Kenya Becomes Third Country To Adopt World’s First Malaria Vaccine

Laboratory Scientists Commit To Eradication Of Malaria In Nigeria

Kenya on Friday became the third country to start routinely innoculating infants against malaria, using the world’s first vaccine to combat a disease that kills 800 children globally every day.

The vaccine — RTSS — targets the deadliest and most common form of malaria parasite in Africa, where children under five account for two-thirds of all global deaths from the mosquito-borne illness.

Kenya, which is rolling-out RTSS in the western county of Homa Bay, joins Malawi and Ghana, which earlier this year commenced their own pilot vaccination programmes supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This is the most advanced malaria vaccine that we have today. It has been in the making for the last almost three decades,” Dr Richard Mihigo, WHO’s co-ordinator of immunisation and vaccine development programme, told AFP before the Kenyan launch, which will expand to other malaria-prone areas of the country.

“Children are the most vulnerable group to this severe disease that is malaria, so protecting children can make a big impact in preventing malaria.”

The vaccine will be added in these pilot areas to the other routine shots given to young children under national immunisation schedules.

RTS,S acts against ‘Plasmodium falciparum’, the deadliest form of malaria, and the most prevalent in Africa, where illness and death from the disease remains high despite some gains.

The shots, administered over four doses, have been shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce cases of malaria, and malaria-related complications, in young children.

The vaccine prevented about four in 10 cases of malaria and three in 10 cases of the most severe, life-threatening form of the disease, within the trial group, WHO says.

RTS,S will be considered for use more broadly as a tool to fight malaria, alongside other preventative measures such as long-lasting insecticidal nets.

The disease kills more than 400,000 people around the world every year. Of these about 290,000 were children under five.

WHO says a child dies roughly every two minutes from malaria somewhere in the world.

Most of these are in Africa, where more than 90 percent of the world’s malaria cases — and fatalities — occur.

AFP

Tanzanian Arrested With Tusks From 117 Elephants

In this file photo taken on March 20, 2015 an elephant splashes at sunset in the waters of the Chobe river in Botswana Chobe National Park, in the north eastern of the country.

 

A Tanzanian man has been arrested after authorities found a stash of ivory buried under his house, estimated to come from around 117 elephants, authorities said Thursday.

The suspect, who had been sought by authorities since 2016, had in his possession 338 pieces of elephant tusk, and 75 whole tusks, the minister of natural resources, Hamisi Kigwangalla, said in a statement.

He was arrested along with seven alleged accomplices, and the tusks are believed to have come from Tanzania and Mozambique.

“Until his arrest on Tuesday, he was unable to move this stock, because we have become extremely vigilant,” said Kigwangalla.

READ ALSO: Two Aid Workers Killed In ‘Ambush’ In Western Ethiopia

“I am giving a period of grace of one month for any person in possession of elephant tusks to hand them in to authorities without facing prosecution.”

Since 2016, around 1,000 poachers, some heavily armed, have been arrested in Tanzania whose elephant population plunged 60 percent between 2009 and 2014 due to poaching.

In February a Tanzanian court sentenced Chinese citizen Yang Fenlan — dubbed the “Ivory Queen” — to 15 years in jail for her role in trafficking tusks from more than 400 elephants.

Poaching has seen the population of African elephants fall by 110,000 over the past decade to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The slaughter is being fuelled especially by demand in Asia, where ivory is used for jewellery and ornamentation.

Six Bodies Recovered After Flash Flood In Kenya National Park

 

Kenyan authorities said Monday they have recovered the bodies of six of seven members of a tour group who were killed in a flash flood at the Hell’s Gate national park.

“Six bodies of the flash flood victims have been recovered, leaving one tourist missing,” the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on Twitter.

The KWS manages the park, the location of the 2003 film “Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life”.

It said the search and rescue operation was continuing and the authorities have sought to contact the next of kin.

Six tourists – five Kenyans and a foreigner — and their local guide were swept away in the flash flood as they were visiting the park on Sunday, part of a group of 13.

READ ALSO: Rocket Fire Injures Four In Libyan Airport

Two survivors from the group alerted park rangers who sent out a search party.

The deep gorges of the Hell’s Gate park are often lashed by heavy rains. In 2012, seven young Kenyans drowned at the same spot in the Ol Jorowa gorge in the south of the park.

The tour guides have “been trained to detect storm water flowing downstream towards the gorge,” the KWS said.

“Every group is usually accompanied by experienced guides who are able to alert tourists of impending emergencies and direct them to exit points.

“Since the last similar tragedy in 2012, we have created clearly marked emergency exists along the whole gorge as escape routes in case of danger like the flash floods.”

It said on Sunday that the gorges were closed to the public as the rains are continuing.

Hell’s Gate, named by 19th-century explorers, is around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of the Kenyan capital Nairobi and just south of Lake Naivasha.

Its spectacular scenery inspired the Disney animation “The Lion King”.

The park, established in 1984, is also home to three geothermal stations.

AFP

Cattle Rustlers Kill 12 In Kenya

 

At least 12 people, including three children, were killed in two attacks in northern Kenya at the weekend by cattle rustlers suspected to be from the Borana ethnic group, Kenyan police said Sunday.

The attacks on two villages in Kenya’s Marsabit County near the border with Ethiopia were on cattle breeders from the Gabra ethnic group, long-time rivals of the Borana, police said in a statement.

“Five male Gabra adults were killed and three others were seriously injured” in one small village on Saturday evening, police said.

The attackers, who took around 500 head of cattle, were “suspected Ethiopian Borana cattle rustlers”, the police said.

In the other attack, on a nearby village, four Gabra adults and three children between the ages of 13 and 15, including one girl, were killed, with four people injured.

The thieves took around 1,000 goats in the second attack, in which one of the raiders was killed.

Kenyan police units are “pursuing the criminals and holding ground to prevent further attacks and killings,” the statement said.

Kenya started conducting its first national census since 2009 on Saturday, and the authorities said the exercise would continue in Marsabit.

The theft of livestock — and deadly attacks to carry out the crime — are common between cattle herding communities in northern Kenya.

Albino Teen Found Dismembered In Burundi

 

A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.

Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.

The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from DR Congo, not far from his home village.

“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm, and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.

READ ALSO: Indonesia Police Shoot Suspected Militant After Station Attack

More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home.

Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.

Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania — where such attacks are the most prevalent — has fuelled such killings in border areas.

Kenya’s Finance Minister Pleads Not Guilty To Graft Charges

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich (R) sits at the Milimani Law Court in Nairobi as he attends a hearing to face corruption charges, on July 23, 2019. SIMON MAINA / AFP

 

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to corruption charges linked to the construction of two dams, a rare example of a sitting minister facing court in the graft-wracked country. 

Rotich and about a dozen top officials appeared in a packed Nairobi court to be charged with financial crimes including fraud, abuse of office and receiving bribes, to which they replied in turn: “not true”.

Rotich handed himself over to police on Monday after the country’s top prosecutor ordered he and 27 other officials be arrested and charged over an alleged multi-million dollar corruption scandal.

READ ALSO: Former Gabon MP Jailed For Six Years Over Electoral Violence

Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti has said he will seek arrest warrants for suspects from an Italian firm contracted to build the dams, and for those in Kenya who have not yet handed themselves in.

Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti set bail for Rotich and his top administrator Kamau Thugge at 15 million shillings ($140,000) in cash or the option of a bond worth 50 million shillings.

He also ordered the two to stay away from their offices, which were “considered a scene of the crime”, during the trial.

 ‘Riddled with irregularities’ 

The two dams at the heart of the scandal were to be built in western Kenya to provide much-needed water and electricity to residents.

But chief prosecutor Noordin Haji said the conception, procurement and payment processes for the project was “riddled with irregularities”.

“Investigations established that government officials flouted all procurement rules and abused their oath of office to ensure the scheme went through,” he said.

The contract was awarded to Italian firm CMC di Ravenna in a manner Haji said flouted proper procurement procedures, and despite financial woes that forced the company into liquidation.

The same company had previously failed to complete three mega-dam projects.

According to the contract, the project was to cost $450 million (401 million euros), but the treasury had increased this amount by $164 million “without regard to performance or works,” said Haji.

 ‘Breach’ of trust 

Some $180 million has already been paid out, with no construction to show for it.

Another $6 million was paid for the resettlement of people living in areas that would be affected by the project, but there is no evidence of land being acquired for this, the chief prosecutor said.

“I am satisfied that economic crimes were committed and I have therefore approved their arrests and prosecutions,” Haji said Monday.

Rotich has held the finance ministry since 2013.

“The persons we are charging today were mandated with safeguarding our public interest and deliberately breached this trust,” according to Haji.

“Under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well-choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions.”

Dozens of top executives and government officials have been charged since last year, with President Uhuru Kenyatta vowing to combat corruption.

Kenyatta is the latest in a string of presidents to declare war on graft, but with a history littered with unsolved cases, many Kenyans see the scourge as an unavoidable fact of life.

AFP

Kenya’s Finance Minister, Others Arrested Amid Corruption Allegation

Finance Minister of Kenya, Henry Rotich speaks during a panel discussion on the State of the Africa Region at the World Bank IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, DC.  ZACH GIBSON / AFP

 

Kenya’s Finance Minister Henry Rotich and other treasury officials were arrested Monday on corruption and fraud charges over a multi-million dollar project to build two mega-dams, police said.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji had ordered the arrest and prosecution of Rotich and 27 other top officials on charges of fraud, abuse of office and financial misconduct in the latest scandal to rock graft-wracked Kenya.

Rotich, his principal secretary and the chief executive of Kenya’s environmental authority then presented themselves to the police.

“They are in custody now awaiting to be taken to court,” police chief George Kinoti told AFP.

“We are looking for (the) others and they will all go to court.”

Haji said the conception, procurement and payment processes for the dam project — part of a bid to improve water supply in the drought-prone country — was “riddled with irregularities”.

“Investigations established that government officials flouted all procurement rules and abused their oath of office to ensure the scheme went through,” said Haji.

He pointed to the awarding of the contract to Italian firm CMC di Ravenna in a manner that he said flouted proper procurement procedures, and despite financial woes that forced the company into liquidation and had led to it failing completely three other mega-dam projects.

According to the contract, the project was to cost a total of $450 million (401 million euros), but the treasury had increased this amount by $164 million “without regard to performance or works,” said Haji.

Some $180 million has already been paid out, with little construction to show for it.

Another $6 million was paid out for the resettlement of people living in areas that would be affected by the project, but there is no evidence of land being acquired for this, the chief prosecutor said.

“I am satisfied that economic crimes were committed and I have therefore approved their arrests and prosecutions,” said Haji.

‘Well-choreographed scheme’ 

“The persons we are charging today were mandated with safeguarding our public interest and deliberately breached this trust.

“Under the guise of carrying out legitimate commercial transactions, colossal amounts were unjustifiably and illegally paid out through a well-choreographed scheme by government officers in collusion with private individuals and institutions.”

Rotich has previously denied any wrongdoing in the scandal.

The dams scandal is one of several in the poverty-plagued country that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars of public money disappear due to fraud.

In 2017 Kenya fell to 143rd out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption index.

In March 2018, a damning report from the auditor general showed the government could not account for $400 million in public funds.

A string of top officials have been charged since last year as President Uhuru Kenyatta vows to combat corruption — a refrain weary Kenyans have heard from multiple presidents.

AFP

Kenya To Launch Africa’s Biggest Wind Farm

In this file photo taken on June 29, 2018 wind turbines of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project (LTWP), which have been standing idle for nearly a year, are seen in Loiyangalani district, Marsabit County, northern Kenya. YASUYOSHI CHIBA / AFP

 

Kenya will on Friday inaugurate Africa’s biggest wind power plant, a mammoth project in a gusty stretch of remote wilderness that now provides nearly a fifth of its energy needs.

The $680-million (600 million euro) project, a sprawling 365-turbine wind farm on the eastern shores of Lake Turkana, will deliver 310 megawatts of renewable power to the national grid of East Africa’s most dynamic economy.

The largest private investment in Kenya’s history, the Lake Turkana Wind Power project was beset with delays and took nearly a decade to rise from the arid landscape 600 kilometres (372 miles) north of Nairobi.

The Turkana project, lying in a natural corridor dubbed “the windiest place on earth”, is promised to harness this endless power at low cost, officials say.

“It has been an incredible journey. Clearly (this is) a very historic day,” Rizwan Fazal, the executive director of the Lake Turkana Power Project said ahead of a ceremony launching the project.

“It sends a very strong signal about Kenya being ripe for projects.”

The project, far more ambitious in scale than rivals elsewhere on the continent, has been closely watched as a case study of investing in renewables in Africa, where demand for energy is soaring as economies grow and populations swell.

In Kenya — which relies heavily on hydropower and geothermal — power is unreliable and costly, hindering business as energy-intensive sectors such as manufacturing look to take off.

READ ALSO: Two Killed, 12 Missing After Huge Blast Rocks China Gas Plant

President Uhuru Kenyatta has previously committed to 100 percent renewable energy for Kenya by 2020 — a pledge the government has been accused of betraying with plans to build a coal-fired power plant off the coast in Lamu.

That project — deemed unnecessary by experts — has been stalled by legal challenges.

The Turkana Corridor

The Lake Turkana wind plant, connected through a 428-kilometre power line to the national grid in Suswa, is now generating 15 percent of Kenya’s entire installed capacity.

The windmills, manufactured by Danish company Vestas, had to be brought one-by-one overland from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, some 1,200 kilometres away. More than 200 kilometres of road leading to the site had to be upgraded.

The nearly-50 metre turbines were engineered to handle the fierce gusts that tear through the “Turkana Corridor”, a wind tunnel that generates optimal conditions, year round.

The project involved years of planning and construction but the turbines went up quicker than one a day, with the last raised in March 2017, ahead of schedule.

But difficulties in financing the transmission line, being laid by state-owned power company Ketraco, and problems acquiring land, meant this landmark project didn’t connect to the grid for another 18 months — in September 2018.

The wind farm attracted a $200 million loan from the European Investment Bank, the EU’s lending facility, as well as finance from a consortium of European and African companies.

AFP

Eight Policemen Killed In Landmine Blast

 

Eight Kenyan police officers were killed Saturday when their vehicle ran over a landmine during a patrol near the border with Somalia, police said.

Police Inspector General Hilary Mutyambai said a Landcruiser with 11 police on board “was hit by an improvised explosive device”.

He did not give a toll but a regional police source told AFP: “We lost eight police officers in this attack”.

They had been on patrol between Khorof-Harar and Konton in Wajir county on the border between Kenya and Somalia, Mutyambai added.

Kenyan media had reported an attack on Konton Friday by Islamist Al-Shabaab insurgents who kidnapped three Kenyan police reservists. AFP has not been able to confirm the information.

The patrol hit in Saturday’s explosion was deployed in response to the reported incidents in Konton.

In June last year, eight Kenyan police were killed in a roadside bomb attack in the same region.

Wajir county and its neighbours Mandera and Garissa are frequently targeted in Shabaab attacks, notably security personnel deployed there to monitor the frontier.

The Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group has claimed several similar attacks targeting Kenyan police and soldiers.

The Shabaab has been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s fragile government, which is backed by a 20,000-strong African Union force, Amisom.

The insurgents fled fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.

But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.

The group has carried out a number of attacks in Kenya since 2011 in reprisal for the country’s participation in Amisom.

AFP

Tradition Meets Tech As Kenya’s Herders Adapt To Climate Change

Traditional Samburu tribeswomen gather their goats to be sold at Merille livestock market, some 411km north of Nairobi in Kenya’s Marsabit county, on April 30, 2019. PHOTO: TONY KARUMBA / AFP

For generations, Kaltuma Hassan’s clan would study the sky over Kenya’s arid north for any sign of rain — some wind here, a wisp of cloud there — to guide their parched livestock to water.

But such divination has been rendered hopeless by intensifying droughts. Days on foot can reveal nothing more than bone-dry riverbeds and grazing land baked to dust, sounding the death knell for their herd.

“You might go a long distance, and they die on the way… It is a very hard life,” Hassan told AFP in Marsabit, a sparse and drought-prone expanse where millions of pastoral families depend entirely on livestock to survive.

Today, she leaves less to chance.

The 42-year-old relies on detailed rainfall forecasts received via text message from a Kenyan tech firm to plan her migrations, a simple but life-changing resource for an ancient community learning to adapt to increasing weather extremes.

Nomadic livestock herders in East Africa’s drylands have endured climate variability for millennia, driving their relentless search for water and pasture in some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain.

But their resilience is being severely tested by climate change, forcing a rethink to traditional wisdom passed down for generations.

Kenya endures a severe drought every three to five years, the World Bank says, but they are increasing in frequency and intensity, and temperatures are rising too.

With conditions ever-more unreliable, Hassan no longer relies on warriors she once dispatched to scout for suitable grazing land for her cattle.

“They wake up very early in the morning and they look at the clouds, they look at the moon, to predict. I use this now,” she said, scrolling through customised weather updates on her phone, sent via SMS in Rendille, a local language.

The service uses advanced weather data from US agricultural intelligence firm aWhere to provide subscribers with rain and forage conditions for the week ahead in their locality.

The forecasts are sent as text messages, so they are compatible with basic phones often used by pastoralists in remote areas.

Kenyan IT firm Amfratech, which launched the SMS service earlier this year, has also rolled out a more advanced app-based version. They hope to eventually sign up tens of thousands of pastoralists.

Dry skies

Rainfall — the difference between feast and famine in East Africa and the Horn — is more erratic than ever, arriving late or not at all.

A long dry spell can set a pastoral family back years and erode their capacity to handle future shocks, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said in a 2018 report.

A second blow in quick succession can leave them teetering on starvation.

Such a crisis is already brewing in Kenya’s pastoral country to the north and over its borders in neighbouring arid regions.

This year’s so-called long rains failed to arrive, putting millions at risk. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned that hunger in pastoral areas will worsen in coming months.

“It doesn’t rain like it once did,” said Nandura Pokodo, at a dusty livestock market in Merille, an outpost in Kenya’s northern pastoralist heartland. Nobody wants his drought-weary animals, so he will return home empty-handed.

“It’s harder to find pasture… year after year.”

As the rains failed, Pokodo, 55, wandered for days between March and April in search of grazing land but found nothing. He lost 20 goats and sheep — a ruinous outcome for nomads whose fortunes are intertwined with their beasts.

“Even if you have a million shillings but have no goats or sheep or camel, they consider you very poor,” said Daniel Kapana, the head of Merille market, and an intergenerational herder himself.

 Turn to technology

The text messages have also helped Samuel Lkiangis Lekorima protect not just his livestock, but the safety of his community.

Longer, harsher droughts have stoked intense competition between pastoralists for ever-scarcer water and pasture. A feud between two groups over a watering hole near Ethiopia left 11 dead in May, local media reported.

Lekorima, a 22-year-old herder from Marsabit, said advance knowledge of rainfall helped keep his people wandering far, and avoid any potential tensions with distant clans.

“When I get that message, I phone people (and) tell them… don’t go far away, because there is rain soon,” he told AFP.

Other modern interventions are also playing a part, helping protect not just pastoralists but a sector that contributes more than 12 percent to Kenya’s GDP, according to the World Bank.

The Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute uses satellite imagery to determine when pasture levels are critically low — a portent of livestock death.

Some insurance products are linked to this index and issue payments before drought hits, so pastoralists can buy enough fodder for lean times ahead. Tens of thousands of herders have signed up, industry groups say.

“A drought should no longer be an emergency,” said Thomas Were, of CTA, an EU-funded institution that is driving a pastoralist-resilience project in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Helima Osman Bidu, a traditional herder and mother-of-three, has joined a women’s collective that invests in non-livestock related enterprises, another approach to drought-proofing the family finances.

“It is good to have something on the side,” she told AFP, nodding to a padlocked metal box nearby containing the group’s seed money.

AFP

Former Athletics Chief Banned For 10 Years Over Corrupt Practice

Courtesy: www.iaaf.org

Kenya’s former athletics team manager Michael Rotich has been banned for 10 years for agreeing to provide advance notice to athletes of doping tests in exchange for money, the IAAF announced on Wednesday.

Rotich was exposed by two undercover journalists from the Sunday Times in an article published in August 2016 and was sent home in disgrace from the Olympic Games in Rio which were underway at the time.

He was also provisionally banned by the IAAF from his coaching job.

In a statement Wednesday an IAAF’s Ethics Board panel said Rotich had offered to warn athletes of impending tests so they could flush doping substances from their system in order to circumvent tests.

He also offered to provide excuses which athletes could use to avoid being penalised for missing tests.

“The panel reiterates that the charges which it has found to be established are serious,” the statement said.

“The conduct of Major Rotich was dishonest and corrupt. He sought to undermine anti-doping controls and to obtain a personal financial benefit in doing so.”

The two Sunday Times journalists posing as the sports manager and coach of a fictional British athletics team met Rotich three times in early 2016, according to the Ethics panel.

They were promised advance warning of doping tests in return for £10,000 ($12,600, 11,300 euros).

The statement said that it had found no evidence that Rotich did in fact provide advance notice of doping tests nor that he had ever received payments.

“However the panel has found that Major Rotich acted corruptly and in deliberate violation of core principles of the Code (of Ethics), it said.

AFP

Ancient Giant ‘Lion’ Discovered In Kenya

 

A giant lion with enormous fangs that roamed the Kenyan savannah more than 20 million years ago was one of the largest ever meat-eating mammals, researchers said Thursday.

A team unearthed the lower jaw, teeth and other bones of a new species, Simbakubwa kutokaafrika — Swahili for “big African lion”.

They calculated it would have weighed up to 1,500 kilogrammes and could have preyed upon the elephant-like creatures that lived there at the time.

READ ALSO: Ekrem Imamoglu Declared New Mayor Of Istanbul

“Based on its massive teeth, Simbakubwa was a specialised hyper-carnivore that was significantly larger than the modern lion and possibly larger than a polar bear,” said Matthew Borths, from Duke University, who co-led the research with Ohio University.

An artist’s impression of the creature shows a giant big-cat-like hunter with stripey fur and enormous fangs.

The team behind the study, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, said Simbakubwa lived in what is modern-day Kenya around 23 million years ago, a key period in the evolution of carnivorous mammals.

They said the discovery could shed light on how supersized predators and prey evolved over millions of years around the end of the Paleogene epoch — the period where mammals grew from tiny rodents into many diverse species.