Ethiopia sets world tree-planting record


In a historic move for the east African nation, Ethiopia has this week announced a tree-planting initiative, via UN Environment, to outdo virtually any other country in the world. Based initially at the Gulele Botanical Garden in the capital of Addis Ababa, volunteers began planting 350 million trees spanning right across the country. In just 12 hours, the world record was broken, in an admirable attempt to combat the effects of deforestation and climate change. By fulfilling the tree-planting record, the country is surpassing its Green Legacy goal, conceived by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, of planting 200 million trees in a day at over 1,000 sites. The last country to attempt such a feat was India, who have been reigning champions since 2016 when they planted 49.3 million trees in just one day, involving 800,000 volunteers. Equally, back in 2018, China announced plans to plant forests covering an area roughly the size of Ireland and the UK, one of the least forested countries in Europe (13% according to Forest Research), spent £5.7 million to develop a new northern forest in 2018. Could the trend of countries competing to plant the most saplings be catching on? Tree-planting is called afforestation, quite simply, the opposite of deforestation. Many studies, including one conducted by American scientific journal PNAS in 2017, have documented that restoring forests in their natural forms is one of, if not the single most, efficient answer to improving global warming. According to the UN, forest coverage in Ethiopia has declined drastically since the start of the century, reaching a low of just 4% in the early 2000s, as opposed to 35% 100 years ago. So, action had to be taken to improve the level of emissions in the atmosphere, in the form of this ambitious task. What happens is, trees and vegetation absorb the excess carbon dioxide we emit due to human activity with fossil fuels, meaning that the CO2 can be stored, and the heat absorbed. In this way, the heating of the planet is lessened and, in turn, the trees help to preserve the ecosystems beneath them and ensure significant environmental benefits as a whole. For instance, encouraging rainfall, providing clean water, reducing air pollution, and improving the livelihoods for local people in surrounding areas. Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director of UN Environment’s Africa Office explains in an official statement: “Afforestation is the most effective climate change solution to date and with the new record set by Ethiopia, other African nations should move with speed and challenge the status quo.” “Africa has what it takes to spearhead this global push and as the most affected and vulnerable continent, climate change mitigation must be the topmost priority in the coming days. We at UN Environment are taking the lead in helping to build capacity for nations and people to apply themselves to afforestation and climate change mitigation strategies.”




ANALYSIS: Lessons from Ethiopian Boeing 737 plane crash

As memorial services for the 157 victims of the Ethiopian plane crash got underway, new information has come to light regarding the embattled Boeing 737 Max 8.

Air transport officials have now focused attention to the similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines incident and that of the Lion Air plane which went down in Indonesia a few months ago. Both crashes involved the Max 8 aircraft currently banned from flying in many nations’ airspace.

Flight data recorders show "clear similarities", Ethiopia's transport minister said Sunday as the U.S. maker announced it was completing a software update for its anti-stall system.

Dagmawit Moges told reporters that the so-called black box from Flight 302 were recovered “in good condition that enabled us to extract almost all the date inside.”

He did not elaborate on what the similarities were.

Moges said that a preliminary report on last week's plane crash, which left 157 people dead, would be released within 30 days.

Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration about the safety of the aircraft. The agency has insisted it had followed standard procedures in certifying the Boeing 737 MAX model. It has been reported, however, that the Department of Transportation was investigating those procedures.

Even before the black box of the Ethiopian Airlines plane was discovered, many had drawn parallels between the Addis Ababa crash and the Inonesian crash last October, both of which were Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes.

The crash of Ethiopian Flight 302 shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa for Nairobi, prompted the U.S. and more than 30 other countries to ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet.

Meanwhile, thousands marched in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, accompanying 17 empty caskets at funerals held on Sunday for the 17 Ethiopians killed in the crash.

Families of the victims were offered charred earth from the crash site to bury.

Ethiopian Airlines aviation staff gathered Sunday at Bole International Airport to remember the two pilots and six crew members on the flight who died in the crash.

The flight was also carrying 21 U.N. staff members, who were on their way to attend a major U.N. Environment Conference in Nairobi when the plane went down. Victims of the recent crash came from many countries including Canada, India, US, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Kenya.







in Kano

From The Nigeria Vanguard newspaper

Some journalists covering the Supplementary Governorship election in Kano State on Saturday escaped lynching by some suspected thugs at Suntulma Primary School in Gama ward of Nasarawa Local Government Area of the state.

NAN reports that the journalists who were in the area to monitor the poll, were chased out of the place by the hoodlums.

Trouble began when some of the newsmen tried to interview some voters who were denied access into the classrooms where some of the polling units were stationed.

While trying to flee the troubled area, some of the journalists fell on ground and one of them (Name withheld), had to take refuge in a nearby Mosque in order to save his life.

NAN also reports that some of the reporters had their clothes torn by the thugs.

Speaking to newsmen, some voters alleged that they were not allowed to exercise their franchise as they were chased out of the area.

One of them, Comrade Aminu Tijjani, said he went to the primary school to cast his vote at his polling unit but had to return to escape the hoodlums' attack.

"The situation is very bad and this is not how to conduct an election where people or voters are denied the opportunity to vote," Tijjani said.

Another voter, Sani Abdullahi, said he came to vote as early as 8 a.m. but was scared away by the suspected thugs numbering about 10.

Meanwhile, voting has commenced in other affected polling units across the 28 local government areas of the state.

NAN reports that the re-run election is being conducted to decide the winner between two candidates - Abba Kabir-Yusuf of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who polled 1,014,477 votes, and incumbent Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who got 987,810 votes in the first poll conducted on March 9.

Mozambique picking up the pieces after 

cyclone destruction

From News24 Wire, South Africa

A week ago, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi were hit by one of the biggest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the southern African region.

Within hours, Cyclone Idai took lives, toppled homes, uprooted trees and left scores of people submerged in water.

Beira, the third largest city in Mozambique, received the lion's share of the devastation. The port city known for its warmth (both in temperature and its people) was turned upside down.

Once hailed the hidden gem of Mozambique - the city is now at centre stage - for the most unfortunate of reasons.

"The cyclone has really disrupted our lives," said 60-year-old Laurita Santos. Santos is a Beira native. She claims to have seen it all.

"This is the worst disaster to hit our town."

She lives in the outskirts of the city called Estofo. On Thursday evening when Idai hit, Santos said the cyclone announced its arrival with heavy winds. The corrugated iron she used as roofing started to tremble and Santos knew that trouble was on the horizon.

"I grabbed the children and we hid under the kitchen table and the beds."

She shares her four-roomed home with her eight grandchildren. When rain and wind speed intensified, the children started to scream.

Soothed kids with prayer and song

They wanted Santos to loosen her grip so they could run out of the rattling house. Santos tightened her grip and soothed them with prayer and song. They only came up for air after the house stopped shaking.

Her house is small, but she took pride in its decor and cleanliness. Memories of her home are now scattered out in her front yard - with the hope that the sun would dry what Idai has drenched. Santos is petite but the calluses on her hands show that she's a woman who has carried many loads.

At the edge of her yard, a hut made out of wood and mud slants like Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa. For the past 10 years on Sundays, Santos has opened her home to people in her community.

Anything from 20 to 60 people will gather in her yard to worship at a church called Igreja Evangelica Palavra Da Vida.

Although Santos doesn't lead the ministry, she is the chief coordinator, and on Saturday, she was thinking about the logistics around Sunday's service.

"People will have to stand here," she said while gesturing to an unoccupied area in front the old church.

The extent of the devastation experienced by the people in Beira is difficult to fully illustrate. The city is still primarily without electricity, running water and cell service.

Even if you have money to buy water, the lines at the ATM machines are long. Locals average about an hour's wait to withdraw money.

This has to be done during the day because at nightfall thieves lurk around the corners ready to strike.

Electronic payments can't be processed because the network is patchy at best and nonexistent at worst.

Everything is either wet or damp - the humidity and frequent rain showers continue to delay the drying process.

In a small village called Chota, all that 21-year-old Esperança Americo wants is clean and easily accessible drinking water.

Her one-year-old son Silva is her main priority and she worries that the lack of clean running water could lead to his ill-health.

On Friday, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement that they were concerned about a possible cholera outbreak. The relief organisations said some cases of cholera had already been reported.

To wash their clothes, Americo uses water from a mini-dam that has formed in her backyard.

For drinking, her husband fetches water from a well a few kilometres away from the airport in Beira. When Idai hit, Americo, along with her husband and Silva, had to evacuate their three-roomed home.

Their home wasn't strong enough to withstand the winds so they fled to a neighbour whose home seemed to be more solid.

Now, more than a week after the storms hit, they still haven't moved back home. Their home is without a roof - which has forced her to move her furniture to drier land.

"I asked my sister-in-law if she could please store my fridge, TV and chairs."

Her sister-in-law also lives in Beira but in Macurungo - her home wasn't as badly affected as Americo's.

'We didn't expect it to be so bad'

"When we saw on the news that the storm was coming we didn't think it would be as bad." A lot of people share the same sentiments as Americo.

Most of the locals thought the storm would be short-lived and wouldn't be as devastating. On Saturday, during a media briefing, the Minister of Land and Environment Celso Correia said the death toll was now 417.

The situation remains critical. Crockery, cutlery, suitcases, socks and shoes litter the streets - a constant reminder of how people's lives have been disrupted. Generations of accrued wealth were wiped out within minutes.

Beira has been the economic hub of many regions - for decades the port city has linked countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia to the world. Although the city is bruised, there are glimmers of healing.

Every third or fourth home has a ladder hoisting a man as he tries to repair a broken window or a cracked roof. Women sweep the streets and young boys place broken branches into wheelbarrows which makes navigating the streets a bit easier.

Most importantly, children in the village are laughing and playing, which makes dealing with the tragedy a bit easier.


Chinese woman bringing Mandarin language to 

Ugandan schools


Wang Li Hong Sooma, who moved to East Africa from China more than two decades ago, is determined to teach Ugandans how to speak Mandarin.

She and her Ugandan husband, Ayub Sooma, are organising nine-month intensive courses for secondary school teachers to learn China's dominant language.

The first 30 teachers have now completed their training and have started holding Mandarin classes in schools across the country.

The couple, who own their own secondary school on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala, met 26 years ago in Beijing, when Mr Sooma was studying at Tsinghua University.

Though at first, Mrs Wang says, it was not easy for them to be together.

"It was a war! At that time, they thought I was a very loose girl to date a black boy. But I knew he is very honest and has a good heart to help other people."

They now have three children and Uganda has been their home since 1996.


Mauritius sends aid 

to victims of Idai

The Government of Mauritius donates $300,000 to victims of the cyclone that hit the southeast coast of the continent recently. Zimbabwe gets 200,00 dollars while Mozambique gets 100,000 dollars.

Mauritius said it has taken “note of the situation prevailing in the Republic of Mozambique and Republic of Zimbabwe following the passage of cyclone Idai. As an expression of its solidarity with the people of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Government will donate USD 200 000 and USD 100 000 to the Republic of Mozambique and the Republic of Zimbabwe respectively”.

According to the authorities, the cyclone has affected more than 1.5 million people, with a death toll of more than 1 000 people. Idai caused flooding over vast stretches of land and has also swept away houses, buildings and dams.

'Exciting' News in Fight Against Drug-Resistant TB

Cape Town — In an important step in the fight against strains of tuberculosis which resist conventional treatments, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to review urgently a new drug for approval.

The introduction of the drug, called pretomanid, has shown promise in clinical trials for cutting the length of treatment for various kinds of drug-resistant TB down to six months. It can also be taken orally instead of by injection.

Drug-resistant TB is difficult and costly to treat. Until recently, treatment for multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB has often taken nine to 18 months or more, and that for extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB up to two years or longer.

When the trials were launched, Dr Francesca Conradie of Sizwe Hospital in Johannesburg noted that XDR-TB in particular is “an absolute devastation to patients, their families, and communities”.

The announcement of the FDA's decision was made this month by the TB Alliance, a non-profit group based in New York and Pretoria which is dedicated to finding and making available better drugs to fight TB. FDA approval is an important step towards manufacturing and marketing drugs.

The alliance said the FDA has accepted for review an application to use the novel drug as part of a three-drug regimen which also includes bedaquiline and linezolid. The FDA granted the drug “priority review” status, meaning that it aims to make a decision within six months instead of taking 10 months.

The alliance expects a decision in the third quarter of this year and says if pretomanid is approved it will work with manufacturers to ensure that it will be accessible to everyone who needs it.

The alliance said the three-drug regimen has been studied in 20 clinical trials, either alone or in combination with other anti-TB drugs. It was announced last October that nine of every 10 participants in trials at three South African sites had been cured of drug-resistant TB after six months of treatment and six months of post-treatment follow-up through a simplified and shortened treatment regimen.

The FDA's acceptance of the drug for review is “exciting”, says the Treatment Action Group, a New York-based activist think tank. “Pretomanid represents only the fourth new TB drug to go through stringent regulatory review in the past half a century, and the first developed by a not-for-profit organization.”

Government has pledged 2000ha to the African Union for the Wakanda One village to be shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia as part of joint development efforts across Southern Africa.

Wakanda One village is a concept that seeks to rope in Africans living in the Diaspora in spearheading development at identified sites on the continent.

The pledge comes in handy in the country's re-engagement efforts where it also seeks to court Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to contribute to the nation's economic turnaround.

President Mnangagwa has also set an ambitious target to turn Zimbabwe into an upper middle-class economy by 2030 with tourism, agriculture and mining driving the vision.

In an interview during the inaugural Intra African Trade Fair, which ended on Monday this week in Cairo, Egypt, African Union Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the US, Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, confirmed President Mnangagwa's pledge recently.

Zimbabwe Offers Land for Wakanda One

Zimbabwe has pledged 2000ha to the 

African Union for the Wakanda One village to be shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia as part of joint development efforts across Southern Africa.

Wakanda One village is a concept that seeks to rope in Africans living in the Diaspora in spearheading development at identified sites on the continent.

The pledge comes in handy in the country's re-engagement efforts where it also seeks to court Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to contribute to the nation's economic turnaround.

President Mnangagwa has also set an ambitious target to turn Zimbabwe into an upper middle-class economy by 2030 with tourism, agriculture and mining driving the vision.

In an interview during the inaugural Intra African Trade Fair, which ended on Monday this week in Cairo, Egypt, African Union Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the US, Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao, confirmed President Mnangagwa's pledge recently.

"I met His Excellency President Mnanagwa recently and he offered us 2000ha for the regional Wakanda One in Victoria Falls.

"The offer also comes in when the Zambian Government has also offered some land across the river in Livingstone. So we are looking at building the village straggling the border between the countries," she said.

Zambia has offered 132ha for the project.

The Wakanda One village concept expresses a desire by African leaders for all people of African descent - the Diaspora - to return home and participate in building the continent.

Wakanda One - the building of African Centres of Excellence across Africa - is looking at building five centres, one in each region, which serve as growth nods for each region which should have downstream benefits for the population.

It will provide state of the art healthcare facilities using advanced technology and onsite pharmaceutical manufacturing.


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