UN Warns Desert Locusts Spreading in East Africa

"There is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region," the U.N. said.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned on Feb. 10 that desert locusts are spreading in East Africa, with new swarms likely to form in the coming months.

RELATED: Horn of Africa Locust Outbreak Threatens Food Security

“Breeding continues in the Horn of Africa, which will cause locusts to increase further in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya with new swarms forming in March and April. Consequently, there is an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region,” the U.N. agency said in its latest update on the desert locust situation.

“Widespread hatching and band formation will occur in the coming weeks in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia. There remains a risk of a few small swarms appearing in northeast Uganda, southeast South Sudan and perhaps northern Tanzania.”

Meanwhile, the U.N. agency’s Director-General QU Dongyu said Wednesday that greater and faster action was needed to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, a region that is already extremely vulnerable.

Addressing donors and representatives from the affected countries in New York with the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, Qu said that FAO has so far received around US$22 million of the US$76 million requested to assist the five countries initially impacted. 

He expects needs to increase amid concern that the outbreak will continue to spread to other countries.

"It is clear that already vulnerable populations could easily be pushed into a major humanitarian crisis unless we act fast to protect their livelihoods," Qu said.

Desert locusts are considered the most destructive migratory pest in the world and a small swarm covering one square kilometer can swallow the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

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The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission highlighted the professionalism of Cuban doctors and professors

The Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, HE. Mr. Kwesi Quartey received the seven experts participating in a workshop organized by the African regional organization for the conception of the Pan-African College of Medicine, among which are Cubans, Dr. Leonardo Ramos and Dr. María Eugenia García.

In the presence of the Ambassador of Cuba to the African Union, Ángel Villa, the Deputy Chairperson of the continental organization stressed the importance of having in this project the participation of Cuba, due to the experience accumulated during decades in the training of African students both in Cuba as abroad. He also highlighted the internationalist tradition of Cubans health workers and the remarkable results of its health system, which serve as an example and encouragement for Africa.

Mr. Quartey added in his speech that Africa has always had the valuable Cuban contribution in the struggles for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of many countries in that region, including the end of the Apartheid regime. This longstanding support of Cuba to African countries has also been maintained and expanded in social areas such as health, education and sports.

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Nelson Mandela Statue Unveiled in Cuba Capital, Havana

Nelson Mandela continues to break boundaries and push the bars of limitations, even in death. He is not only a South African or African hero, but one recognized and revered worldwide. He is classified by many as a global politician and diplomatic icon; critics cannot agree more!

Although from South Africa, people all over the world want to associate with his legacy and adopt him as their own.

Yesterday, a statue of the former South African president was unveiled in the Cuban capital, Havana.

The Cuban people greatly adore Nelson Mandela. During his lifetime, the African icon was a great supporter of former Cuban president, Fidel Castro. He was also in support of Castro’s Cuban revolution and didn’t hide his support.

Mandela was quoted as saying the Cuban revolution is an “inspiration to all freedom-loving people.”

The statue was unveiled in Cuba’s capital city, Havana.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, leader of the Cuban institution of friendship with peoples, Fernandez Gonzales, said:

“For us, it is a very special moment. We had been waiting a long time for the bust here.

“It will be a place where heads of state, African delegations, will be paid tribute to. These leaders fought for the unity of the African continent, for its independence.”

As president of Cuba, the late Fidel Castro gave the African National Congress, South Africa’s liberation movement turned ruling party, military support in the 1960s.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to fight in Angola, which weakened the government of South Africa and helped Mandela’s anti-apartheid cause.

After his release from prison in 1990, Mandela travelled to Cuba in July 1991, saying the writings of Che Guevara served as an inspiration to him throughout his 27-year imprisonment.

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Fidel Castro's legacy

FIDEL CASTRO would have been 93 years old yesterday, but many celebrations took place in Cuba and around the world to honour the man who stood steadfast against the US’s continuing 60-year economic blockade, attempts to overthrow the Cuban government in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, and many CIA-backed assassination attempts.

Fidel Castro (far left), Che Guevara (centre), and other leading revolutionaries marching through the streets in protest over the La Coubre explosion, 5 March 1960
Fidel Castro (far left), Che Guevara (centre), and other leading revolutionaries marching through the streets in protest over the La Coubre explosion, 5 March 1960

Cuba’s example of socialism is a beacon to the rest of the world, demonstrating against the odds that it is possible to build a sustainable economy, provide world-class healthcare, while maintaining an internationalist perspective exemplified by Cuba’s legendary medical brigades.

Twenty years ago the Cuban government established the Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM), formerly Escuela Latinoamericana de Ciencias Medicas (Latin American School of Medicine). It is a major international medical school in Cuba and a prominent part of the Cuban healthcare system.

It is one of Fidel Castro’s enduring legacies due to Che Guevara’s medical training and passionate internationalism, committing them to sending medical brigades all over the world to the poorest countries after natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or outbreaks of killer diseases such as Ebola.

Established in 1999 and operated by the Cuban government, ELAM has been described as possibly being the largest medical school in the world by enrollment, with approximately 19,550 students from 110 countries reported enrolled since 2013.

All those enrolled are international students from outside Cuba and mainly come from Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Africa and Asia. Tuition, accommodation and board are free, and a small stipend is provided for students. To date ELAM has graduated 31,000 medical students from 103 countries.

ELAM students come from the poorest communities with the intent of returning to practice in those areas in their countries. Initially only enrolling students from Latin America and the Caribbean, the school has become open to applicants from impoverished and/or medically underserved areas in the United States and Africa. As part of Cuban international co-operation, ELAM is also training 800 medical doctors from Timor-Leste.

ELAM was first conceived by Fidel Castro as part of Cuba's humanitarian and development aid response (known as the Integral Health Plan for Central America and the Caribbean) to the devastation caused by Hurricane George and Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which affected several countries in Central America and the Caribbean including Cuba.

In all more than 11,000 people died in the resulting floods and mudslides. In response 500 full medical scholarships per year for the next decade were offered by the Cuban government to students from four countries — the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua — seriously affected by the hurricanes.

The first class of 1,498 ELAM doctors graduated on August 20, 2005, with 112 from other Cuban medical schools: 28 other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States were represented by the graduates.

The ceremony was led by Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In June 2000, a US Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) delegation visited Cuba to meet with Castro. Representative Bennie Thompson mentioned to Castro that his district had a shortage of doctors; he responded by offering full scholarships for US nationals from Mississippi at ELAM.

Later that same June, in a Washington, DC meeting with the CBC, the Cuban Minister of Public Health expanded the offer to all districts represented by the CBC.

At a September 2000 speech event at Riverside Church, New York City, Castro publicly announced a further expanded offer which was reported as allowing several hundred places at ELAM for medical students from low-income communities from any part of the US.

Reports of the size of this offer varied in the US press: 250 or 500 places were suggested with perhaps half reserved for African-Americans and half for Hispanics and Native Americans.

The ELAM offer to US students was classified as a “cultural exchange” programme by the US State Department to avoid the restrictions of the US embargo against Cuba. The first intake of US students into ELAM occurred in spring 2001, with 10 enrolling in the pre-medical program.

A cruel irony that Cuba, a poor country suffering under a US economic blockade lasting nearly 60 years, actually trains students from the US to go back to the poorest communities there and help those in need who cannot afford private healthcare.

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The Friendship between Africa and Cuba is as Deep as Indestructible

Just like one day the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution was awarded with it, it was given for his extraordinary merits to the Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, First Secretary of the Party, the Agostinho Neto Order.

On behalf of the Cuban and Angolan peoples were granted the orders José Martí and Agosthino Neto.

The José Martí Order, the highest decoration bestowed by the Council of State of the Republic of Cuba, was given on Monday to the President of the Republic of Angola, João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, who in turn gave, on behalf of his people and Party, the Agosthino Neto Order to the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Army General Raul Castro Ruz; the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez; to Army Generals Leopoldo Cintra Frías and Ramón Espinosa Martín, Minister and Deputy Minister of the Cuban Army, respectively, and post-mortem order, to Brigadier General Raúl Díaz Argüelles.

In a formal ceremony held at the Palace of the Revolution of the Cuban capital, the secretary of the Council of State, Homero Acosta highlighted that the Angolan President has kept, with exemplary dedication and together with his people and Party, the work of the Father of his nation, Agosthino Neto, and that Cuba has been honored with his friendship since the difficult years of the Angola War therefore giving the José Martí Order is also a sign of respect and friendship of the Cuban people towards the Angolan people.

On his behalf, João Lourenço assured that in this way "all the people of Angola is receiving this order" and that the deep friendship and solidarity between both countries became eternal when the two countries decided to defend the path of freedom. He also stressed that thanks to the heroic sacrifice of the Cuban people, today Southern Africa is a region of peace, democracy and social justice.

The Cuban President highlighted that among the common challenges of our nations are to defend the right to development, welfare and social justice, the safekeeping of the international peace and security.

The Cuban President recalled that Commander in Chief Fidel Castro was the first non-African personality to receive that honor and that the relationship between that Africa and Cuba "is as profound as indestructible."

He highlighted, among the common challenges of our nations are to defend the right to development, welfare and social justice, the safekeeping of international peace and security, and thanked the recognition received on behalf of the Cuban people. «In the melting pot where Cuban nationality was forged: there is Africa».

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African Gold Mines Lose Tens of Billions Yearly to Smuggling

Data from Comtrade, the United Nations’ international trade statistics database, indicated that top importer UAE’s imports far exceeded declared exports out of the continent.

Illegal mining enterprises hae been smuggling gold out of the continent of Africa - from across several dozen countries - to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes, annually.

RELATED: Mine Flood Kills 23, Zimbabwean Officials Fear Final Death Toll

Gold is mined in some 46 African countries, which are suffering significant tax shortfall from rampant illegal activities which have increased underground gold production and smuggling, according to a Reuters report.

“There is a lot of gold leaving Africa without being captured in our records,” Frank Mugyenyi, a senior adviser on industrial development at the African Union, told the news agency. “UAE is cashing in on the unregulated environment in Africa.”

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) claimed gold imports from the  African continent totaled more than $15 billion in 2016, a figure which registered the Emirates as the largest importer ahead of China and Switzerland that year. However, data from Comtrade, the United Nations’ international trade statistics database, indicated that UAE’s imports far exceeded declared exports out of the continent.

Economist Leonce Ndikumana, who has studied capital flows in Africa, said the disparity suggests a “classic case of export under-invoicing” to reduce taxes. 

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo remarked, during a mining conference in February, that the mostly unregulated cottage industry is overrun by foreign-operated criminal enterprises.

In February, three accidents at illegal mining operations in Zimbabwe, Guinea and Liberia claimed the lives of more than 100 people. Illegal activity is fueled by gold trading registering at over $40,000 per kilo.

Ghana is Africa’s second-largest gold producer after Libya. The World Health Organization estimates that about 54 million Africans are dependent on artisanal mining.

“Small scale gold mining is a crucial source of income for millions of Africans, but it is often dangerous, damaging, and in the worst cases, deadly, for artisanal miners,” Magaran Bagayoko of the WHO’s Regional Office for Africa said in a statement in November.

In 2015, Human Rights Watch warned that international gold refiners may be “benefiting from hazardous child labor in unlicensed mines” in Ghana.

The gold mining industry has also been criticized for causing environmental damage and being harmful to human health.

Mercury, a highly toxic chemical, is used to separate gold from ore. Exposure to elemental mercury can lead to disability, kidney failure, and speech, sight and cognitive impairment.

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Africa: Nigerian and Ugandan Poets Win ‘Africa’s Nobel Prize’

The prizes were delivered by Wole Soyinka who is a renowned African novelist and play writer and the recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature (1986).

Two poets win the prestigious Wole Soyinka US$10,000-prize.

Nigerian poet and professor, Tanure Ojaide, and Ugandan poet and journalist, Harriet Anena, won the prize from a list of 110 submissions, from 11 African countries.

Anena won on her “A Nation in Labour” poem, while Ojaide was selected for his “Songs of Myself.”

Anena is the first Ugandan to win the prestigious prize.

Her Nation in Labour’s social commentary and perspective stands out, “a collection of social conscience poetry” which takes on “the giant politician, the restless citizen, the clueless youth, those struggling to heal from life’s scratches and the ones hunting for words to describe the fiery flames of affection,” according to Anena’s publisher.

Anena is from Gulu, in northern Uganda. The poet and journalist worked for the Daily Monitor newspaper where she was a reporter and deputy chief sub-editor. She has also taught specialized writing the Islamic University in Uganda.

Wole Soyinka, the man who handed the prizes, is a renowned novelist and play writer and the recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature (1986).

The prize, awarded every two years, was created by the Lumina Foundation, in 2005.

The prize sponsored by Lumina promotes Africa’s talented writers by generating visibility for their work. One way it achieves this is by making their books available at an affordable subsidized priced.

According to UNESCO, literacy rates in Africa are still behind much of the rest of the world, as 38 percent (38 million people) of adults in the continent remain illiterate, and this is much worst among women, as they comprise two-thirds of the group.

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Food Crisis Affects Millions in Africa's Horn

The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) revealed on Thursday in this capital that 22.4 million people in the Horn of Africa are in need of food assistance.

In a press release, UNOCHA said that 700 000 citizens in Kenya, 1.6 million in Somalia, 6.1 in Southern Sudan, 7.9 in Ethiopia and 6.2 in Sudan live under extreme food shortages.

At the same time, the published text stated that the conflict and internal violence contributed to an increase in these figures in Sudanese and South Sudanese territory, while the steady international response and the abundance of rains helped slightly decrease the amount in the Somali nation.

States in the area are also suffering from a displacement crisis, mainly due to clashes between communities, the report added.

Thus, ethnic clashes on the common border of the Ethiopian area of Gedeo and the southern region of Guji since April have led 960,000 people to leave their homes.

According to the report, the situation has also raised the current number of refugees in the African horn to 3.82 million.

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