Inequality, Inflation Hurting Pandemic Recovery, Says IMF

In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

The global economic bounceback from the Covid-19 crisis will downshift this year as countries struggle with rising prices, high debt loads and divergent recoveries in which poor nations are slipping behind wealthier ones, the leader of the IMF will warn on Tuesday.

While the Washington-based crisis lender has hundreds of billions of dollars in new firepower to help countries recover from the catastrophe, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said factors from rising food prices to unequal vaccine access were taking a toll.

“We face a global recovery that remains ‘hobbled’ by the pandemic and its impact. We are unable to walk forward properly,” Georgieva said, according to prepared remarks released by the IMF ahead of her Tuesday speech at Bocconi University in Milan.

The Washington-based crisis lender will release new growth forecasts next week, but Georgieva warned “we now expect growth to moderate slightly this year” from the six percent forecast in July, and “the risks and obstacles to a balanced global recovery have become even more pronounced.”

These include a widening divergence between rich countries and poor countries in the trajectories of their recovery from the pandemic.

“Economic output in advanced economies is projected to return to pre-pandemic trends by 2022. But most emerging and developing countries will take many more years to recover,” Georgieva said.

“This delayed recovery will make it even more difficult to avoid long-term economic scarring — including from job losses, which hit young people, women and informal workers especially hard.”

 

More Firepower

Georgieva’s speech in Italy comes ahead of the fall meetings of the IMF and World Bank, where the former will unveil its latest World Economic Outlook offering forecasts on an array of topics.

Since their previous report in July, the IMF’s toolkit for dealing with global crises was greatly expanded with a $650 billion increase in cash reserves for member nations known as Special Drawing Rights.

These reserves, $275 billion of which went to emerging and developing nations, give countries funds to draw on as their economies recover. In her speech, Georgieva calls on countries that don’t need them to channel them into the fund’s anti-poverty programs.

Georgieva likened the global recovery from the pandemic to “walking with stones in our shoes” and said it could get off track.

Italy and other European nations are seeing their economies accelerate but the world’s economic titans the United States and China are experiencing slowing momentum, she says.

“By contrast, in many other countries, growth continues to worsen, hampered by low access to vaccines and constrained policy response,” Georgieva said, adding “this divergence in economic fortunes is becoming more persistent.”

 

Debt Equal To GDP

One reason for this is inflation, which has crept up across the world. Food prices have risen by more than 30 percent over the past year, Georgieva said, and energy prices have also increased.

The fund expects the spikes to abate next year, but they’ll continue in emerging and developing economies, Georgieva said.

Then there’s global public debt, which she estimated has hit nearly 100 percent of GDP.

Closing these gaps will require measures including increasing Covid-19 vaccine availability, but Georgieva said, “a bigger push” is required to meet the IMF and World Bank targets of 40 percent vaccination worldwide by the end of this year and 70 percent in the first half of 2022.

She also called on countries to seize the opportunity to make economic reforms aimed at cutting carbon emission, building digital infrastructure, and establishing a global minimum tax to curb the offshoring of corporate taxes.

Georgieva spoke amid the ongoing fallout from an independent investigation last month that found during her time at the World Bank, she was among top officials who pressured staff into changing data to China’s benefit in the 2018 edition of its closely watched Doing Business report.

AFP

Beijing Olympics Rules Out Overseas Fans Over COVID-19 Threat

Employees work at the athletes’ village for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Zhangjiakou in northern China’s Hebei province on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Noel CELIS / AFP)

 

February’s Beijing Winter Olympics will be held without overseas spectators and athletes must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus or face 21 days’ quarantine, the International Olympic Committee said.

The measures, which do allow spectators who are living in mainland China, were revealed with the Games just four months away and after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics similarly juggled with how to go ahead safely during the pandemic.

The Tokyo Games, which were postponed by a year because of the health crisis, mostly took place without any spectators to prevent infections.

Another difference from Tokyo will be that all participants must be vaccinated or will need to do a 21-day quarantine on arrival in the Chinese capital. Athletes who can provide a “justified medical exemption” will have their cases considered.

All attendees will enter a strict “bubble” as soon as they land that covers Games-related areas and stadiums as well as accommodation, transport, catering and the opening and closing ceremonies.

The decisions, announced by the IOC but taken by Chinese organisers, are a foretaste of a package of measures to be released in October designed to prevent the Games from turning into a source of contamination.

All domestic and international games participants and workforce in the bubble, known as the “closed-loop management system”, will be tested daily.

The 2022 Beijing Olympics, which is facing calls for a boycott from rights groups, is scheduled for February 4-20.

The IOC said that allowing domestic fans “will facilitate the growth of winter sports in China by giving those spectators a first-hand Olympic and Paralympic experience of elite winter sports, as well as bringing a favourable atmosphere to the venues”.

Speaking at Beijing’s Olympic Park on Thursday, locals said that safety must come first, even if that means foreign fans missing out.

“I think it’s the right thing to do because foreign spectators can watch it broadcast live,” said Zhang Xinyu, 29.

“But if there are a lot of people travelling, it won’t be safe for either the athletes or the foreign guests.”

China, where the coronavirus emerged towards the end of 2019, has wrestled down the number of local infections to a trickle by deploying aggressive, mass testing and keeping its borders extremely tight.

AFP

Rising Food Prices Deepen The Woes Of World’s Poorest

People buy and sell food at the Illaje market, in Bariga, Lagos, on June 29, 2021. Since the start of the pandemic in 2019, food prices have risen by an average of more than 22%, according to official statistics, and feeding a family properly has become a daily challenge. Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP

 

Global food prices are rising at their fastest rate in a decade, exacerbating the troubles of the world’s most vulnerable nations as they struggle with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is worried that soaring prices could foment further social unrest in countries already mired in political turmoil.

Here is a look at the situation worldwide:

Where Are Food Prices Headed?

According to the FAO, food prices were nearly 40 percent higher in May than a year ago, the sharpest increase since September 2011.

On a 12-month basis, the price of corn has skyrocketed by 88 percent, soybean by 73 percent, grain and dairy products by 38 percent, sugar by 34 per cent and meat by 10 percent.

“Obviously, it’s very concerning,” said Arif Husain, chief economist of the World Food Programme.

In 2007-2008, brutal increases in the price of basic foodstuffs sparked riots in a number of cities around the world. Peaking in 2010-2011, the price rises acted as a harbinger for the Arab Spring uprisings.

What is driving the phenomenon?

The global economy is rebounding but inflation is also rising as governments have spent huge sums on stimulus programmes after the pandemic brought economic activity to a standstill last year.

China, which the World Bank projects will notch up growth of 8.5 percent in 2021, is gobbling up basic foodstuffs such as oilseed, cereals and meat.

“It really is China which is currently fuelling the surge in food prices,” said economist Philippe Chalmin.

The US economy is also expected to bounce back strongly, with the World Bank projecting a growth of 6.8 per cent this year.

But the economic recovery is “very uneven” across the world, with developing nations facing higher import bills while their income is not growing, said Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of the FAO’s trade and markets division.

Other factors behind the surge in prices include a drought in Brazil, which is driving up corn prices, rebounding oil prices and an explosion in sea freight costs.

How long will it last? That is difficult to say.

For the moment, harvests are projected to be very good.

The US Department of Agriculture is forecasting record crop production for 2021-2022 and also record harvests of Brazilian soybean and American corn. If these materialise, that will help ease the price situation.

But climate conditions could be a wild card in such projections.

The FAO’s Schmidhuber believes that prices will remain relatively high this year, notably if oil prices go up as the agriculture sector consumes a lot of energy.

“If they rise, food prices will remain high for a long period of time”.

For FAO economist Abdolreza Abbassian, “the only thing we know is that the food market is going to be even more volatile in the future than it was in the past”.

What is the impact for poor countries?

In a range of countries currently facing other “shocks”, such as Covid-19, food price inflation currently stands at more than 20 percent, said WFP’s Arif Husain.

Lebanon is facing a grave financial and economic crisis that has sent its currency into tailspin and brought the country close to default. There, the rate of food price inflation stood at 226 percent on a 12-month basis in May, according to the website Trading Economics.

In Argentina, the government suspended beef imports for a month in mid-May as food price inflation skyrocketed.

According to the World Bank, high inflation in Nigeria, fuelled by sharp increases in foodstuff prices, has plunged another seven million people into poverty.

“Prices are going up, but at the same time people’s incomes are decimated because of Covid,” said WFP’s Husain.

“A poor person gets squeezed because prices go up and at the same time they have no money,” he said, pointing out that conflicts were the main cause of food insecurity.

Will it trigger social unrest?

FAO economist Abbassian said there was “no evidence that countries are any better prepared than they were 10 years ago” for such price volatility.

“More or less the same countries which were in the forefront of the riots and political instability 10 years ago, today can easily find themselves in exactly the same situation: waking up in the morning and find prices have gone up very rapidly,” the economist said.

However, unlike a decade ago, when rocketing food prices were clearly the main cause of social discontent, now they were “one along many other issues”.

Rich countries, Abbassian said, have to be “prepared for upheavals” in Africa, Latin America and Asia.

“Discontent is so widely spread now”.

For social unrest to erupt, “all you need is a little spark. It can be food prices, or energy prices, or simply bad rain.”

COVID-19: Death Toll In US Surpasses 600,000 – Johns Hopkins

In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container.
Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP

 

The death toll in the US from the Covid-19 pandemic on Tuesday surpassed 600,000 according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, with President Joe Biden mourning the latest “sad milestone” and urging Americans to press on with vaccinations.

The United States has racked up by far the largest death toll of the pandemic, ahead of Brazil and India.

“There’s still too many lives being lost,” Biden said, noting that the daily number of dead has dropped sharply since the peak of the pandemic but that the continuing loss of life was still “a real tragedy.”

“My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one,” Biden said, speaking on Monday in Brussels as the tally ticked close to 600,000.

“We have more work to do to beat this virus. And now’s not the time to let our guard down. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The massive vaccination campaign has been pushed by US health authorities since the authorization of the first vaccines in December, and peaked in April, with up to more than four million shots a day.

But the pace has slowed rapidly since then, and unvaccinated people still remain vulnerable to the disease.

Just over 52 percent of the US population, or 174 million people, have already received at least one dose of one of the three vaccines authorized in the country, according to health officials.

Biden has set a goal of 70 percent of adults to have received at least one shot by the national holiday of July 4, but the program may fall short of that goal.

Japan Births Hit New Record Low In Pandemic

(FILE PHOTO) A member of the medical staff surveys one of nine babies kept in incubators, a day after they were born to a Malian woman at clinic in the western Moroccan city of Casablanca, on May 5, 2021. 

 

 

The number of babies born in Japan hit a new record low last year, official data showed, highlighting concern over the pandemic’s impact on one of the world’s lowest fertility rates.

In 2020, the greying country saw 840,832 births, according to data released Thursday by the health and labour ministry.

Politicians have expressed concern that the population of the world’s third-largest economy is shrinking faster than ever, with couples hesitant to reproduce as the pandemic fuels financial instability and fears over hospital trips.

A declining number of births is a common trend among rich nations, and Japan has long been searching for ways to encourage a baby boom.

Its giant neighbour China this week announced it will allow couples to have three children after a census showed its population is also rapidly ageing.

Japan’s net decline in population, 531,816, was a record high while the birth rate — the average number of children a woman has — declined to 1.34, the data showed.

The number of marriages, 525,490, also hit a low not seen since the end of World War II, while the number of divorces also declined.

Taiwan Blames China For Latest WHO Meeting Snub

A community park, closed due to social distancing measures following a spike in Covid-19 coronavirus cases, is seen in Taipei’s Wenshan district on May 22, 2021. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP)

 

Taiwan hit out at China on Monday over its continued exclusion from a crucial annual gathering of World Health Organization members this week focused on averting the next pandemic catastrophe.

On the first day of the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA), the UN health agency’s 194 member states decided once again not to even discuss whether or not Taiwan should be allowed to participate.

This year’s assembly will arguably be one of the most important in the WHO’s history amid calls to revamp the organisation and the entire global approach to health in the wake of the

But Taiwan — which had one of the world’s best pandemic responses — remains locked out for the fifth consecutive year.

That is because China, which views the self-governed democracy as part of its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, has waged an increasingly assertive campaign to keep Taipei isolated on the world stage.

Taiwan continued to plead Monday for access to the assembly, with foreign minister Joseph Wu urging the WHO to “maintain a professional and neutral stance, reject China’s political interference” and allow Taiwan’s participation.

But the WHO’s main decision-making body decided against even discussing the matter.

More than a dozen mainly small island states had proposed including discussion of whether or not to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer on the WHA agenda.

But a committee advised against doing so and the countries agreed to follow it without a vote.

– ‘Politicising’ –

Several Taiwan supporters spoke up, with a representative from Nauru warning that “Taiwan’s exclusion contradicts the fundamental principles and objectives” of WHO.

“The political pressure… from one country should not legitimise the continued exclusion of Taiwan.”

Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, meanwhile slammed attempts to include Taiwan, and called on countries “to stop politicising health issues and using the Taiwan issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Beijing’s block on Taipei attending the WHA as an observer began after the 2016 election of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused to acknowledge the island is part of “one China”.

But the coronavirus pandemic crystallised support for Taiwan’s 23 million inhabitants, especially in the early days of the crisis when it defeated its own outbreak and then began supplying protection equipment around the world.

Taiwan has been hailed as an example in combating the pandemic although clusters in recent weeks have seen infections more than triple to 4,917 cases.

The island has recorded 29 deaths so far.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung said the recent “escalation” of cases showed Taiwan “cannot remain on the sidelines and there should not be a gap in global disease prevention”.

“The WHO should serve the health and welfare of all humanity and not capitulate to the political interests of a certain member,” Chen said in a statement.

International support for Taiwan has been stronger this year, including a communique issued by G7 foreign ministers that backed Taiwan’s “meaningful participation in WHO and the WHA”.

In a separate announcement on Monday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) blamed “external forces” for a flood of online disinformation during the latest cluster such as hospitals dumping bodies in rivers and mass cremations.

While officials did not name China, they said much of the disinformation going viral was written in the simplified Chinese used on the mainland, not the traditional characters used in Taiwan.

“Spreading disinformation is a very serious matter, it interferes with our country’s anti-pandemic measures and responses while causing unnecessary panic among the public,” CECC deputy chief Chen Tsung-yen said.

AFP

Experts Call For New Standards To Combat Airborne Disease

A health worker wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) suits attends a Covid-19 coronavirus patient inside a Covid-19 ward at the SRN hospital, in Allahabad on May 3, 2021. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)

 

Building standards need to undergo a “paradigm shift” to better protect against airborne diseases, a group of experts said Thursday, drawing on hard-won lessons from the Covid pandemic.

Future building designs must incorporate increased ventilation and air-cleaning measures, including filtration and disinfection using both filters and ultraviolet devices, they wrote in the journal Science.

This comes as accumulating data suggest that tiny particles containing the coronavirus that are released by breathing, speaking, sneezing, and coughing are a major driver of Covid spread.

The 39 experts, who include some of the world’s foremost environmental engineers, noted that there was a marked disparity in the way governments regulated food safety, sanitation and drinking water compared to airborne pathogens.

Aerial transmission of diseases wasn’t recognized for a long time, the authors wrote, because “it is much harder to trace airborne infections,” while food and water contamination nearly always come from an easily identifiable source.

“Airborne studies are much more difficult to conduct because air as a contagion medium is nebulous, widespread, not owned by anybody and uncontained.”

What’s more, “most modern building construction has occurred subsequent to a decline in the belief that airborne pathogens are important” and therefore lack design and construction elements to mitigate the risk.

“The ventilation rate will differ for different venues according to the activities conducted there,” they said, with higher rates required for exercising in gyms compared to resting in movie theaters.

Rates will also have to differ depending on the type of pathogen that is currently prevalent, given that emission rates and infectious doses vary.

It is also important to add control systems to adjust energy use and prevent air pollution from outside contaminants indoors, the paper added.

The authors called for global indoor air quality standards (IAQ) led by the World Health Organization and the development of comprehensive standards by national governments and professional bodies.

They also called for wide use of monitors, so that members of the public are aware of the air quality in the indoor spaces they share.

“A paradigm shift is needed on the scale that occurred when Chadwick’s Sanitary Report in 1842 led the British government to encourage cities to organize clean water supplies and centralized sewage systems,” they concluded.

 

IMF Projects Stronger 2021 Growth Amid Pandemic Rebound

In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP
In this file photo an exterior view of the building of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with the IMG logo, is seen on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier DOULIERY / AFP

 

Accelerated vaccinations and a flood of government spending, especially in the United States, have boosted the outlook for the global economy, but more must be done to prevent permanent scars, the IMF said Tuesday.

The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook now sees world growth of 6.0 percent this year after the contraction of 3.3 percent in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic — the worst peacetime downturn since the Great Depression a century before.

Rapid government responses prevented a much worse outcome, a collapse that could have been “at least three times as large,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said.

The United States, which deployed another $1.9 trillion last month, is expected to grow by 6.4 percent, among the fastest expansions in the world and 1.3 points higher than the January forecast.

Meanwhile, China’s economy, one of few that grew last year, will expand 8.4 percent in 2021, the IMF said.

The Euro Area too will see GDP expand 4.4 percent, slightly better than the prior forecast.

Gopinath said that “even with high uncertainty about the path of the pandemic, a way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible.”

However, she stressed that the health crisis remains the critical factor in the economic recovery, and the slow rollout of vaccinations to many developing countries fuel risks not just of a worsening Covid-19 outbreak, but also a more troubling future for those nations and a widening gap with rich countries.

“The outlook presents daunting challenges related to divergences in the speed of recovery both across and within countries and the potential for persistent economic damage from the crisis,” she said in the forward to the report.

As the pandemic caused business and trade shutdowns, the damage done to developing nation economies slashed per capita income and “reversed gains in poverty reduction,” she said.

The IMF calculates that an additional 95 million people expected to have entered the ranks of the extreme poor in 2020, and there are 80 million more undernourished than before.

– ‘Deeply iniquitous’ –
“Averting divergent outcomes will require, above all, resolving the health crisis everywhere,” Gopinath said.

That requires cooperation to ensure widespread vaccinations across the world to address the “deeply iniquitous” vaccine access where rich countries are scooping up the bulk of the supply.

While the United States is expected to surpass its pre-pandemic GDP level this year, after China did so last year, many others will not hit that threshold until 2022 or well into 2023 for developing nations.

The IMF warned against withdrawing government support too soon, and urged policymakers to safeguard the recovery through policies to support firms, including ensuring adequate supply of credit, and workers with wage support and retraining.

That also calls for resources to help children who have fallen behind in their education during the pandemic, the fund said.

“Without additional efforts to give all people a fair shot, cross-country gaps in living standards could widen significantly, and decades-long trends of global poverty reduction could reverse,” Gopinath said.

Israel Reopens Egypt Crossing For First Time Since COVID-19 Pandemic

(FILES) A file Photo:  (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

Israel on Tuesday reopened the Taba border post with Egypt that had been closed throughout the pandemic, allowing limited numbers to cross to the Sinai peninsula for Passover holidays.

The move was the latest step towards normalcy for Israel, which has fully vaccinated more than half of its roughly 9.3 million residents against coronavirus, the world’s fastest per capita pace.

From Tuesday through April 12, 300 Israelis will be allowed through Taba on the Red Sea each day.

To cross, individuals must be inoculated or have recovered from Covid-19. A negative laboratory test is also required in both directions.

READ ALSO: Dollar Breaks 110 Yen For First Time Since March 2020

Egypt’s Sinai peninsula is a popular vacation spot for Israelis, especially during the Passover break which began over the weekend, but the pandemic has forced Taba’s closure since March 2020.

Israel’s successful vaccination rollout has been making gains against the virus.

The number of serious coronavirus cases, which stood at 800 at the end of last month, has fallen to 467, according to the health ministry.

AFP

In Ghana, Fears Over Pandemic Rise In Teenage Pregnancies

Sarah Lotus Asare (2nd L), a volunteer who works with disadvantaged teenage girls, interacts with a girl in a boxing gym in James Town, Accra, Ghana, on February 12, 2021. PHOTO: Nipah Dennis / AFP

 

Gifty Nuako has just turned 18, an age when a young person stands on the threshold of life. Instead, her future looks bleak.

Last December, she became pregnant — “a mistake,” she says in a whisper.

She wanted to have an abortion, but her boyfriend’s family refused.

Today, in the back streets of Jamestown, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Ghanaian capital Accra, the teenager hides her barely rounded stomach under a long skirt and scarves.

“Now I can’t work, I can’t go back to school. I don’t know what to do any more,” she said.

Unwanted teenage pregnancy is a major problem in Ghana, simultaneously disempowering girls and entrenching them in poverty, say campaigners.

Activists estimate that nearly one woman in seven in the country becomes pregnant before the age of 19.

And, they say, anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers soared last year after the authorities closed schools to help curb the spread of Covid.

“Schools were a form of protection,” said Sarah Lotus Asare, who volunteers with disadvantaged teenage girls.

The schools also gave a sense of purpose to many girls — a crucial compass point that was taken away when education was shut down.

“Many found themselves idle, without adults to supervise them,” she said.

Classes reopened in mid-January after a 10-month closure — one of the world’s longest continuous educational shutdowns prompted by the coronavirus crisis.

– Contraception –

While teenage sexual activity increased during the school shutdown, the vast majority of girls in Ghana do not have access to birth control.

According to a study by the Ghana Health Service in 2020, only 18.6 percent of sexually active adolescents use contraception.

Often, abortion is not an option either.

In this conservative and religious country, pregnancy termination is illegal except in cases of rape, incest, foetal impairment or danger to the mother’s physical or mental health.

Ghana’s lack of sex education is also a problem, said Esi Prah, a member of the NGO Marie Stopes, which works with the government to develop family planning.

“The sexuality of young girls is still stigmatised here,” she said.

“Ghanaians in general are rather hostile to the idea of sex education. There is a tendency to think that it encourages sex between teenagers and that the best contraception is abstinence.”

In 2019, an attempt by the government and the United Nations to implement a sex education programme sparked an uproar.

The initiative was attacked by conservative and religious groups, who denounced a “satanic” attempt to promote “LGBT values”. The programme was ultimately abandoned.

 

– Poverty roots –

Poverty is a cause of unwanted teen pregnancies, and unwanted teen pregnancies become a cause of poverty, say, campaigners.

Theophilus Isaac Quaye, a local elected official in the district of Chorkor, poses for a portrait in his office in Accra, Ghana, on February 12, 2021. Nipah Dennis / AFP

 

Forty-six per cent of Ghana’s population was already living below the poverty line in 2017, and last year the pandemic plunged the country into recession.

“Some parents cannot take care of their children,” said Theophilus Isaac Quaye, a local elected official in the district of Chorkor, south of Accra.

“And then their daughters are forced to follow men who offered them money. This is not their fault. In order for them to survive, they have to follow these men.”

“The major reason for girls getting pregnant, it’s poverty,” Asare said.

School regulations do not formally prohibit young mothers from returning to school after childbirth, but in reality, it is very rare for them to return.

Fearing stigma or needing to support themselves, most teenage mothers quit their studies and find work.

Lacking qualifications, they often take up menial jobs and thus find themselves even deeper in the poverty rut.

“When you get pregnant, you realise the situation becomes worse,” said Asare.

“You couldn’t support yourself and now you have another mouth to feed.”

AFP

Ebola: Profile Of A Prolific Killer

 

A fact file on the Ebola virus that has plunged Guinea into an “epidemic situation” according to a senior health official, and which has killed more than 15,000 people since 1976.

Origins

Ebola was first identified in central Africa in 1976. The tropical virus was named after a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo — then known as Zaire.

Five of the virus species are known to cause disease in humans — Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, Reston and Tai Forest.

The first three species have resulted in serious African outbreaks.

Transmission

The virus’ natural reservoir animal is probably the bat, which does not itself fall ill, but can pass the germ on to humans who hunt it for “bushmeat”.

Other dinnertime favourites in parts of Africa — chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines — are also suspected of transmitting Ebola.

Among humans, the virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person. This can include touching a sick or dead person, and likely also sexual intercourse.

Those infected do not become contagious until symptoms appear. They become more and more contagious until just after their death, which poses great risks during funerals.

Death rates are high, at around 50 per cent on average of those infected, and up to 90 per cent for some epidemics, the World Health Organization (WHO) data shows.

Read Also: Guinea Records Seven Ebola Cases As Health Chief Calls Outbreak An ‘Epidemic’

Symptoms

Following an incubation period of between two and 21 days, Ebola develops into a high fever, weakness, intense muscle and joint pain, headaches and a sore throat.

The initial symptoms are often followed by vomiting and diarrhoea, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.

After-effects have often been observed in survivors, including arthritis, problems with vision, eye inflammation and hearing difficulties.

Treatment

A vaccine developed by the US group Merck Shape and Dohme was found to be very effective in a major study carried out in Guinea in 2015.

It was pre-qualified by the WHO and more than 300,000 doses have been used during a vaccination programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

A second experimental vaccine developed by the US group Johnson & Johnson was introduced preventively in October 2019 in areas that had not been affected by the virus and more than 20,000 people were inoculated.

Worst epidemic (2013-2016)

The worst-ever Ebola outbreak began in December 2013 in southern Guinea before spreading to two neighbouring West African countries, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

That outbreak killed more than 11,300 people out of nearly 29,000 registered cases, according to WHO estimates.

10th and 11th DR Congo epidemics

The 10th epidemic began on August 1, 2018 in the North Kivu province of DR Congo, and was declared a global health threat in July 2019 by the WHO.

It was declared over in June 2020 by DR Congo authorities after around 2,280 people had died, making it Africa’s second-worst Ebola outbreak ever.

An 11th Ebola epidemic began that month in the Equator province and was declared over on November 18, with 55 deaths.

“Resurgence” in DR Congo and “epidemic situation in Guinea 

On February 7, the DR Congo said a resurgence of the virus had been identified in an eastern part of the country.

A week later, a senior health official in Guinea said that country was in an “epidemic situation” after seven cases were confirmed in the southeast, three of which had resulted in deaths.

They were the first Ebola fatalities in Guinea since 2016.

A local WHO official said the organisation would send vaccines quickly to help keep the virus from spreading.

Lebron Passes Durant For Lead In NBA All-Star Balloting

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 10, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP Adam Pantozzi / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP

 

LeBron James says playing an NBA All-Star Game this season would be a “slap in the face” for players but a lot of fans want to see him do it.

Los Angeles Lakers playmaker James overtook Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant for the overall lead in Thursday’s latest voting returns announced by the league for the NBA All-Star Game.

Despite his criticism of the idea, James surged into the lead in worldwide voting totals with 4,369,553 to 4,234,433 for Durant.

In initial voting returns announced last week, Durant set the pace with just over 2.3 million votes to 2.288 million for James.

The league has not yet confirmed there will even be an elite showdown of the Eastern and Western Conference superstars, but multiple reports say the NBA and players union agreed on staging it March 7 in Atlanta during a one-week break in the campaign.

James said last week he didn’t want to lose his mid-season break after leading the Lakers to the NBA crown on October 11 following the longest campaign in NBA history due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NBA clubs then started pre-season training camps on November 10 and began the 2020-21 season December 22, a much shorter off-season than usual.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said last week. “I am not happy about it. If I am selected I will be there physically but not mentally.”

James, 36, noted players were told there would not be an All-Star contest when they agreed to start the season so soon after deciding the title in an Orlando Covid-19 quarantine bubble.

“It is pretty much a slap in the face,” he said.

Among other players who criticized the idea of staging an NBA All-Star Game were James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

James is averaging 25.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.9 assists a game for the Lakers while Durant is averaging 29.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists a contest.

James set the pace for Western Conference forwards followed by Denver’s Nikola Jokic, a Serbian center, with 3,006,981 votes and Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers on 2,462,621 with Anthony Davis of the Lakers a close fourth on 2,329,371.

Among Eastern Conference forwards, Durant was followed by Greek big man Antetokounmpo on 3,282,478 and Cameroon star Joel Embiid of Philadelphia on 3,022,105.

Curry Leads All Guards

Among guards, NBA scoring leader Bradley Beal set the pace for Eastern Conference guards on 2,528,719 with Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving second on 2,104,130 and his backcourt partner on the Nets, Harden, third on 1,829,504.

In Western Conference backcourt voting, Golden State’s Stephen Curry led with the third-most total votes on 4,033,050 with Slovenian Luka Doncic of Dallas second on 2,484,552. Portland’s Damian Lillard was third on 2,095,157.

All top-three players remained in the same order at their positions as they enjoyed last week.

Worldwide fan voting will conclude on Tuesday. Starting lineup selections will be announced next Thursday and All-Star reserves chosen by NBA coaches will be named on February 23.

Fan balloting will count for 50% of a player’s total with current player voting and a media panel each contributing 25% to decide a final ranking for each individual.