cases have further risen, with the Ministry of Health reporting three people tested positive Saturday for the infectious disease.

One of the cases is from Harare while two are in Mashonaland West province.

No further details were given about the three new cases, except that two of them were local transmissions from Mashonaland West.

The late Gogo Nguni, mother to former government minister, Sylvester Nguni died from coronavirus last week and was from Mhondoro in Mashonaland West.

New Zimbabwe

The devastating effects of COVID-19 on maternal health in Zimbabwe

Rutendo was getting close to her due date when the government announced the 21-day lockdown to tackle COVID-19.

She stays in a farming area, 35 kilometres from the nearest healthcare facility, and her chances of getting an ambulance in time for emergency care were always minimal.

Rutendo’s older sister died five years ago from complications in pregnancy and her mother, not wanting to take any chances, sent Rutendo to the nearest district hospital to “sit and wait” for a safe delivery before the lockdown came into effect on March 30.

Rutendo delivered a bouncing baby girl the very next day.

News Day


Eswatini reinstates lockdown rules as infections rise

The kingdom of Eswatini on Wednesday reversed a decision to relax coronavirus restrictions after infections almost doubled to 31 in one week.

Authorities in Africa’s last absolute monarchy last week eased some of the restrictions imposed on March 27.

Public buses were allowed to resume circulating, and some companies could reopen.

But Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, complaining that “complacency among the populace is creeping in”, said the rules would go back into force on Friday.

“An increasing number of people around the country are now casual and lack vigilance in preventing the transmission of the virus,” Dlamini said in a statement.

Dispatch Live

MPs Demand Govt. Action as Hunger Spreads Across Swaziland During Coronavirus Lockdown

The House of Assembly in Swaziland (eSwatini) has demanded immediate action from the government as hunger spreads across the kingdom and doctors and nurses continue to be without vital personal protective equipment (PPE) during the present coronavirus crisis.

Swaziland has been in a partial lockdown since 27 March 2020 with many businesses closed, bans on large gatherings and travel restrictions.

News has emerged of whole communities who have no work and no way of getting food. Hospitals do not have personal protection equipment such as face masks, gloves and gowns.

As of 21 April 2020, one person had died from coronavirus and 31 tested positive.


Democratic Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo rangers killed in horrific attack

A statement released early last Friday afternoon by the Congo Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) confirmed that an attack had taken place, with a “substantial loss of life”.

ICCN director Cosma Wilungula said, “Around 60 fighters from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) ambushed a convoy of civilians that was being protected by 15 rangers.”

The target of the attack

The FDLR, which operates in the volatile eastern DRC, has waged a periodic war with the Congolese government and rival militias since it was founded in 2000 by Hutu officials who fled Rwanda at the end of the genocide, which the United Nations estimates left over 800,000 dead.

“The guards were not the target and died while assisting the civilian vehicle that had been caught under fire from the attackers,” the Virunga National Park said in a statement.

The South African

IMF Approves US$363.27 Million Disbursement to the Democratic Republic of Congo to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • The IMF approves the disbursement of US$363.27 million under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) to help the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) meet urgent balance of payments stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The DRC is experiencing a severe shock, as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, with the near-term outlook deteriorating quickly.
  • The authorities have responded quickly, scaling up health-related spending and deploying a series of containment and mitigation measures.

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a disbursement under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) equivalent to SDR 266.5 million (about US$363.27million, or 25 percent of quota), to help the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) meet the urgent balance of payment needs stemming from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DRC is experiencing a severe shock as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The short-term economic outlook has deteriorated quickly due to the fall of minerals’ prices and the impact of needed containment and mitigation measures.


Central African Republic

In Central African Republic, a colossal struggle against COVID-19

Before dawn in a suburb recovering from war, Fanny Balekossi awakes and heads into the centre of Bangui. A radio broadcaster specialising in health issues, Balekossi survived years of sectarian fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) during which her older sister and close friends perished.

Now, she is facing a new struggle to pull her country back from the brink once more.

In a studio at Radio Ndeke Luka, CAR’s most popular station, Balekossi puts on her headphones, turns on the mic and begins speaking to her listeners in a country that the United Nations calls one of the least prepared to cope with a coronavirus outbreak.

“Welcome to your Health Magazine show,” she says in her gentle, reassuring tone. “Today we’re talking about the importance of handwashing during this health crisis that is rocking the world. “


UN imposes sanctions on Central African Republic rebel leader

The UN Security Council on Monday imposed sanctions on Central African Republic (CAR) former rebel leader Abdoulaye Miskine, who last year was one of the signatories of a peace agreement between the government and armed groups.

Under the terms of the February 2019 accord, Miskine, founder and head of the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), was offered a position as an adviser to the new government.

In the latest report by UN experts monitoring sanctions and an arms embargo imposed in 2013, the self-proclaimed general was said to be recruiting fighters.

Miskine had signed the peace agreement in Khartoum between CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera and the heads of 14 armed groups.



Somalia struggles with coronavirus as infections go undetected

Six weeks after registering its first coronavirus case, Somalia on Monday had confirmed 480 infections out of 764 people tested for COVID-19, the highly infectious respiratory disease that has disrupted life worldwide.

The figures, given to Al Jazeera by Dr Abdirizak Yusuf Ahmed, the person leading Somalia’s COVID-19 response, raised major concerns that the actual tally could be much higher.

“We believe we are missing thousands of cases,” said Ahmed, incident manager of Somalia’s task force.

He explained that infections are going undetected because only highly symptomatic people are being tested, which also in part explains the number of positives given the sample size.


Somalia’s COVID-19 response: a shift to online learning in Somali higher education

Nowadays, the much-admired gardens and once-full classrooms at the campus of Plasma University in Mogadishu are empty.

Like the rest of Somalia’s higher education institutions, the university – with more than four thousand students and one hundred and seventy (170) people on the teaching faculties – is now off-limits in the wake of government directives on the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We are following the federal government directives of social distancing and closing of educational institutions to save lives. Otherwise, the coronavirus menace will have a devastating effect on society because of us [universities],” says Plasma University’s public relations manager, Ali Haji Barre.

CNBC Africa


Sudan’s revolutionary medics turn activist networks against coronavirus

Dr Alshafie Hussein spends every waking hour treating the sick at Jubra hospital, the main battleground against Covid-19 in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum. Since early March, the 37-year-old hasn’t seen his wife or child for fear of infecting them.

Even now, during Ramadan, he only interacts with his colleagues and patients and sleeps alone in an office near the hospital.

Dr Hussein is just one of the medical professionals who are once again rallying together to try and save Sudan.

“People trust us because we were on the frontlines during the revolution,” said Dr Hussein, referring to the role doctors played in toppling former dictator Omar Al Bashir in 2019. “Now we have a duty to help our people again.”

The National

As pandemic encroaches on Abyei, tensions rise over disputed territory straddling Sudan, South Sudan

Sudan’s efforts to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, are delaying the deployment of fresh United Nations police units in Abyei and the border regions between Sudan and South Sudan, the UN’s peacekeeping chief told the Security Council on Tuesday

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, updating the Council on the work of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), said at the local level, the security situation remains volatile. The mission is mandated to protect civilians and humanitarians operating in the area.

He pointed to rising tensions between the pastoral Ngok Dinka and nomadic Misseriya communities, as well growing criminality and the presence of armed elements, including some that have exchanged gunfire with UNISFA troops.

UN News

South Sudan

South Sudan confirms 28 new COVID-19 cases, 34 in total

South Sudan Ministry of Health on Tuesday confirmed 28 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections to 34.

Riek Machar, first vice president of South Sudan who is also a deputy chairman of the high-level task force on COVID-19, said a total of 139 people were tested for the disease in which 28 turned positive.

“All 28 cases were confirmed positive while 10, including two truck drivers at Nimule border crossing, were equivocal and need a retest,” Machar said in a statement issued in Juba.

He said a full-contact tracing operation is underway and called on all the contacts to cooperate with the country’s rapid response teams.

Machar said all the new cases were contacts of the fifth patient who was a member of a local community peace caravan, adding that he was the first person to test positive of the COVID-19 with local transmission.

South Sudan Cuts Interest Rate, Reserve Ratio to Buffer Economy

South Sudan’s central bank cut its interest rate and lowered the reserve requirement for lenders to free up liquidity as the coronavirus pandemic and the drop in oil prices hit the economy.

The monetary policy committee reduced the central bank rate to 13% from 15% and the reserve requirement ratio to 18% from 20%, Governor Gamal Wani Abdalla said in a statement Tuesday. With sub-Saharan Africa’s third biggest crude reserves, oil is South Sudan’s only export and the economy will be hit by the plunge in prices for the commodity, he said.

“The MPC resolved on easing monetary policy stance, a measure aimed at restoring confidence, while providing additional liquidity supporting the banking sector to address the fall in demand for credit,” according to the statement. “The sharp decline of the oil prices in the international market will undermine the prospects of positive economic growth.”


Western Sahara

Polisario Front Calls on UN to Intervene Urgently for Release of Sahrawi Political Prisoners

The Polisario Front called Friday the United Nations to take an urgent action for the release of the Sahrawi political prisoners, underlining that Morocco is fully responsible of the serious consequences that may result from its insistence to keep them in unfair detention.

In its Friday’s meeting chaired by President of the Republic, Secretary General of the Polisario Front Brahim Ghali, the permanent office of the Polisario’s National Secretariat called on the United Nations, to “intervene urgently for the release of all the Sahrawi prisoners in the Moroccan prisons, notably with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The Polisario underlined that “the Moroccan State is fully responsible of the serious consequences that my result from its insistence to keep them in unfair detention,” said the permanent office.


Morocco, Algeria face off at UN over Western Sahara

The UN Security Council adopted a resolution April 9 on the Western Sahara peace process between the Polisario Front and Morocco. In essence, it reiterated prior UN resolutions: that a political solution to the ongoing conflict over Western Sahara territories can only be achieved through negotiations between all concerned parties, and in the form of a roundtable process.

Amid the global crisis of the coronavirus, few in the international community paid attention to the resolution, which appears to have not contributed much to the UN-sponsored peace process. Also, the threat that the coronavirus will spread more widely in North Africa did little to bring Morocco and Polisario’s ally Algeria any closer when it comes to the disputed Western Sahara. It could even be said that tensions over Western Sahara didn’t diminish an inch, and that if anything, the coronavirus pandemic only escalated them. As if reflecting international indifference, the UN Security Council website did not even feature the resolution the day after it was adopted.

The conflict over Western Sahara has lasted for many decades, ever since Spain decolonized this large stretch of desert land in 1975. Shortly after decolonization, the Polisario Front launched an armed struggle against Morocco, seeking self-determination and recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. But despite several peace initiatives, and despite countless UN resolutions, the Moroccan claim to these territories shows no signs of winding down.