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First Internatioal Aid Arrives Ethiopia’s Tigray Region – Red Cross

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The first international aid convoy carrying medicines and relief supplies has arrived in Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said in a statement on Saturday.

Ethiopia government restricted access to the region after fighting began on Nov. 4 between the government and a rebellious regional force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Thousands of people are believed to have died in the conflict with another 950,000 displaced.

“A convoy carrying medicines and relief supplies from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS), organized in coordination with the Ethiopian authorities, has reached the Tigray State capital, Mekelle,” the Red Cross said in a statement on its website.

“Health care facilities there have become paralyzed after supplies of drugs and basics like surgical gloves ran out. It is the first international aid to arrive in Mekelle since fighting erupted in Tigray more than one month ago.”

The seven Red Cross trucks are carrying medicines and supplies to care for more than 400 trauma patients as well as items needed to treat chronic and routine medical conditions.

“These supplies will be donated to Ayder Hospital, the Regional Health Bureau, and the ERCS pharmacy in Mekelle. In addition, ICRC’s team in Mekelle has been working to get the hospital fuel to run its generator as well as water,” the statement said.

The United Nations and other agencies have not been able to deliver aid although the government says it has sent food and other supplies.

The government says it has defeated forces loyal to the region’s former ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and struck a deal with the United Nations to allow aid.

But some aid agencies and donors say the agreement is too restrictive and security remains a problem; one U.N. security team was shot at last weekend.

The Red Cross convoy also brought blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets, clothes, soap, and jerrycans that can help about 1,000 families forced from their homes by the fighting as well as equipment to improve access to water and sanitation.

The ICRC counts on the financial support of the international community to deliver humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia.

Nearly 50,000 refugees have crossed into eastern Sudan since early November. Nearly 15,000 are at Um Rakuba camp, where long lines of people waited for food with plates in their hands and new arrivals constructed shelters using tree branches.

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East Africa News

Zambian President Grants 246 Death Row Inmates Clemency

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President Edgar Lungu of Zambia has removed 246 inmates, who were on death row, and commutated their sentences to life sentences.

Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyongo, on Wednesday, said that among the inmates includes 225 males and 21 females.

He announced the commuting of the sentences during an event held at Mukobeko Maximum Prison in central Zambia’s Kabwe town which was streamed live on Facebook.

He made the clemency of death to life sentences for over 500 after 332 inmates had their sentences commutated in 2015.

He said the commutation of sentences of inmates would help decongest the section of condemned inmates at the prison which was meant for 50 people but now has over 400 inmates.

The move, he said, was also meant to protect inmates from contracting COVID-19.

In spite of the death penalty being on the country’s statutes, Zambia has not carried out any execution since 1997.

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East Africa News

Rwanda to Upgrade Covid-19 Testing to Detect Variants

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, Rwanda has decided to increase the number of tests done daily.

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Rwanda is planning an upgrade of its testing capacity to enable the country to trace the new COVID-19 variants in the country. 

The Covid-19 variants which were first identified in South Africa and the United Kingdom are believed to be more transmissible than the original Covid-19 virus, raising concern that the new strains may be more deadly. 

On national television, Rwanda’s Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije said: “We haven’t yet tested and identified a Covid-19 variant…we are still working on this capability, and soon, we will be having it in place.”

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, the country decided to increase the number of tests done daily.

On Saturday, Rwanda resumed mass testing of residents, running a three-day exercise.

On Monday, 336 new positive cases out of the 7,867 tests done were reported in the country, bringing the total number of infections to 12,975. Three deaths and 261 recoveries were also recorded in the country on the same day, bringing total recoveries to 8,420 recoveries and death toll to 174. As of Monday, active positive cases stood at 4,453.

Vulnerable groups, including the elderly, were among those tergetted in the mass testing.

The country’s Ministry of Health set a target of 20,000 people on a cell and village level in the capital Kigali.

The aim of the mass testing is to determining how many infections are in Kigali and linking patients to their residential areas for better management.

“On the first day, among 4,500 tests taken, 200 of them were positive and above 70 years of age. We are confident that once we know who is infected and where they are, treatment will be more effective,” Dr Ngamije said.

Rwandan last week re-instated a 15 days lockdown in Kigali following a spike in Covid-19 infections and deaths. Movement remains restricted nationwide.

Recently, the country imported 18,000 doses of the oral drug -Favipiravir which was used to treat influenza in Japan in 2014, that has now been approved for Covid-19 treatment by some countries.

Seven deaths were recorded in Rwanda on Saturday, the highest mortality rate so far in a day though the government is now optimistic that the new treatment will curb deaths.

Rwanda is also expecting the first one million doses of Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine after acquiring the required refrigeration units. At least 500,000 people are expected to be the first beneficiaries. Frontline workers, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions are to be among these beneficiaries.

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Conservation News

Kenya, Tanzania Plan to Conduct Wildlife Census

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Kenya and Tanzania are set to conduct a joint cross-border count of rhinoceros and other large mammals in the shared Mara-Serengeti ecosystem.

The census is one of the resolutions reached by a joint meeting dubbed ‘the Greater Serengeti Society Platform’

Chaired by chairperson of Tourism and Natural Resources Management Committee of the Council of Governors Samuel Tunai, it had in attendance key tourism industry players from the two countries.

The forum also deliberated on successes in conservation of the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, as well as challenges and the interventions needed.

Attendees at the workshop facilitated by the European union included senior managers and directors from Kenya Wildlife Services, Tanzania National Parks, and Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority.

Others are Narok County, Maasai Mara game reserve warden, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, Grumeti & Friedkin and the Maasai Mara Wildlife Associations.

The meeting saw to the constitution of the committee tasked with the cross-border census. It involved Kenya Wildlife Service, Narok county government rangers, Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, Wildlife Division of Tanzania and Tanzania National Parks and Environmental activists.

The aerial census seeks to establish the wildlife population, trends and distribution as well as foster cross-border collaboration on wildlife monitoring and management between the two East African countries.

Tunai said data from the census will be used for planning and preparing the management for possible wildlife security and human-wildlife conflict eventualities in the ecosystem.

Researcher Grant Hopcraft said the Tanzanian government has moved about 8,000 persons out of the Speke Game Controlled Area in a bid to conserve Serengeti’s ecosystem as it faces shortfalls in rainfall.

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