Daily Archives: May 23, 2018

Post-Mugabe, Zimbabweans Still Waiting for Economic Uptick

This week marks six months since Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office, after Robert Mugabe gave in to military pressure and resigned.

During the weekend, the 75-year-old Mnangagwa told supporters that since he took over, a lot had improved.

He says Zimbabwe’s annual foreign direct investment had been around $400 or 500 million, but for the past five months it has gone to more than $15 billion committed to investment in the country, with international companies and countries such as Canada, South Africa, China, Britain and the United States coming to invest in power generation and water.

Last Tuesday, the British gave $100 million to aid toward trying to eliminate Zimbabwe’s cash crisis, Mnangagwa said.

The country’s methane gas reserves have improved as well, he added.

“After about three and half years, we should be able to produce eight million liters of fuel per day,” Mnangagwa said. “The country only consumes five million [liters] per day � three million surplus per day. Zimbabwe will prosper, it is going to develop. Zimbabwe will shine not only in SADC [Southern African Development Community], but also in Africa because Zimbabwe is in good hands. Our political party ZANU-PF is a revolutionary party, it caters for the interests of the people.”

Chido Masasai, an unemployed former media student, says Zimbabwe’s people have yet to see the money the president is talking about. She says there is still a shortage of cash, and the black market continues to operate.

What she does see is a greater expression of political views � a significant change from the Mugabe era when authorities regularly harassed the president’s critics and opponents.

“But in terms of freedom of expression, a lot more people are liberal with their views and opinions. You find that there are a lot of political parties that have come into the fore,” Masasai said.

Harare-based economist John Robertson says it is too early for Zimbabwe’s economy to fully recover from Mugabe’s populist policies, which drove away most foreign investment.

“The economy is still in great difficulty, but remember that the difficulties we face were built slowly into the system by 38 years of very badly chosen economic policies, and I think that the media is largely responsible in increasing the expectations of the population beyond what was reasonably possible within a short period of time,” he said.

Robertson added that Mnangagwa might make major policy changes, such as compensating white farmers for land that was confiscated during the Mugabe years, and ensuring that black farmers can get bank loans instead of depending on government handouts.

“I think this is why the president is waiting for the elections,” he said. “Behind him he would have increased amounts of courage to make changes that will prove unpopular to the people who thought they achieved what they were expecting.”

The president is expected to announce a date for the elections soon, which could place in July or August.

Source: Voice of America

Post-Mugabe, Zimbabweans Still Waiting for Economic Uptick

This week marks six months since Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office, after Robert Mugabe gave in to military pressure and resigned.

During the weekend, the 75-year-old Mnangagwa told supporters that since he took over, a lot had improved.

He says Zimbabwe’s annual foreign direct investment had been around $400 or 500 million, but for the past five months it has gone to more than $15 billion committed to investment in the country, with international companies and countries such as Canada, South Africa, China, Britain and the United States coming to invest in power generation and water.

Last Tuesday, the British gave $100 million to aid toward trying to eliminate Zimbabwe’s cash crisis, Mnangagwa said.

The country’s methane gas reserves have improved as well, he added.

“After about three and half years, we should be able to produce eight million liters of fuel per day,” Mnangagwa said. “The country only consumes five million [liters] per day � three million surplus per day. Zimbabwe will prosper, it is going to develop. Zimbabwe will shine not only in SADC [Southern African Development Community], but also in Africa because Zimbabwe is in good hands. Our political party ZANU-PF is a revolutionary party, it caters for the interests of the people.”

Chido Masasai, an unemployed former media student, says Zimbabwe’s people have yet to see the money the president is talking about. She says there is still a shortage of cash, and the black market continues to operate.

What she does see is a greater expression of political views � a significant change from the Mugabe era when authorities regularly harassed the president’s critics and opponents.

“But in terms of freedom of expression, a lot more people are liberal with their views and opinions. You find that there are a lot of political parties that have come into the fore,” Masasai said.

Harare-based economist John Robertson says it is too early for Zimbabwe’s economy to fully recover from Mugabe’s populist policies, which drove away most foreign investment.

“The economy is still in great difficulty, but remember that the difficulties we face were built slowly into the system by 38 years of very badly chosen economic policies, and I think that the media is largely responsible in increasing the expectations of the population beyond what was reasonably possible within a short period of time,” he said.

Robertson added that Mnangagwa might make major policy changes, such as compensating white farmers for land that was confiscated during the Mugabe years, and ensuring that black farmers can get bank loans instead of depending on government handouts.

“I think this is why the president is waiting for the elections,” he said. “Behind him he would have increased amounts of courage to make changes that will prove unpopular to the people who thought they achieved what they were expecting.”

The president is expected to announce a date for the elections soon, which could place in July or August.

Source: Voice of America

Coming Weeks Crucial in Containing Ebola Spread in DRC

Health Experts at the World Health Assembly in Geneva agree the next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo can be contained and prevented from spreading to highly-populated urban areas.

Two weeks have elapsed since the first laboratory-confirmed case of Ebola was discovered in the remote, rural town of Bikoro in DR Congo’s northwestern Equateur Province.

Soon after the Ebola outbreak was declared May 8, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and several associates went to the region to assess the situation.

Tedros said he was pleased by the government’s quick response.

“The government had already triggered the community committees so that communities can take the ownership and contribute, and they are going house to house to identify cases and to identify contacts.Starting from the Government leadership, everything is triggered,” he said. “We are watching it around the clock, 24/7, and we hope it will have a better outcome.”

This rapid response to the current emergency is a sea change from the way the WHO and other agencies reacted to the West African Ebola epidemic.More than 11,000 people were killed before it was brought under control in 2016.

This is the 9th Ebola outbreak in DRC since the disease was simultaneously discovered in DRC and South Sudan in 1976. In the eight previous outbreaks, Ebola occurred in either isolated rural areas or in small towns where the disease remained largely confined.

Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the current outbreak has features of two previous typologies � a combination of rural villages, and larger towns and cities. These factors “have given us concern that the outbreak has the potential to expand,” he said.

“First is the involvement of a town � Mbandaka � which is the capital of the Equateur Province in that region with a population of more than 1 million people,” he added. “Secondly, that town is on the Congo River and its tributaries, which ultimately connects this outbreak potentially to Kinshasa and also to surrounding countries such as the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.”

He said five health care workers in Mbandaka have been infected with the virus, which is a potential signal for further amplification. He noted there are 58 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola, including 27 deaths.He said health agencies and the government are actively following 600 contacts to learn the specific locations of the outbreak.

“It is really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak,” he said. “It is documenting how people are getting infected and, therefore, managing control, the control of transmission. … We are following three separate chains of transmission, and each one has the potential to expand, if not controlled.”

One potentially powerful tool for containing the spread of Ebola is an experimental, protective vaccine that was not available during the West African epidemic. More than 7,500 doses of the vaccine have been sent to DRC.

Salama said a ring vaccination program began Monday in Mbandaka.

“This is not mass immunization,” he noted. “This is highly targeted ring vaccination where concerned or probable cases are identified and then each and every contact is traced and vaccinated, and then the contacts of those contacts are then traced and vaccinated, forming protective rings around that case � to protect the people themselves � the contacts, but also to prevent further community transmission.”

Salama said this is the same approach used in the 1970s for the elimination of smallpox.

Regional risk

On a regional level, the World Health Organization has designated nine neighboring countries, which share porous borders with DRC at high risk of Ebola. Those most at risk are the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.The others include Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said WHO is helping these countries scale up preparedness so they can detect, investigate, and manage the disease.

“We are helping countries to pre-position the supplies that they will need, including personal protective equipment, infra-red thermometers, rapid diagnostic test kits and other critical supplies,” said Moeti. “We are working with members states and partners at all levels to scale up surveillance, detection, case management at the border areas surrounding the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Salama said the exceptionally rapid, robust response to the outbreak and strong multi-partner effort bodes well for the work ahead.

“It is not over yet,” he cautioned. “We are really just at the beginning … we are on the epidemiological knife-edge of this response.The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control.”

The World Health Organization is appealing for $26 million to keep the operation going for the next six months.It says strong, continued international support is essential for combating this deadly disease.

Source: Voice of America

Coming Weeks Crucial in Containing Ebola Spread in DRC

Health Experts at the World Health Assembly in Geneva agree the next few weeks will be crucial in determining whether the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo can be contained and prevented from spreading to highly-populated urban areas.

Two weeks have elapsed since the first laboratory-confirmed case of Ebola was discovered in the remote, rural town of Bikoro in DR Congo’s northwestern Equateur Province.

Soon after the Ebola outbreak was declared May 8, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and several associates went to the region to assess the situation.

Tedros said he was pleased by the government’s quick response.

“The government had already triggered the community committees so that communities can take the ownership and contribute, and they are going house to house to identify cases and to identify contacts.Starting from the Government leadership, everything is triggered,” he said. “We are watching it around the clock, 24/7, and we hope it will have a better outcome.”

This rapid response to the current emergency is a sea change from the way the WHO and other agencies reacted to the West African Ebola epidemic.More than 11,000 people were killed before it was brought under control in 2016.

This is the 9th Ebola outbreak in DRC since the disease was simultaneously discovered in DRC and South Sudan in 1976. In the eight previous outbreaks, Ebola occurred in either isolated rural areas or in small towns where the disease remained largely confined.

Peter Salama, WHO Deputy Director-General, Emergency Preparedness and Response, said the current outbreak has features of two previous typologies � a combination of rural villages, and larger towns and cities. These factors “have given us concern that the outbreak has the potential to expand,” he said.

“First is the involvement of a town � Mbandaka � which is the capital of the Equateur Province in that region with a population of more than 1 million people,” he added. “Secondly, that town is on the Congo River and its tributaries, which ultimately connects this outbreak potentially to Kinshasa and also to surrounding countries such as the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.”

He said five health care workers in Mbandaka have been infected with the virus, which is a potential signal for further amplification. He noted there are 58 confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola, including 27 deaths.He said health agencies and the government are actively following 600 contacts to learn the specific locations of the outbreak.

“It is really the detective work of epidemiology that will make or break the response to this outbreak,” he said. “It is documenting how people are getting infected and, therefore, managing control, the control of transmission. … We are following three separate chains of transmission, and each one has the potential to expand, if not controlled.”

One potentially powerful tool for containing the spread of Ebola is an experimental, protective vaccine that was not available during the West African epidemic. More than 7,500 doses of the vaccine have been sent to DRC.

Salama said a ring vaccination program began Monday in Mbandaka.

“This is not mass immunization,” he noted. “This is highly targeted ring vaccination where concerned or probable cases are identified and then each and every contact is traced and vaccinated, and then the contacts of those contacts are then traced and vaccinated, forming protective rings around that case � to protect the people themselves � the contacts, but also to prevent further community transmission.”

Salama said this is the same approach used in the 1970s for the elimination of smallpox.

Regional risk

On a regional level, the World Health Organization has designated nine neighboring countries, which share porous borders with DRC at high risk of Ebola. Those most at risk are the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.The others include Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said WHO is helping these countries scale up preparedness so they can detect, investigate, and manage the disease.

“We are helping countries to pre-position the supplies that they will need, including personal protective equipment, infra-red thermometers, rapid diagnostic test kits and other critical supplies,” said Moeti. “We are working with members states and partners at all levels to scale up surveillance, detection, case management at the border areas surrounding the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

Salama said the exceptionally rapid, robust response to the outbreak and strong multi-partner effort bodes well for the work ahead.

“It is not over yet,” he cautioned. “We are really just at the beginning … we are on the epidemiological knife-edge of this response.The next few weeks will really tell if this outbreak is going to expand to urban areas or if we are going to be able to keep it under control.”

The World Health Organization is appealing for $26 million to keep the operation going for the next six months.It says strong, continued international support is essential for combating this deadly disease.

Source: Voice of America