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Cabo Verde Received the First Batch of COVID-19 Vaccines

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Cabo Verde received Friday, March 12, its first batch of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, sent through the COVAX Initiative, a partnership between the Government of Cabo Verde, CEPI (Coalition for Innovation in Epidemic Preparedness), GAVI (Global Vaccine Alliance) and WHO (World Health Organization), in partnership with UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), the World Bank and others.

This is a historic step towards achieving our goal of ensuring the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, and which is already considered the largest acquisition and operation of vaccine supply in human history. This delivery is the first batch part of the government plan agreed with the COVAX mechanism, aiming to cover 20% of the country’s population (111,372 people) prioritizing the population at more at risk.

On March 8, after submission of the required regulatory documentation required from Cabo Verde, COVAX through UNICEF supply division shipped to the capital city of Praia 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, licensed and manufactured by serum institute (PVT) Limited from Maharashtra, India and the shipment arrived at Nelson Mandela International Airport on March 12, 2021.

This first batch of 24,000 doses, part of a larger batch of 108,000 doses already planned for Cabo Verde expected to arrive in the country until May 2021, enables the country to start the vaccination campaign against COVID 19, prioritizing critical target groups already identified.

To vaccinate all these groups, the equivalent of 20% of the country population, Cabo Verde will needs a total of 267,293 doses of vaccines against COVID-19 under the COVAX Initiative.

“Today is a moment of renewed hope and a witness to the solidarity the world needs to respond to the global challenges and end human, social and economic suffering brought by this pandemic. The arrival of this first batch of Covid-19 vaccines to Cabo Verde under the COVAX Facility is a historic step for the country in what is consider the largest and most complex vaccine distribution operation ever.  For several months, the Government of Cabo Verde and COVAX’s partners have been working together for this moment to be a reality. The United Nations System in Cabo Verde will continue to support the Government in implementing vaccination alongside other health and socio-economic measures already underway. We thank all countries and partners who contribute to COVAX aware that only together we can recover from this crisis and achieve sustainable development in Cabo Verde, leaving no one behind,” said Ana Graça, the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System in Cabo Verde.

WHO, through its Representative Hernando Agudelo, states that “WHO is proud to co-lead COVAX together with Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in order to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID- 19 vaccines and guarantee a fair and equitable access for all countries in the world ”. WHO is the normative entity that has been monitoring the whole process including global recommendation on priority groups, in order to ensure that health professionals and the front line workers, people over 65; and people underlying risky health problems, are properly protected. The main objective of COVAX is to make vaccines available to at least 20% of the population in all participating countries for the population at risk and that low and middle income countries receive these 20% of vaccines free of charge, as in Cabo Verde, thanks to financial support provided by several countries and international donors. ”

For the UNICEF Representative, Steven Ursino, “This is indeed a crucial moment for Cabo Verde, the culmination of several efforts led by the Government of Cabo Verde to stop and prevent the spread of the pandemic and save lives. The only way out of this crisis is to ensure that vaccines are available to everyone. The more people are vaccinated, the faster it will be to see a gradual return to normality and better access to health, education and protection services for all Cabo Verdeans. We salute the Government of Cabo Verde, in particular the Ministry of Health, for the commitment and all partners that support the COVAX Facility in its mission to deliver safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 to all countries and quickly and equitably. We reinforce our commitment to support the vaccination campaign and contain the spread of the virus, in close cooperation with all partners. ”

The World Bank, Represented by Eneida Fernandes said, “This is an important day for Cabo Verde. With the arrival of the first batch of vaccines and the country’s track record in vaccination campaigns, the World Bank is convinced that the country will be able to roll-out its COVID vaccine campaign swiftly and promote resilient recovery for the people of Cabo Verde. Together with partners, the World Bank is stepping up its support through the Cabo Verde COVID-19 Emergency Response Project to help purchase and distribute vaccines, and strengthen vaccination systems”.

According to the national authorities, vaccination will begin in the 18 of March and will be implemented in a phased manner, depending on the distribution by different priority groups, such as health professionals, chronically ill and people over 60 years, professionals working in airports and ports, in the tourism sector, teachers and support staff in schools, National Police, Armed Forces, Civil Protection and Fire Service professionals. According to the national vaccination plan, health professionals, who are on the front line, will be the first to be vaccinated.

For several months, COVAX partners have been supporting the government in its preparedness efforts for this moment and several key steps have been taken, including confirming national regulatory authorization criteria related to delivered vaccines, compensation agreements, national vaccination plan, as well as other logistical factors such as special import authorizations. COVAX partners have also being collaborating with the preparation of the country readiness, technical and multisectoral coordination, the development of the National Vaccination Plan, support for cold chain infrastructure, as well as the storage of syringes and safety boxes for disposal, masks, gloves and other equipment to ensure that there is sufficient equipment for health professionals to start vaccinating priority groups follow-up and surveillance of adverse effects after the injection, among other.

It should be noted that COVAX Facility is co-led by GAVI – The Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), in partnership with UNICEF, the World Bank, and is part of the COVID-19 Tool Access Accelerator (ACT), an innovative global collaboration to accelerate development, production and equitable access to testing COVID-19 treatments and vaccines ensuring that low- and middle-income countries can also have access to vaccines with the aim of leaving no one behind.

COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a variety of configurations and populations and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to the initiative’s participating countries worldwide by 2021, including about 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 low-income countries that are part of the COVAX Initiative.

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Africa Today

World Bank to support reconstruction plan for Cabo Delgado in Mozambique

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Image source: Wikipedia

The World Bank will provide US$100 million (€86 million) to support the Mozambican government in the reconstruction plan for Cabo Delgado, a province affected by incursions by armed groups since 2017, an official source announced Monday.

“With the recently reconquered areas, we have realised that there are many people who want to return to their areas of origin. But they cannot return without the basic conditions being in place. As a result, we have an additional 100 million dollars for support,” said Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Mozambique.

She was speaking to the media, moments after a meeting between the Mozambican prime minister, Carlos Agostinho do Rosário, and heads of diplomatic missions to discuss the Cabo Delgado Reconstruction Plan.

According to her, the new World Bank support comes on top of a first donation (also totalling US$100 million), announced in April and which was earmarked for the Northern Integrated Development Agency (ADIN), which is promoting social and economic projects for youth inclusion across northern Mozambique.

In the new donation, which is expected to be disbursed in January, the World Bank wants the money to be invested in the reconquered areas in the north of the province, and psychosocial support, reconstruction of public buildings and restoration of basic services are among the priorities.

“The idea is to give the affected people a decent place to live after the traumas they have suffered,” she said.

The Reconstruction Plan for Cabo Delgado, approved in September by the Mozambican government, is budgeted at US$300 million (258 million euros), of which almost US$200 million (172 million euros) is earmarked for the implementation of short-term actions, which include restoring public administration, health units, schools, energy, water supply, amongst other aspects.

According to the deputy minister of Industry and Trade, Ludovina Bernardo, the priority of the executive is to ensure a gradual and safe return of the inhabitants to the reconquered areas, at the same time as basic conditions are created.

“We want to make interventions on the ground, but safeguarding security. Our forces are on the ground and as soon as they ensure that the return of families to their areas of origin is possible, the process will begin”, he said, pointing, as an example, to the return of families from Palma, which has already begun.

The United Nations resident representative in Mozambique, Myrta Kaulard, also gave assurances that the organisation would continue to support the Mozambican government in the process, highlighting the importance of the “classic interventions” of the entity in cases of humanitarian crises.

“I would like to remind you that on the humanitarian side, international partners have contributed, in the year 2021 alone, a total of 160 million dollars (137 million euros). It is important to continue with this humanitarian support, while promoting reconstruction,” she stressed and highlighted the importance of creating a working group among international partners to combine actions and broaden appeals in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Northern Mozambique.

Cabo Delgado province is rich in natural gas but has been terrorised since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.

The conflict has led to more than 3,100 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project, and more than 824,000 displaced people, according to updates from Mozambican authorities.

Since July, an offensive by government troops with support from Rwanda, later joined by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), allowed for an increase in security, recovering several areas where there was rebel presence, including the town of Mocímboa da Praia, which had been occupied since August 2020.

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Nigeria becomes the first country in Africa to roll out Digital Currency

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The Central Bank of Nigeria joined a growing list of emerging markets betting on digital money to cut transaction costs and boost participation in the formal financial system.

“Nigeria has become the first country in Africa, and one of the first in the world to introduce a digital currency to her citizens,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in televised speech at the launch in Abuja, the capital. “The adoption of the central bank digital currency and its underlying technology, called blockchain, can increase Nigeria’s gross domestic product by $29 billion over the next 10 years.”

The International Monetary Fund projects GDP for Africa’s largest economy to be $480 billion in 2021.

The issuance of the digital currency, called the eNaira, comes after the central bank earlier in February outlawed banks and financial institutions from transacting or operating in cryptocurrencies as they posed a threat to the financial system.

Since the launch of the eNaira platform, it’s received more than 2.5 million daily visits, with 33 banks integrated on the platform, 500 million c ($1.2 million) successfully minted and more than 2,000 customers onboarded, central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said at the launch.

Central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, are national currency — unlike their crypto counterparts, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are prized, in part, because they are not tied to fiat currency. The eNaira will complement the physical naira, which has weakened 5.6% this year despite the central bank’s efforts to stabilize the currency.

“The eNaira and the physical naira will have the same value and will always exchange at one naira to one eNaira,” Emefiele said.

The digital currency is expected to boost cross-border trade and financial inclusion, make transactions more efficient as well as improve monetary policy, according to the central bank.

“Alongside digital innovations, CBDCs can foster economic growth through better economic activities, increase remittances, improve financial inclusion and make monetary policy more effective,” Buhari said. Digital money can also “help move many more people and businesses from the informal into the formal sector, thereby increasing the tax base of the country,” he said.

The Central Bank of Nigeria in August selected Bitt Inc. as a technical partner to help create the currency that was initially due to be introduced on Oct. 1.

Nigeria joins the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in being among the first jurisdictions in the world to roll out national digital currencies. China launched a pilot version of its “digital renminbi” earlier this year. In Africa, nations from Ghana to South Africa are testing digital forms of their legal tender to allow for faster and cheaper money transactions, without losing control over their monetary systems.

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UN chief condemns ‘ongoing military coup’ in Sudan

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Protesters take to streets in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. UN Sudan/Ayman Suliman

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres on Monday condemned the “ongoing military coup” in Sudan, saying Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and all other officials, “must be released immediately.” 

Long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the military following months of popular protest in April 2019, and a transitional government was set up comprising both military and civilian leadership, after a power-sharing agreement, that was due to lead to full democratic elections in 2023. 

Now, according to news agencies, Sudan’s military has dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and declared a state of emergency. Protesters have reportedly taken to the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and there are reports of gunfire. 

In a statement posted on Twitter, the Secretary-General said that “there must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition.” 

The UN will continue to stand with the people of Sudan”, Mr. Guterres assured. 

Progress in jeopardy 

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also condemned the attempted coup. 

“These actions threaten the Juba Peace Agreement and jeopardize the important progress made towards democracy and respect for human rights”, Michelle Bachelet said. 

She called on military authorities to abide by the constitutional order and international law, withdraw from the streets, and resolve any differences with civilian leaders serving on the Transitional Council through dialogue and negotiation. 

“I utterly deplore the reported arrest of the Prime Minister, several Ministers, leaders of the Forces of the Freedom and Change and other civil society representatives, and call for their immediate release”, she continued.  

Communication systems down 

Ms. Bachelet also pointed out reports that the internet is down in the country and other means of communication are suspended.  

Blanket internet shutdowns contravene international law, and Internet and mobile services must be restored, as they are essential for people to seek and receive information, particularly in these unsettling circumstances”, she explained.  

She asked military and security forces to refrain from unnecessary and disproportionate use of force, to respect people’s freedom of expression, as well as the right of peaceful assembly. 

According to her, “it would be disastrous if Sudan goes backwards after finally bringing an end to decades of repressive dictatorship.” 

“The country needs to move forward to consolidate democracy, a wish expressed countless times by the Sudanese people, including loudly and clearly on the streets last week and today”, she added.  

UN Mission 

The head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission Sudan (UNITAMS), also released a statement, declaring that the arrests of the Prime Minister, government officials and other politicians are “unacceptable.”  

“I call on the security forces to immediately release those who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest”, Volker Perthes said. “It is the responsibility of these forces to ensure the security and wellbeing of people in their custody.”  

The UNITAMS chief, who acts as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General, also urged everyone involved to exercise the utmost restraint.  

“All parties must immediately return to dialogue and engage in good faith to restore the constitutional order”, Mr. Perthes concluded. 

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