COVID-19 Impact Could Kill Over 50,000 Children In MENA – UN

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

UN agencies warned Monday that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to the deaths of an additional 51,000 under-fives in the Middle East and North Africa by the end of the year.

The World Health Organisation and United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said the disruption of essential health and nutrition services risked “reversing progress (on) child survival in the region by nearly two decades”.

“While we do not have many cases of COVID-19 among children in the region, it is evident that the pandemic is affecting children’s health firsthand,” the agencies warned.

“An additional 51,000 children under the age of five might die in the region by the end of 2020” in the case of rising malnutrition and a protracted lack of access to vaccinations and treatment for childhood diseases.

Such a number of extra deaths would represent an increase of almost 40 percent over pre-COVID-19 figures, they said in a joint statement issued in Amman.

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The agencies called for a “full and safe resumption” of essential immunisation campaigns and nutrition services, following “strict precautionary measures for infection prevention”.

The agencies cited overstretched health facilities with little personal protective equipment, economic hardships and parents’ fears of contracting the COVID-19 illness at health clinics among factors that could cause a huge rise in child deaths.

“But we can avoid this scenario, allowing tens of thousands of children to celebrate their fifth birthday surrounded by their families and friends,” they said.

They urged authorities to work “to increase trust in public health systems and promote appropriate care-seeking behaviours among families”.

AFP

UK, U.S. Ban Electronic Devices On Flights

UK, U.S. Ban Electronic Devices On FlightsThe United States and United Kingdom have announced a new ban on laptops on passenger flights from the Middle East and some North African countries.

The British ban, which was announced a few hours after the American ban, was similar but applied to different airlines.

According to the UK, airline passengers on 14 carriers would not be able to carry laptops in cabin luggage on inbound direct flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

In its reaction, Turkey condemned the U.S. ban as wrong, and advised it be reversed.

The nine airlines affected by the U.S. ban are Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Arlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The ban takes effect on Saturday, with no end date in sight.

Plane Reportedly Crashes In South Sudan

Plane Reportedly Crashes In South SudanA plane reportedly crashed on Monday in South Sudan.

An aid worker in the North African country disclosed that no death has been recorded yet in the incident.

Although the cause of the crash has not been uncovered, emergency workers are on ground to ensure safe evacuation of passengers from the plane.

A source close to Channels Television said dozens of locals were also on ground to assist the emergency workers.

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FA Cup Broadcast Rights: FA Signs New Overseas Deal

FA Cup Broadcast RightsThe Football Association has announced its agreement for a new six-season overseas broadcast rights deal for the FA Cup, starting from the 2018-19 season.

BBC says Pitch International would have coverage rights for Western Europe, Middle East and North Africa while IMG is expected to cover the rest of the world.

Both firms would commission deals to broadcasters while domestic rights would remain with the BBC and BT Sport.

The deal also includes rights for The FA Community Shield and The FA Youth Cup.

The FA Chief Executive, Martin Glenn, described the deal, which is reportedly worth one billion pounds, as “hugely significant”.

Glenn said it would allow more investment in pitches, facilities and participation programmes.

“It is not overstating it to say that it could have a transformational impact on what we are able to achieve across the country.

“It also underlines the global popularity of The Emirates FA Cup.

“With its history and tradition, it has the remarkable ability to create fantastic stories and inspire fans, players and clubs to believe anything is possible,” said the FA chief.

UK Parliament Attacks Cameron Over Libya ‘Collapse’

David Cameron, Libya, UKIt does seem like the ghost of former Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, is coming back to haunt western leaders as a UK parliamentary report sternly criticised the intervention by Britain and France that led to the 2011 Libyan revolution.

The Foreign Affairs Committee accused the former UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, of lacking a coherent strategy for the air campaign.

It said the intervention was flawed as it lacked “accurate intelligence”, and that it led to the emergence of the Islamic State in North Africa.

However, BBC said the UK government insisted it had been an international decision to intervene.

According to the foreign office, the action had been called for by the Arab League and authorised by the UN Security Council.

Nigeria Wins Under-23 African Nations’ Championship

Under-23Nigeria’s Under-23 team on Saturday defeated Algeria in the final of the Under-23 Africa Nations Championship to become African Champions for the first time.

Nigeria opened scoring from the penalty spot through Oghenekaro Etebo after Victor Osimhen was brought down in the 12th minute.

Defender Olusegun Oduduwa put the score line at 1-1 with a headed own goal to help the Algerians get back in the game before Oghenekaro Etebo produced a fine run to score his second goal of the match making it  2-1 for Nigeria in the 40th minute.

Algeria were awarded their own penalty in the second half after Oduduwa again fouled an Algerian player but the Nigerian goalkeeper, Emmanuel Daniel, became the hero as he saved Zinedine Ferhat’s effort.

Oghenekaro Etebo finished as the tournament’s top scorer.

Nigeria’s semi final victory over hosts, Senegal had ensured they also qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Saturday’s final clash at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor in Dakar, Senegal, was third time Nigeria and Algeria have met at the Under-23 level since the inaugural competition in Morocco in 2011.

Nigeria thrashed the North Africans 4-1 four years ago, before they played a goalless draw in a group game at the just concluded tournament in Senegal.

 

Dream Team Not Under Pressure – Siasia

siasiaDream Team VI Coach, Samson Siasia, has revealed that his team will go into Saturday’s final game against Algeria in a more relaxed mood, after qualifying for Rio 2016 Olympics.

Siasia said he is very happy to be in the finals of the CAF U-23 Nations Cup.

He said that the tournament has been a very long journey, with a lot of ups and downs.

The team captain, Azubuike Okechukwu, who just served out his one -match suspension, dismissed insinuations that the players are under pressure to win the Africa U-23 Cup of Nations, but that they will ensure they do the country proud.

Taiwo Awoniyi will also be feature in the Algeria clash. The striker is back in training after an ankle injury kept him out of Wednesday’s semi-final against hosts, Senegal.

Nigeria will lock horns with Algeria at the Stade Léopold Sédar Senghor in Dakar, 8pm Nigerian time.

Saturday’s clash will make it the third time both teams will meet at the U-23 level since the inaugural competition in Morocco in 2011.

Nigeria thrashed the North Africans 4-1 four years ago, before they played a goalless draw in a group game in Senegal.

Spain, Morocco Arrest 14 Suspected ISIS Recruiters

ISISThe Spanish Interior Ministry says 14 people have been arrested in Spain and Morocco on suspicion of recruiting fighters for ISIS.

According to reporters, the suspects were arrested in Madrid and several locations in Morocco during a joint operation involving both countries.

The men were accused of being part of a networking that recruits and sends fighters to join the ranks of terror group, ISIS.

The operation came days after a 26-year-old Moroccan man was accused of attacking passengers on a train in France, armed with a Kalashnikov, an assault rifle and a box cutter knife.

Spain and other countries in Europe and North Africa have said they are alarmed about the risk of locals joining militants abroad and returning to launch attacks at home.

U.S. Issues Global Travel Alert, Cites al Qaeda Threat

The United States issued a worldwide travel alert on Friday warning Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

The State Department travel alert was based on the same intelligence that prompted it to close 21 U.S. embassies and consulates on Sunday, August 4, chiefly those in the Muslim world, a U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” its statement said.

“Current information suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” it added, saying the travel alert would expire on August 31.

Among the most prominent of al Qaeda’s affiliates is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based group whose attempted attacks included the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

U.S. security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the threat was related to AQAP but there was not a specific target. They also said that it was aimed at Western interests, an assessment later confirmed by the top U.S. military officer.

“The intent is to attack Western, not just U.S. interests,” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News in an interview to be broadcast on its “This Week” program on Sunday.

“There is a significant threat stream and we’re reacting to it,” he said, adding that the kind of potential attack was “unspecified.”

Britain said it would close its embassy in Yemen on Sunday and Monday. “We are particularly concerned about the security situation in the final days of Ramadan and into Eid,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement, referring to the Muslim holy month which ends on Wednesday.

‘SOME SPECIFICITY’

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the threat was serious and that the U.S. government had reacted in such a dramatic manner “because we have some specificity but not enough.”

On Thursday, the State Department said U.S. embassies that would normally be open on Sunday – chiefly those in the Muslim world – would be closed that day because of security concerns, adding that they might be shut for a longer period.

The embassies in the following countries will be closed: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The consulates in Arbil, Iraq; Dhahran and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates will also be shut.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, which is normally closed to the public on Sunday, said all its facilities would be shut on Sunday and workers not essential for the building’s security had been told not to come in.

It also said the American Center in Jerusalem and the Haifa Consular Agency would be closed on Sunday.

While the U.S. State Department routinely releases what it describes as a “Worldwide Caution” warning U.S. citizens of the general potential danger of attacks around the world, Friday’s travel alert was based on more specific information, said one U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The previous “Worldwide Caution” was issued on February 19.

U.S. officials declined to provide additional details about the intelligence that led them to close the diplomatic missions and to issue the worldwide travel alert.

However, a second U.S. official said there was no information on a specific target, which was the reason for the broad alert.

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce, said on CNN’s “New Day” that he and several other lawmakers met two days ago with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss the threat.

Later on MSNBC, Royce said: “I believe that it is probably now prudent, given the fact that, in this case, we do have this intelligence, to take this step to make certain that we have fully protected our embassy personnel.”

Al Qaeda Calls for New Recruits To Fight France

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has appealed for new recruits from North African Arab countries in its fight against what it said was France’s Crusader campaign in Mali, a U.S.-based intelligence monitoring website reported on Sunday.

SITE said the appeal was posted on websites used by AQIM on Saturday, urging Islamist militants being pursued by their governments to join its fighters battling French-led forces in Mali or Algeria.

France launched a ground and air operation in Mali in January to break Islamist rebels’ hold on the region, saying the militants posed a risk to the security of West Africa and Europe.

“The front of the Islamic Maghreb today is in direst need of the support of the sons of Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Mauritania, to thwart the attack of Crusader France and defeat its agents in the region, and empower the Islamic project,” AQIM said, according to a translation of the statement emailed by SITE.

However, AQIM also said that if Islamist youths in North Africa could have a greater impact in their own countries, they should stay to fight secularism and push for the imposition of sharia-based rule.

France’s offensive has wrested northern Mali from Islamist occupation and killed scores of fighters. Other rebels have retreated into mountain caves and desert hiding places stocked with arms and supplies.

The Algerian army in January killed at least 32 al-Qaeda- linked militants in an assault to end a siege at a desert gas plant in which 23 hostages were killed, many of them foreigners.

Twitter Launches Advertising Services In Middle East

Twitter Inc. on Sunday launched an advertising service in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as the social media firm seeks to exploit a tripling of its regional subscriber base following its widespread use during the Arab Spring protests.

Digital advertising is relatively undeveloped in the region, accounting for an estimated 4 percent of its total advertising spending, tech-savvy population and rising Internet penetration points to significant potential for growth.

“The two are interconnected – the rapid growth of our user base with the timing of why we want to help brands connect with that audience,” said Shailesh Rao, Twitter vice-president for international operations.

Twitter does not provide a regional breakdown of its more than 200 million users worldwide, but Rao said its MENA subscriber base had tripled in the past 12 months.

The company has recruited Egypt’s Connect Ads, owned by Cairo-listed Orascom Telecom Media and Technology, to launch advertising initially in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Twitter Inc. has named Pepsi and Saudi telecom operator Etihad Etisalat (Mobile) as confirmed clients.

Twitter says the products it promotes typically has an audience response rate of 1 to 3 percent, significantly higher than traditional advertising rate of 0.1 to 0.5 percent.

“Social media advertising is totally different because it relies on what people say. It’s about two-way, not one-way, communication,” said Mohamed El Mehairy, Connect Ads managing director.

Boko Haram Threatens Africa – Jonathan

West Africa, Central Africa and North Africa are all at risk if the threat of the radical sect, Boko Haram is not contained.

This is according to President Goodluck Jonathan who in a CNN interview on Wednesday stated that the sect has linked up with some of Al Qaeda terrorists in northern Mali and other North African countries.

The President had earlier stated in his presentation at the World Economic Forum holding in Davos, Switzerland  that terrorism in the African continent is being fuelled by the attractive rewards it offers terrorists, from hostage-taking to drug trafficking and instigating crises in different countries.

He added that Africa needs the cooperation and support of the international community to deal with the problem on the continent.

President Jonathan also pointed out that the deployment of Nigerian troops to troubled Mali is to prevent it from spilling over into other West African countries.

In the interview with CNN, President Jonathan admitted that initially Boko Haram caught Nigeria off guard but that the country is now making progress to contain the sect.

The President also denied suggestions from the US State Department that the officers of the Nigerian military and the Joint Task Force, battling the sect members have carried out indiscriminate killing in their counter insurgency.

He warned that unless the crisis is properly handled, Africa risks being overrun by terrorists who have the potential of destabilizing investments on the continent.

At the end of his interview on CNN, the President promised that power supply will improve reasonably by the end of 2013.