US deploys Green Berets to defeat ISIS-linked insurgents accused of beheading children on a new front in south Africa

Army Special Forces Green Berets Chinook helicopter helocasting
US Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Green Berets observe a CH-47 Chinook helicopter conduct hoisting operations during helocast training at Eglin Base Air Force Base, Florida, February 6, 2013.

  • US Army Special Forces will train Mozambican marines for the next two months to counter al-Shabab’s spread.
  • It comes after the US listed the group as a foreign terrorist organization last week because of its links to ISIS.
  • The violence in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado has caused 2,000 deaths and displaced 670,000 people.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The elite Green Berets have been deployed to help defeat Islamic State insurgents accused of beheading children as young as 11 in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.

US Army Special Forces soldiers are to train Mozambican marines for the next two months to counter the rapidly escalating insurgency from ISIS-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.

It comes after the US officially listed the group as a foreign terrorist organization last week because of its links to ISIS, who it pledged allegiance to in 2018 and who claimed its first attack in June 2019.

Mozambique, in southern Africa, represents the worrying spread of Islamic insurgency on the continent. Other nations facing ISIS-linked violence include Somalia, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, and Libya.

The deployment of the Green Berets is “to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism,” the US Embassy in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, said, The Times reported.

According to an Insider report last month, the Green Berets are called on to deploy worldwide, build lasting relationships with local groups friendly towards the United States, and then teach those groups how to kill effectively. The SF soldiers then begin going on missions with the locals and fight side-by-side.

The situation in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado, which began in 2017, became even more urgent last year, with up to 3,500 fighters regularly engaging with the military to capture key towns.

At least 2,000 civilians have been killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and 670,000 have been displaced, Save the Children added. Around a million people are also in need of food aid, the UN estimated.

‘They took my eldest son and beheaded him’

Cabo Delgado
Elsa, 28, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, stands with her family in a displacement camp in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique on January 26, 2021.

Children as young as 11 years old have been executed, according to Save the Children, that has spoken to displaced families that have described horrific executions by the Islamic insurgents.

One mother, Elsa, 28, whose name has been changed, told Save the Children: “That night our village was attacked and houses were burned. When it all started, I was at home with my four children.

“We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn’t do anything because we would be killed too.”

Impoverished Mozambique, in southern Africa, had been relying on foreign mercenaries, mainly from South Africa, who have also been accused of human rights abuses.

An Amnesty International report found that both sides committed war crimes, with government forces responsible for abuses against civilians, something it has denied.

Mozambique violence
The remains of a burned and destroyed home is seen in the recently attacked village of Aldeia da Paz outside Macomia, Mozambique, on August 24, 2019.

Cabo Delgado has a population of 2.3 million, most of whom are Muslim, and is one of the poorest provinces in Mozambique with high illiteracy and unemployment rates, according to the BBC.

Al-Shabab, not to be confused with the Somalian al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group of a similar name, means The Youth in Arabic.

It has found ready recruits among the unemployed young people from the area, al-Jazeera reported.

Although a ruby deposit and gas field were discovered in Cabo Delgado in 2009 and 2010, creating dreams of a better life for locals, these were soon undermined by violence and extreme flooding, the BBC noted.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Biden should use America’s massive vaccine stockpile to help Africa and rebuild the world’s confidence in the US

COVID-19, South Africa
Health worker Vuyiseka Mathambo takes a nasal swab from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a Masiphumelele community centre in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23, 2020.

  • The Biden Administration has committed to buy hundreds of millions of COVID vaccine doses.
  • A plan to distribute some of those doses to Africa can show that the US is ready to reassert its influence on the world stage.
  • The US cannot afford to allow countries like China to grow their influence in Africa through “vaccine diplomacy.”
  • Ivor Ichikowitz is a South African-born industrialist, social entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A new president brings opportunity for a new strategy towards Africa, a continent that has too often been ignored by American presidents. President Joe Biden’s decision to back Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for head of the World Trade Organization is a step in the right direction.

Okonjo-Iweala, a Nigerian-American, will be the first African to hold the position. She has previously served as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and had a 25-year career at the World Bank.

It’s a positive beginning, but really it was more the Biden administration running cleanup of his predecessor’s mess. Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy had been supported by the European Union, Australia, Japan, China, and African nations before the Trump administration blocked her.

There remains much to be done on encouraging trade and investment in Africa, combating transnational threats, taking on humanitarian crises, and preventing Africa from falling under the influence of China. Unfortunately, the Trump administration did very little on these fronts, making the problems worse and costing the US credibility.

Africa could have a bright future

Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world, with unbridled entrepreneurial youth. Much of the continent’s populace view American ideals favorably, but many are worried about a prolonged period of American disinterest.

They do not want to fall under the influence of neo-colonialism – neither that of the US, nor China’s, nor that of any other power. But lack of engagement and opportunity coming from the United States could force Africa to fall under China’s debt diplomacy.

Now, China is also making a push to very publicly provide Africa with vaccines and support on the novel coronavirus. China’s help is much appreciated. But, like its investments, vaccines will also create incentives for the recipients to be even more closely tied to China.

To counter this “vaccine diplomacy” from China, the US should provide Africa with COVID tests and supplies. African leaders and the public are frustrated by the lack of access to vaccines, which are being stockpiled by wealthy Western countries like the US. The continent requires more than 1.5 billion doses to meet its targets, but only about a million have been shipped to South Africa, with a few million more expected to arrive to select countries in coming months.

“We don’t always want to be the last people on the planet,” Kenya’s Minister of Health Mutahi Kagwe told the German news organization DW.

Chinese vaccines, like SinoPharm, are easier to administer in developing countries – many of which lack the high-tech freezers needed to keep vaccines like those from Pfizer and Moderna at an extremely low temperature.

SinoPharm chairman Liu Jingzhen has promised that the Chinese vaccine will “take the lead in benefiting African countries,” and African diplomats like Rwandan Ambassador to China, James Kimonyo, have expressed their optimism about it. Already, Seychelles has begun vaccinating its citizens using the Chinese vaccine and Chinese state media is using this news to its own benefit, while accusing the West of turning a blind eye to Africa.

The obvious solution to counter this Chinese influence would be to provide African countries with American vaccines.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown efficaices that prevent illness from COVID at a 95% rate. China announced the effectiveness of its SinoPharm vaccine as 79%, but reports from Brazil and Indonesia put the effectiveness at 50.4% and 65.3%, respectively. Either way, the American vaccines are significantly more effective and have also been more thoroughly vetted for safety.

Other countries are already seeing the wisdom is sharing their vaccines. French President Emmanuel Macron has said wealthy nations should share up to 5% of their vaccines with the developing world. The Biden administration has expressed a commitment to the “equitable distribution of vaccines and funding globally” but, crucially, has said it will not be sharing any of the vaccines it has purchased with other countries until all Americans are vaccinated. Given how the initial vaccine distribution is extremely skewed towards wealthy countries, that leaves low and middle income countries at the end of a long line.

The administration has joined COVAX, the global initiative to distribute vaccines associated with the World Health Organization (WHO). The decision to join the program that over 160 countries had already signed onto is the right choice, but it is closer to the default that would have been expected of the world’s superpower, rather than a step above and beyond.

The US can provide more support in other ways

Given the “vaccine nationalism” in the United States, it is unlikely the US would be willing to provide a large number of vaccines to Africa. However, many African countries still lack access to sufficient amounts of COVID-19 test kits, let alone vaccines.

As of the first week of February, the Congo was testing fewer than 10 people per million every day, and Uganda, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, among other countries, are also lagging most of the world in testing.

After a slow start, the US now has access to enough testing, and the Biden administration has also discussed utilizing the Defense Production Act to increase production of tests. Some of those should be exported to address international needs.

With the Southern Hemisphere’s winter season approaching, countries on the African continent must get ready before outbreaks start to get worse. Last year, the first major spikes in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and other countries began around June and hit their peaks in July. But the WHO has warned that 2021 could be even worse than 2020, in part due to the breakout of new virus strains – such as the 501.V2 variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

This variant has also spread to a number of South Africa’s neighboring countries, including Mozambique, where at least 41 cases have been counted. Mozambique’s test positivity rate since January has been over 20%, indicating the need for more tests to catch undetected community spread.

The “COVID diplomacy” strategy is a real one. The needs of various African countries for help are very real, too. These things cannot be ignored.

Already the US is on the defensive in terms of diplomatic engagement and investment in Africa. They cannot cede this latest battlefield to China, either. Moreover, we cannot let this opportunity to save lives go to waste.

Ivor Ichikowitz is an African industrialist and philanthropist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The views expressed are his own.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Tanzania’s president is one of the world’s most prominent Covid-deniers – and now he may be hospitalized with Covid

TZ Magufuli in green
Tanzanian President John Magufuli at an event in August 2020.

  • Tanzanian President John Magufuli has not been seen for 17 days, prompting rumors about his health.
  • Magufuli declared Tanzania Covid-free last May and stopped releasing data. He has rejected vaccines.
  • Media reports and claims from an opposition figure have fed rumors he is gravely ill with Covid-19.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Dar es Salaam – Tanzanian President John Magufuli, Africa’s most prominent Covid-19 denier, disappeared from public sight 17 days ago. Now, he is widely rumored to be seriously ill with the same virus that he has dismissed and downplayed over the past year.

Last May, Magufuli declared that “Tanzania has beaten coronavirus” after ordering three days of national prayer. The president abruptly stopped updating the number of cases, and assured foreign tourists that Tanzania’s game parks and Indian Ocean resorts were open for business, leading to a wave of travel advisories cautioning travelers to avoid the country.

Since then, he has scoffed at wearing masks, criticized regional neighbours for imposing lockdowns, and rejected coronavirus vaccines until his government independently verifies them. In early January, Magufuli told the visiting Chinese foreign affairs minister, Wang Yi, that “there is no coronavirus in Tanzania.”

Then, after appearing at an event in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam on Feb. 24, Magufuli disappeared from public view.

This week, the leading newspaper in neighboring Kenya, the Daily Nation, wrote: “The leader of an African country who has not appeared in public for nearly two weeks is admitted to Nairobi Hospital for Covid-19 treatment, even as his government remains mum on his whereabouts.”

Within hours, speculation was rife that Magufuli had been secretly flown to Nairobi for emergency medical attention and later airlifted for treatment in India. Insider has not been able to confirm these reports.

“Latest update from Nairobi,” Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu tweeted this week.

Contacted by Insider, Lissu repeated the claim but did not provide evidence.

“Over the past month, the country has lost university professors, army generals, doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals of high public standing,” Lissu told Insider. “It is highly irresponsible, and in my view criminal, for the president to continue to deny the presence of coronavirus, spurn international help and repudiate the vaccines.”

Scores of Tanzanians and neighbouring Kenyans have taken to social media to demand answers, with the hashtag #WhereIsMagufuli trending on Twitter in both countries.

On Friday, government officials addressed the rumor for the first time and insisted that Magufuli was alive and well, but offered no proof.

TZ Dar
On the streets of Dar es Salaam, some have taken to wearing masks to protect against Covid-19 but many have not.

“President Magufuli is in good health and continues to carry on with his normal duties,” Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said in a statement from his office. “I spoke to him (Magufuli) today and he sends his greetings to you,” Majaliwa insisted.

In a separate announcement, the commissioner of the southern Tanzanian region of Mbeya, Albert Chalamila, told journalists on Friday: “I spoke with President John Magufuli on the phone this morning … he is very strong and is continuing with his job.”

“WE WANT AN EXPLANATION, NOT THREATS”

Tanzania confirmed its first coronavirus case in March 2020, but a month later Magufuli – who has a PhD in chemistry – questioned the accuracy of the test results. Cumulative cases had reached 480 people and 16 had been reported dead from the coronavirus by April 29, but Magufuli ordered the country’s Health Ministry to stop releasing updates.

On Feb. 27, three days after his last public appearance, the government announced that Magufuli had presided over the swearing in of a senior public official and attended a virtual regional summit for the East African Community (EAC) trade bloc.

It was later revealed that Magufuli did not, in fact, attend the EAC summit after all, and was instead represented by his Vice President, Samia Suluhu Hassan.

Since then, Magufuli has remained conspicuously absent from public view, missing his customary Sunday church attendance for two consecutive weeks, an oddity for the devout Catholic.

TZ Mourners Zanzibar
Mourners carrying the body of Zanzibar’s Vice President, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, in Dar es Salaam on Feb. 18, 2021.

On the streets of Dar es Salaam, Magufuli’s unexplained absence has been a source of both concern and frustration for many city residents.

“Instead of telling us the truth about Magufuli’s whereabouts, government ministers have been issuing threats against social media users. We want an explanation, not threats,” Innocent Mushi, a taxi driver, told Insider.

The death last month of Zanzibar’s first vice president, Seif Sharif Hamad, days after he announced he was hospitalized with the virus, and the death of Magufuli’s chief secretary at State House and head of the civil service, John Kijazi, from an unspecified illness exposed what many worries was the true extent of the pandemic.

“I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting COVID-19 cases and share data,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Feb. 20. “I also call on Tanzania to implement the public health measures that we know work in breaking the chains of transmission, and to prepare for vaccination.”

There have been reports of local hospitals being overrun by patients displaying Covid-19 symptoms, and shortages of critical care beds, oxygen and ventilators across major towns and cities in the country. The government denies these reports.

Unlike other East African countries, which have urged social distancing and encouraged the use of masks, it’s been business as usual in Tanzania. Public buses are crowded with passengers, with few wearing masks, while pubs and night clubs have been full of revelers. Local league matches at football stadiums and music festivals are ongoing across the country, usually packed to capacity.

TZ Hand wash
People lining up to wash their hands with chlorinated water in Dar es Salaam on March 16, 2020, hours after Tanzania announced its first case of Covid-19.

Magufuli has continued to shun modern medicine and prevention methods such as wearing masks and social distancing. Instead, he has aggressively promoted unproven traditional remedies such as steam inhalation and a ginger-garlic-onion-lemon drink as the government’s official line of treatment and prevention against the virus.

Some hospitals have incorporated these remedies in their treatment protocols for patients displaying coronavirus symptoms.

PRAYERS, STEAMS, AND HERBS

During his five years in power, Magufuli has ruled Tanzania with an iron fist, in contrast to his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete’s softer touch, and turned the once progressive East African nation of 60 million people into one of Africa’s more repressive and secretive states, critics say.

Under his leadership, the government has arrested opposition leaders and activists and limited protests. In 2017, it shut down a privately owned weekly newspaper. Only the president and three other public officials are authorized to issue data on Covid infections and speak about the pandemic.

In January, Magufuli rejected coronavirus vaccines as other countries around the world scrambled for the inoculations, saying he will not allow his compatriots to be used as guinea pigs. “Vaccines are not good. If white people were able to bring these vaccines, they would have brought vaccines for AIDS, cancer or malaria,” he said in a speech.

TZ Tundu Lissu
Tundu Lissu, Tanzania’s opposition leader, on Aug. 4, 2020

The government’s chief spokesman, Hassan Abbasi, last month backtracked from claims that Tanzania was virus free, changing the new official narrative to “we have controlled the virus.”

Roman Catholic and Lutheran church leaders have in recent weeks begun pushing back against Magufuli’s virus denialism, urging the government to take the disease seriously.

Early this month, Charles Kitima, who leads an association of Catholic bishops, told journalists in Dar es Salaam that more than 25 priests and 60 nuns had died across the country within the last two months due to various causes, including “breathing difficulties,” which has become a euphemism for coronavirus.

Lissu, the opposition leader, has made the most of the moment.

“It’s a sad comment on (Magufuli’s) stewardship of our country that it’s come to this: that he himself had to get COVID-19 and be flown out to Kenya in order to prove that prayers, steam inhalations and other unproven herbal concoctions he’s championed are no protection against coronavirus,” he said on Twitter.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Ghana is using drones to deliver coronavirus vaccines to rural communities

Zipline Novant Health ppe
One of Zipline’s drones.

  • Zipline has started delivering coronavirus vaccines with drone in Ghana.
  • This tackles one of the biggest problems with the rollout – distributing doses in poorer countries.
  • Zipline has delivered medical supplies by drone since 2016, and works with Walmart and Novant Health.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Ghana has become the first country to launch a nationwide program to deliver coronavirus vaccines with drones.

Zipline started delivering the shots on Tuesday as part of the WHO’s first shipment of vaccines through COVAX, its program that aims to provide poorer countries with enough doses to cover 20% of their population.

Zipline, a San Francisco startup, has been delivering medical supplies including blood, personal protective equipment, and vaccines since 2016 using patented, autonomous drones.

Doctors can use Zipline’s app to place orders and track shipments.

As well as national operations in Rwanda and Ghana, Zipline also has partnerships with Walmart and Novant Health in the US, and its PPE deliveries become the first long-range drone logistics flights to be approved by the FAA.

 Zipline started the drone deliveries in Ghana on Tuesday when it distributed 4,500 doses across the Ashanti Region in the country’s south in 36 separate journeys in a partnership with the Ghanaian government and UPS.

Around 2.5 million doses will be delivered in Ghana using the drones, GAVI said.

“Not only does this make Ghana the world’s first country to deploy drones on a national scale for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, but is also a giant effort in ensuring equitable access and enabling Ghana to fully utilize its healthcare infrastructure to deliver vaccines,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said in a statement.

COVAX shipped 600,000 doses of the vaccine created by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to the capital, Accra, in late February.

But distributing vaccine doses globally is proving to be a mammoth task.

Even when vaccines do make it to developing countries, they might lack the transport links and road networks to distribute the doses to everyone in need.

This is complicated further by storage requirements. Pfizer’s vaccine has to be transported at -94 degrees Fahrenheit through a system of deep-freeze airport warehouses and then refrigerated in vehicles using dry ice and GPS temperature-monitoring devices, while AstraZeneca’s and Moderna‘s can be transported at fridge temperatures.

Zipline told Bloomberg it has developed drones that can deliver “all leading COVID-19 vaccines.”

Zipline’s drones look like six-foot long airplanes

Insider’s Noah Lewis spoke to CEO Rinaudo back in May, when the company started delivering coronavirus tests in Ghana and Rwanda.

Each drone’s flight is fully automated and monitored from its distribution center. They can fly close to 100 miles round-trip on a single battery charge, travel up to 80 mph, and carry four pounds of cargo.

Orders can be scheduled in advance or placed on demand for just-in-time delivery, and drones can be launched within seven minutes of the company receiving the order.

Unlike conventional drones, Zipline’s drones resemble small planes. They are six feet long with an 11-foot wingspan, and, rather than landing themselves, drop boxes of supplies with a parachute attached to cushion their fall.

Read the original article on Business Insider

We’ve been wrong about how insulin has to be stored, and a new approach could revolutionize diabetes treatment for millions of people

Mohamed test
Mohamed Hussein Bule, 27, who teaches science at a refugee camp in Kenya.

  • For people living with diabetes in the developing world, a lack of electricity can hamper access to insulin. 

  • But a project in Kenya has shown that insulin can be maintained in hot climates without refrigeration.
  • Researchers, calling it a breakthrough, are urging the World Health Organization to amend its guidelines. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

For people living with diabetes in the developing world, getting daily life-sustaining doses of insulin has gone hand in hand with access to electricity.

Once a vial is opened, manufacturers recommend storing it in a refrigerator until it expires, which is usually after four weeks. But an estimated 470 million people around the world who don’t have access to electricity and fridges for food and medicine, making it difficult to store insulin at home.

But now, a new program could help revolutionize treatments around the world. 

It started at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, where temperatures can reach up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit and many have no access to refrigeration. As a consequence, patients’ lives have practically revolved around going to and from the hospital to receive insulin. Having diabetes could mean missing school, work, especially since the camp’s curfew restricts when it’s possible to make the trek.

When doctors working in the camp noticed more and more patients coming to the hospital with complications from their diabetes, they reached out to researchers at the University of Geneva and decided to monitor at-home insulin storage at the camp, which experienced much warmer temperatures than label recommendations. 

Researchers replicated the camp’s daily temperature, which ranged from 77 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, in the lab, and tested the insulin’s effectiveness. They also studied leftover insulin from vials that patients had used after storing them in their homes.

They discovered that even without refrigeration, insulin kept at the camp’s tropical temperatures was safe to use for four weeks – a revelation that could be life-changing for diabetes patients around the world. 

Following their investigation, the team adjusted the advice they were giving patients, teaching them how to self-inject, check their own blood sugar, and what danger symptoms to look out for. Most exciting of all, they showed patients how to store the insulin at home using a plastic container with a wet towel around it.  

What followed was a dramatic drop in the number of diabetic patients coming to hospital with acute complications. They were able to go to work and school and “not spend all day seeking out healthcare to stay alive,” said Philippa Boulle, from the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders).

Even though insulin can be damaged when it’s stored at high temperatures, the researchers found that cooler temperatures overnight could keep the insulin safe.

Dadaab
Somali refugees attend market in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya.

“Every protein goes towards degradation when it’s heated, but there are proteins that can go back when you cool them down again, and insulin seems to be one of them,” Leonardo Scapozza, a professor at the University of Geneva’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and one of the researchers who worked with doctors in the Dagahaley camp, told Insider. 

At the moment, guidance says patients can store their insulin at an “‘ambient temperature’,” but Scapozza said “and hot settings” should be added for clarification. There only needs to be three words added to that: ‘and hot settings’, Scapozza says.  

He said the findings could also be applied to high-income countries such as the US, for example, when natural disasters and storms that cut off power supplies.

The researchers have done further studies to test insulin in different climates, and are helping supporting refugees in their South Sudan setting to take insulin home, too.  

Now, MSF is calling on pharmaceutical corporations to amend guidelines, and for the World Health Organization to endorse their findings.

While there have been many studies testing how stable insulin is at different temperatures, the oscillating temperature factor in this study is a “new twist,” says Gojka Roglic, a medical officer at the WHO responsible for activities on diabetes management, told Insider.

WHO won’t be making any recommendations based on this study alone, but Roglic  said it will be included in a review of all research later this year.  

Ali Bishar, who is in charge of MSF’s insulin management program at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, said education on diabetes and insulin is “paramount” to the program working.

“After they’re trained, the patients have to pass a competency test. Then they’re given their insulin and care is provided on and outside the wards,” Bashar said, adding that the program, which started in 2015, has grown from 35 to 45 patients in the last six years.

However, insulin storage is only the start of  managing diabetes in low-resource settings. Another major concern is how a poor diet can contribute to patients’ symptoms. 

“You have to have food when you inject insulin. In some settings, patients are fearful of the injection if they haven’t had a meal that day,” Boulle says.

Rahmo, who was in the first cohort of patients to start the MSF programme in 2015, told Insider that she has challenges with getting enough food and having a good diet., But regardless of her diet, Rahmo said  her health has improved. 

“Before this, I was confused about how to continue my life and if I’d survive,” she  told Insider through an interpreter.  “Today, I’m very happy to control my diabetes at home.” 

Mohamed Hussein Bule, 27, a refugee from Somalia who works as a teacher at a primary school in Dagahaley, enrolled in the MSF program in 2015. 

He was diagnosed with diabetes in 2014 after his weight plummeted from 150 pounds to 82 pounds, but since joining the program his weight is back up to about 143 pounds.

“I was supposed to pick up insulin at the hospital early in the morning to take home, then go to work. I was missing a lot of classes. Now, I take a vial in the morning and record my glucose, and continue with the program as my day continues,” he said. 

“I don’t even feel like a patient with diabetes now. I’m very glad to be on the program.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A new approach for handling insulin could revolutionize diabetes treatment for millions of people

Mohamed test
Mohamed Hussein Bule, 27, who teaches science at a refugee camp in Kenya.

  • For people living with diabetes in the developing world, a lack of electricity can hamper access to insulin. 

  • But a project in Kenya has shown that insulin can be maintained in hot climates without refrigeration.
  • Researchers, calling it a breakthrough, are urging the World Health Organization to amend its guidelines. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

For people living with diabetes in the developing world, getting daily life-sustaining doses of insulin has gone hand in hand with access to electricity.

Once a vial is opened, manufacturers recommend storing it in a refrigerator until it expires, which is usually after four weeks. But an estimated 470 million people around the world who don’t have access to electricity and fridges for food and medicine, making it difficult to store insulin at home.

But now, a new program could help revolutionize treatments around the world. 

It started at the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, where temperatures can reach up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit and many have no access to refrigeration. As a consequence, patients’ lives have practically revolved around going to and from the hospital to receive insulin. Having diabetes could mean missing school, work, especially since the camp’s curfew restricts when it’s possible to make the trek.

When doctors working in the camp noticed more and more patients coming to the hospital with complications from their diabetes, they reached out to researchers at the University of Geneva and decided to monitor at-home insulin storage at the camp, which experienced much warmer temperatures than label recommendations. 

Researchers replicated the camp’s daily temperature, which ranged from 77 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, in the lab, and tested the insulin’s effectiveness. They also studied leftover insulin from vials that patients had used after storing them in their homes.

They discovered that even without refrigeration, insulin kept at the camp’s tropical temperatures was safe to use for four weeks – a revelation that could be life-changing for diabetes patients around the world. 

Following their investigation, the team adjusted the advice they were giving patients, teaching them how to self-inject, check their own blood sugar, and what danger symptoms to look out for. Most exciting of all, they showed patients how to store the insulin at home using a plastic container with a wet towel around it.  

What followed was a dramatic drop in the number of diabetic patients coming to hospital with acute complications. They were able to go to work and school and “not spend all day seeking out healthcare to stay alive,” said Philippa Boulle, from the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders).

Even though insulin can be damaged when it’s stored at high temperatures, the researchers found that cooler temperatures overnight could keep the insulin safe.

Dadaab
Somali refugees attend market in the sprawling Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya.

“Every protein goes towards degradation when it’s heated, but there are proteins that can go back when you cool them down again, and insulin seems to be one of them,” Leonardo Scapozza, a professor at the University of Geneva’s School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and one of the researchers who worked with doctors in the Dagahaley camp, told Insider. 

At the moment, guidance says patients can store their insulin at an “‘ambient temperature’,” but Scapozza said “and hot settings” should be added for clarification. There only needs to be three words added to that: ‘and hot settings’, Scapozza says.  

He said the findings could also be applied to high-income countries such as the US, for example, when natural disasters and storms that cut off power supplies.

The researchers have done further studies to test insulin in different climates, and are helping supporting refugees in their South Sudan setting to take insulin home, too.  

Now, MSF is calling on pharmaceutical corporations to amend guidelines, and for the World Health Organization to endorse their findings.

While there have been many studies testing how stable insulin is at different temperatures, the oscillating temperature factor in this study is a “new twist,” says Gojka Roglic, a medical officer at the WHO responsible for activities on diabetes management, told Insider.

WHO won’t be making any recommendations based on this study alone, but Roglic  said it will be included in a review of all research later this year.  

Ali Bishar, who is in charge of MSF’s insulin management program at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, said education on diabetes and insulin is “paramount” to the program working.

“After they’re trained, the patients have to pass a competency test. Then they’re given their insulin and care is provided on and outside the wards,” Bashar said, adding that the program, which started in 2015, has grown from 35 to 45 patients in the last six years.

However, insulin storage is only the start of  managing diabetes in low-resource settings. Another major concern is how a poor diet can contribute to patients’ symptoms. 

“You have to have food when you inject insulin. In some settings, patients are fearful of the injection if they haven’t had a meal that day,” Boulle says.

Rahmo, who was in the first cohort of patients to start the MSF programme in 2015, told Insider that she has challenges with getting enough food and having a good diet., But regardless of her diet, Rahmo said  her health has improved. 

“Before this, I was confused about how to continue my life and if I’d survive,” she  told Insider through an interpreter.  “Today, I’m very happy to control my diabetes at home.” 

Mohamed Hussein Bule, 27, a refugee from Somalia who works as a teacher at a primary school in Dagahaley, enrolled in the MSF program in 2015. 

He was diagnosed with diabetes in 2014 after his weight plummeted from 150 pounds to 82 pounds, but since joining the program his weight is back up to about 143 pounds.

“I was supposed to pick up insulin at the hospital early in the morning to take home, then go to work. I was missing a lot of classes. Now, I take a vial in the morning and record my glucose, and continue with the program as my day continues,” he said. 

“I don’t even feel like a patient with diabetes now. I’m very glad to be on the program.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The CDC says the US will screen and track people traveling from countries with Ebola cases

AP20075710825084
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shown Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Atlanta.

  • Travelers coming in from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea will be subject to extra scrutiny because of Ebola concerns.
  • According to the CDC, these travelers will be directed to six US airports. 
  • There, airlines will collect and send their info to local health departments for tracking purposes. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The United States will begin tracking people who arrive from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea, two countries facing Ebola outbreaks. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that the US government will “institute public health measures” for travelers coming in from those two countries “out of an abundance of caution,” as the threat of the outbreaks to the US remained low. 

“Beginning next week, the US government will funnel travelers from DRC and Guinea to six US airports,” the agency said in a statement. “Airlines will collect and transmit passenger information to CDC for public health follow-up and intervention for all passengers boarding a flight to the US who were in DRC or Guinea within the previous 21 days.”

The information will be shared with local health departments for tracking and monitoring. 

Earlier this month, Guinea declared its first Ebola outbreak since 2016

As Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnson previously reported, Ebola can lead to fever, aches, and fatigue. It has a fatality rate of about 50%. At least three people have died in Guinea from Ebola since the outbreak was detected in February. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo reported another outbreak earlier this month as well, according to the World Health Organization.

The risk of Ebola becoming an outbreak in the United States is “extremely low,” the CDC said. 

But the agency still recommends that the US take precautions, especially as the country battles new variants of the coronavirus. 

Researchers have found at least seven new variants in the United States, each of which could be more contagious than the original strain.

It’s been almost a year since the WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Since then, more than 28 million people in the United States have contracted the virus, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Of that, more than 500,000 Americans have died

In 2016, more than 11,000 people died from a two-year Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Guinean government is taking steps to put an end to the resurgence before it spreads more widely. A new Ebola treatment center is being constructed and an Ebola vaccine is being rushed out, Insider’s McFall-Johnson reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Why the world’s newest country has only ever known war

South Sudan
SPLA soldiers in a vehicle in Juba, December 20, 2013.

  • South Sudan is only 10 years old, but it has already been through years of fighting that killed and displaced millions.
  • That fighting has eased, but violence remains rampant, and the risk of a return to full-blown conflict is never far away.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Few nations have seen their dreams and hopes dashed as quickly and ruthlessly as South Sudan. A mere two years after thousands thronged the streets of the capital, Juba, to celebrate independence from Sudan’s autocratic rule, the country descended into a brutal civil war.

The fallout between President Salva Kiir and Vice President-turned-rebel Riek Machar, and the subsequent fighting, exerted a terrible toll. Between 2013 and 2018, up to 400,000 people were killed and 4 million – a third of the country’s population – displaced, amid numerous reports of ethnic-based atrocities like rape and massacres.

The world’s youngest country is now approaching its 10-year anniversary, and while the war has quieted thanks to a fragile 2018 peace deal, the risk of a return to full-blown conflict is never far away.

South Sudan still faces an insurgency in the south of the country and rampant localized violence elsewhere. Ethno-political tensions remain high and could be unleashed again by the next presidential election, which was originally scheduled for 2022 but is likely to be delayed.

Moreover, amid the constant efforts to halt violence, avoid the further deterioration of a dire humanitarian situation and keep the sputtering peace deal on track, both external partners and many South Sudanese themselves seem to have lost sight of any vision for longer-term stability.

south sudan
An armed man near the village of Nialdhiu in South Sudan, February 2017.

Maintaining the peace deal and getting the country past the presidential poll – which would likely pit Kiir against Machar, who has returned to the position of vice president under the terms of the 2018 agreement – are the most immediate hurdles.

But any hope for stability demands a reset of South Sudan’s ill-suited, winner-take-all political system that fuels the ongoing tensions among elites.

Despite the fact that its divisions and vulnerabilities were apparent at independence a decade ago, both South Sudanese and outsiders downplayed the new country’s political woes, and especially its ethnic cleavages.

South Sudanese had fought a long war against Sudan, but also, more often than not, against each other. Kiir and Machar, for example, fought on rival sides between 1991 and 2002, mobilizing fighters from their respective Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups.

At independence, the country’s political system, which vests enormous power in the presidency, offered few mechanisms for the inclusion of rivals. This meant those locked out of power had few incentives to believe in the new state rather than rebel against it.

The scramble for power and resources dominated politics in Juba and, as Kiir and his clique monopolized both, the scars of decades of infighting reopened.

south sudan
South Sudanese await the country’s president at Juba International Airport, June 22, 2018

Conflict soon flared, while several peace agreements and cease-fires collapsed – notably in 2016 when Machar, then vice president, fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo on foot after fighting erupted in Juba – before the 2018 pact brought a bit of respite.

Kiir and Machar finally formed a unity government in February 2020. But they have achieved little beyond a delicate cease-fire, as most of the provisions of the agreement languish unfulfilled. These include the unification of forces supporting the two rivals into a single national army, the establishment of a new National Assembly, the creation of a transitional court of justice, and economic reforms.

On top of all that, South Sudan still has to deal with the insurgency in its southern Equatoria region led by Thomas Cirillo, a former senior military officer who has not signed the peace agreement. Localized violence in other places rages unabated.

With this uneasy arrangement in place and ethno-political tensions so deeply rooted, the risk of a new collapse exists at every turn of the road.

No turn looks more dangerous than the next presidential election, whenever it is held. Even if they seem to have lost the confidence of a significant part of their respective support bases, Kiir and Machar still look intent on facing off.

The poll, if it ever occurs, could be a fatal blow to the peace agreement, given that the winner could lock the loser and his coalition out of any share of power.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir
South Sudan President Salva Kiir at the State House in Nairobi, May 11, 2014.

Given the current level of tensions, rival factions will surely contest nearly every step in the lead-up to the poll, so foreign diplomats in South Sudan should refrain from putting pressure on the government to rush into a potentially destabilizing election.

Crucially, regional powers like Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, which are the main guarantors of the 2018 peace deal, will also need to push for some form of pre-election deal that ensures a share of power to the losers.

Such an outcome could avert a violent breakdown around the vote, but it still would not resolve South Sudan’s many problems. Ultimately, the country will need to revisit its political model to avoid remaining stuck in cyclical bouts of conflict.

The existing centralized state butts up against the harsh realities across the country. South Sudan still lacks roads or basic institutions, and peaceful governance is impossible without broad accommodation across its diverse patchwork of communities and groups.

As the International Crisis Group argues in a recent report, instead of a king-of-the-hill system, South Sudan could evolve toward a more consensual form of governance. This would give the country’s notorious elites in Juba, as well as its beleaguered but divided population, a sense of shared interest.

What would this look like? One way to begin solving exclusionary politics is by institutionalizing power-sharing at the heart of the state. Several options exist, including a presidency that rotates among ethno-political groups or regions, formally slotting government positions for runners-up or instituting diversity quotas at all levels of political and public life.

None of these options would address all the challenges the country faces, but they may at least help reduce the deadly stakes of the central power struggle.

FILE PHOTO: People walk along a street in Juba, South Sudan December 21, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo
People on a street in Juba, South Sudan, December 21, 2013.

Beyond power-sharing in Juba, devolving power and resources to regional and local authorities could also reduce the temperature of national politics. Decentralization, enshrined in South Sudan’s constitution but hardly implemented over the past decade, is increasingly back in fashion among the country’s thinkers and politicians.

Striking the right balance will be critical if the country heads in this direction, as decentralization can also push conflict and corruption to the local level. But devolving power and resources could also help resolve raging local conflicts by empowering local officials and opening avenues for conflict resolution outside the political gridlock in Juba.

The prospects of such changes happening soon are limited, though, to say the least. The challenge of reform lies less in imagining new options than in persuading self-interested elites to adopt them. This challenge goes beyond Kiir and Machar, although the two are likely to remain unconstructive actors at the center of the country’s political stage for some time to come.

Yet even when these archrivals are finally out of the equation, the country will still likely lack state institutions and infrastructure, in addition to being bitterly divided, awash in guns and in need of broad consensus to avoid more rampant bloodshed.

Faced with such grim prospects, other South Sudanese leaders and their external partners must seize every opportunity to push for improvements, even if gradual.

Reform-minded South Sudanese politicians should push for constitutional reform and champion an inclusive national conference to chart a path away from the zero-sum politics that define the status quo. External partners should be ready to push in that direction and support such initiatives, including financially.

If South Sudan’s peace deal again collapses, external mediators could also assess whether efforts to patch things back together again can also go some way to address these underlying structural questions and make peace more durable.

For now, the scale of South Sudan’s challenges contrasts frighteningly with what seems politically possible to fix, and progress in that direction will undoubtedly be halting. But persistence toward a broader settlement is the only way for South Sudan to salvage the dreams that so animated its independence celebrations a decade ago.

Alan Boswell is the senior analyst for South Sudan and hosts The Horn podcast for the International Crisis Group, the independent conflict prevention organization. This article is part of a regularly occurring series of briefings by analysts of the International Crisis Group.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Baltimore man has the coronavirus variant found in South Africa – the 3rd confirmed US case. He ‘likely’ caught it locally, the state governor said.

Larry Hogan
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

  • Maryland officials said a Baltimore man caught the coronavirus variant first found in South Africa.
  • The man had not traveled abroad and likely caught the variant locally, said Maryland’s governor.
  • The mutant variant is more contagious, but not thought to be more deadly. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US has identified its third case of the more contagious coronavirus variant found in South Africa – this time in a man from Maryland.

The man, from the Baltimore region, had not traveled outside the country, Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement, which means it’s “likely” he caught it in the community.

This is the third case of the variant found in the US: South Carolina state officials announced Thursday the first two confirmed cases of the variant in the country. Neither person had travelled outside the US, and the two cases were not connected, state health officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the variant, named B.1.351, can “spread more easily and quickly,” but there is no evidence it is more deadly. The variant has a mutation on its spike protein, which is what the coronavirus uses to invade human cells.

Read more: Coronavirus variants threaten to upend pandemic progress. Here’s how 4 top vaccine makers are fighting back.

Hogan said Maryland health officials were trying to identify and test the man’s contacts, as well as “closely monitoring the B.1.351 variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the state.” 

“We strongly encourage Marylanders to practice extra caution to limit the additional risk of transmission associated with this variant. Please continue to practice standard public health and safety measures, including mask wearing, regular hand washing, and physical distancing.”

The man did not need to go to hospital and is recovering at home, Maryland health department spokesman Charles Gischlar told The Washington Post.

Maryland has confirmed 352,726 cases of COVID-19. Nationwide, nearly 26 million cases have been confirmed, and the virus has killed more than 435,000 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Studies suggest vaccines are effective against the variant

The latest evidence suggests that vaccines work against the variant – albeit slightly less effectively than against the original virus. 

A study published Wednesday showed Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine worked against a lab-made coronavirus similar to the South Africa variant. Performance was slightly lower than against the original virus, but this was “unlikely to lead to a significant reduction” in effectiveness, the drug companies said. Moderna announced similar results of a study on Monday.

There is not yet sufficient data to say whether vaccines work against the variant outside of laboratory conditions.

Some studies have suggested the variant may be able to evade antibodies produced by the body. Both Pfizer and Moderna, who make the two vaccines authorized in the US, are developing new versions of their vaccines to counter the variant.

President Joe Biden has banned travelers from South Africa from entering the US.

The US has also reported cases of mutant variants found in Brazil and the UK. The variant first identified in the UK, B.1.1.7, is the most widespread of the three variants now confirmed in the US, and experts believe it has been circulating in the US for several weeks.

Read the original article on Business Insider