On Monday the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to remove Salonga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the List of World Heritage in Danger. The decision follows clarification “provided by the national authorities that the oil concessions overlapping with the property are nul[l] and void and that these blocks will be excluded from future auctioning.”
Oil blocks overlapping with Salonga were awarded by President Joseph Kabila in the twilight of his regime. Greenpeace Africa has repeatedly demanded their cancellation, while local leaders voiced their opposition to the project in light of its impacts on communities.
“A decision by President Felix Tshisekedi to cancel all oil blocks in Salonga Park must be followed by a decision to cancel oil blocks in Virunga Park and across the Cuvette Centrale region. These are vast areas rich in biodiversity that provide clean water, food security and medicine to local communities and which render environmental services to humanity,” says Irene Wabiwa Betoko, International Project Leader for the Congo Basin forest.
The Salonga National Park, which is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest reserve, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984. The park plays a fundamental role in climate regulation and the sequestration of carbon. The park is also home to numerous endemic endangered species such as the pygmy chimpanzee (or bonobo), the forest elephant, the African slender-snouted crocodile and the Congo peacock. Salonga had been inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999, due to pressures such as poaching, deforestation and poor management. The government of DRC later on issued oil drilling licences that encroached on the protected area, posing a threat to the wildlife-rich site.
“DRC’s auctioning of oil blocks has not only been scandalously lacking transparency and menacing for particularly sensitive environmental areas – they neither benefit Congolese people nor the planet. Instead of privileging a small group of beneficiaries of the toxic fossil fuels industry, diversifying the DRC’s economy should be done through renewable energy investments that will make energy accessible and affordable for all,” Irene Wabiwa concluded.
Greenpeace Africa urges full transparency from both UNESCO and the DRC government and calls for the publication of all supportive documents regarding the decision to cancel the aforementioned oil blocks, as well as the map of the nine oil blocks that are still being auctioned in the Cuvette Centrale region.
Republic of Korea offers support for smallholder farmers in Mozambique
The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) donated US$5.7 million through the World Food Programme (WFP) for a project to support smallholder farmers in Sofala Province, central Mozambique.
The project will improve food security and livelihoods with a focus on climate resilience for smallholder farmers and will be implemented from this year in the districts of Chemba, Maringue and Caia in Sofala province and will benefit 36,000 smallholder farmers and their families until 2025.
The programme will work with the Ministry of Land and Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the National Institute of Meteorology (INAM).
Mozambique is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. Over the past three years, five tropical cyclones (Desmond, Idai, Kenneth, Chalane, Eloise and Guambe) have caused human and material damages mainly in central Mozambique.
H.E. Ambassador Sung Jun Yeo said that he expects the project is going to be successfully implemented and 36,000 smallholder farmers and their families will have the capacity to maintain a stable livelihood and secure food through the project. “We hope that the friendly relationship between the Government of Mozambique and that of the Republic of Korea is firmly established through various grant aids from the Korean Government via KOICA,” emphasized the Ambassador.
“This generous donation from the people of Korea through KOICA will help change the lives of Mozambicans most affected by climate change“, said Antonella D’Aprile, WFP Mozambique Country Director. “By supporting smallholder farmers to become climate resilient, we are also protecting their livelihoods and food security of their families and communities. We thank KOICA on behalf of the people that we serve“.
The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) was established as a governmental agency dedicated to providing grand aid programs of the Korean government in 1991. KOICA endeavors to combat poverty and support the sustainable socioeconomic growth of partner countries. By doing so, KOICA establishes and strengthen friendly ties with developing countries.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
Somalia’s Economy Rebounding from ‘Triple Shock’
Somalia’s economy is rebounding from the “triple shock” that ravaged the country in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme flooding, and the locust infestation. Real GDP growth is projected at 2.4 percent in 2021. This growth momentum is expected to continue in the medium term and reach pre-COVID-19 levels of 3.2 percent in 2023.
The latest World Bank Somalia Economic Update reports that the economy contracted by 0.4 percent in 2020, less severe than the 1.5 percent contraction projected at the onset of the global pandemic. Higher-than-anticipated aid flows, fiscal policy measures put in place by the Federal Government of Somalia to aid businesses, social protection measures to cushion vulnerable households, and higher-than-expected remittance inflows mitigated the adverse effects of the triple shock.
The report notes that the disruptions stemming from COVID-19 containment measures reduced federal and state revenue collection while increasing pressure to spend more on health and disaster relief. Large increases in external grants enabled the federal government to begin rebalancing public spending toward economic and social services and to provide funds for new social programs and emergency response projects to increase resilience.
“As Somalia embarks on the road to recovery from the triple shocks, policy interventions that raise productivity, create jobs and expand pro-poor programs will be key,” said Kristina Svensson, World Bank Country Manager for Somalia. “Creating jobs and ensuring that the most vulnerable are supported throughout the crisis need to be at the center of policy action and private sector response.”
Interventions to improve the investment climate and encourage the formalization of businesses to attract more private investment would include reforms focused on reducing the cost of electricity and improving on its reliability, leveling the playing field among private firms, reducing red tape, and broadening financial inclusion.
The special focus of the report is on the health sector. It highlights that 30 years of political instability has made Somalia’s health system the second most fragile in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the sector under sharp focus and put investing in Somalia’s health system as an urgent political and economic consideration that is foundational to reducing fragility.
“Support for the health sector is an essential component of resilient and inclusive development and investing in health sets Somalia on a path to reaping substantial demographic dividends from improvements in life expectancy and reductions in fertility,” said John Randa, World Bank Senior Economist. “These investments are planned to contribute to improved health outcomes and strengthened government systems.”
The report also notes that strengthening Somalia’s health system is one of the biggest direct influences on improving human development and enhancing economic development in the country. The report recommends opportunities in the areas of health financing, health service delivery and stewardship to improve Somalia’s health sector. Incoming funding from the World Bank is aimed at helping Somalia focus on high-impact, cost-effective interventions that target the primary burdens of disease.
Only 2% of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Africa
More than 5.7 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally, but only 2% of them in Africa, said World Health Organization (WHO) chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday.
The UN agency is urging every country to vaccinate at least 40% of its population by the end of this year, and hopes to help ensure that 70% of the world’s population is by the middle of next year.
At a press conference on COVID-19 and vaccine equity in Africa, which is home to more than 1.2 billion people, Mr. Ghebreyesus informed that, so far, just two countries in Africa have reached the 40% target, the lowest of any region.
“That’s not because African countries don’t have the capacity or experience to roll out COVID-19 vaccines. It’s because they’ve been left behind by the rest of the world,” he said.
Mr. Ghebreyesus explained that “this leaves people at high risk of disease and death, exposed to a deadly virus against which many other people around the world enjoy protection.”
Risks and solutions
For him, the longer vaccine inequity persists, the more the virus will keep circulating and changing, the longer the social and economic disruption will continue, and the higher the chances that more variants will emerge that render vaccines less effective.
Mr. Ghebreyesus pointed to several challenges, with manufacturers prioritizing bilateral deals and many high-income countries tying up the global supply of shots.
He also highlighted a similar initiative, established by the African Union, the COVID-19 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, known as AVAT.
This Monday and Tuesday, WHO representatives met with the leaders of AVAT “to agree on a way forward”, Mr. Ghebreyesus said: “Vaccine inequity is a solvable problem.”
Call to countries and manufacturers
He called on manufacturers to prioritize COVAX and AVAT. To countries with high coverage levels, he asked them to swap their near-term vaccines deliveries, fulfil their dose-sharing pledges immediately, and facilitate the sharing of technology.
The WHO chief also called on all countries and manufacturers to share information on bilateral deals, supply and delivery projections and to recognize all vaccines with a WHO Emergency Use Listing.
The African Union’s Special Envoy for COVID-19, Strive Masiyiwa, also participated in the briefing, alongside the director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Vera Songwe, and WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, among others.
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