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News of the week
– by Wolf Dagmar
$ 7.6 billion pledged for immunisation
The Vaccine Alliance Gavi held an international donor conference in Berlin. Governments, philanthropic foundations and private-sector companies committed $ 7.6 billion. That was more than initially expected. Accordingly, Gavi is now in a better position to immunise millions of children against life-threatening diseases including yellow fever, measles and polio in least-developed countries. In spite of the Millennium Development Goal to reduce child mortality, the situation remains difficult in many countries. Gavi reckons that preventable diseases kill 1,5 million children annually.
Gavi is a public-private partnership. Its mission is to ensure that all children on earth get the vaccinations recommended by the World Health Organization. Gerd Müller, Germany’s federal minister for economic cooperation and development, said the conference was a good start for Germany’s presidency of the G7 this year. Bill Gates pledged $ 1.5 billion, Britain about $ 1,4 billion and the USA $ 1 billion. German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the German contribution from $ 500 million to $ 600 million. The money has been pledged for different time spans, ranging up to five years.
Gavi was started as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation in the year 2000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gavi has since funded immunisation for almost 500 million children in 73 developing countries.
Sources: Gavi, BMZ, FT
Fewer Ebola infections in West Africa
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of newly infected Ebola patients per week has gone down to fewer than 100 in the three West African countries most affected by the epidemic. The last time the number was this low was in June 2014. A WHO official said that the focus was now on ending the epidemic rather than reducing the infection rate: "To achieve this goal as quickly as possible, efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to ensuring that capacity for case finding, case management, safe burials and community engagement is used as effectively as possible."
While new transmissions were reduced in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Guinea reported a small rise in patient numbers at the end of January. Peter Salama of UNICEF told a press conference: "It is too early to declare a success or a deadline for success." He also pointed out that some 10,000 children have lost one or both parents to the Ebola virus, and 5 million children have been deprived of education.
Sources: Deutschlandfunk, Reuters
Human rights contribute to security
According to Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international non-governmental organisation, governments are wrong to ignore human rights in attempts to counter security challenges. “Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating many of today’s crises. Protecting human rights and ensuring democratic accountability are key to resolving them,” Roth states in the introduction to the organisation’s recently published annual report.
The report deals with some of the currently most daunting security challenges, including the rise of the extremist group ISIS, China’s crackdown on Uighurs in the autonomous region Xinjiang, and Mexico’s abuse-riddled war on drugs. HRW emphasises that containing certain dangerous individuals is not enough to meet security challenges. It is also necessary to restore a moral fabric to underpin the social and political order.
ISIS driven out of Kobane
Kurdish Peshmerga militias have retaken the Syrian town of Kobane from ISIS, the terror organisation. Observers hope that this military success will prove a turning point, but admit that a counter-attack by the Islamists cannot be ruled out. The Peshmerga were supported by US air raids.
The situation is awkward because NATO member Turkey has a long history of fighting Kurdish insurgents. During the months-long battle for Kobane, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that terrorists were fighting terrorists here. Kobane is very close to the Turkish border. Turkish forces did not support the Peshmerga but allowed them to get supplies from Turkey.
In the meantime, Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s defence minister, announced more support to Kurdish militias that are fighting ISIS in northern Iraq. She said Germany will provide them with winter clothing, equipment and weapons. Moreover, the minister wants to send 100 German soldiers to the region to train fighters. Von der Leyen’s policy is controversial in Germany because there is neither a UN mandate nor joint action by NATO or the EU.
Sources: BBC, ARD
AU favours international approach to fighting Boko Haram
At a conference in Addis Ababa, the African Union (AU) has backed plans for a joint West African force of 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist organisation. The Islamists are in control of parts of north-eastern Nigeria and began attacking the city of Maiduguri last week. According to the AU, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger are willing to contribute soliders. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chair of the AU Commission, said Boko Haram required a "collective, effective and decisive response".
Source: BBC / Deutschlandfunk
Nuclear deal in Delhi
Barack Obama, the US president, and Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, have agreed to limit the liability of companies from the US that supply civilian Indian partners with nuclear technology and hardware in the case of accidents. The deal was not finalised during Obama’s visit in Delhi, however, and is expected to be very complicated. Both sides expect business to increase once the agreement is signed.
Ten years ago, Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush concluded an agreement with Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh on nuclear cooperation for civilian purposes. American managers worry about liabilities, however, and fear they might have to pay compensations should something similar to the chemicals disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in 1984 occur. The London-based Financial Times, however, does not expect any opening of “the floodgates to US investment in India’s nuclear power industry”. As its editorial points out, “if Japan has trouble guaranteeing a safe nuclear power industry, there should be scepticism about India.”
Drought hits São Paulo
The water supply in Brazil’s business capital will run dry in about 130 days unless rains set in to replenish reservoirs, according to estimates made by the Brazilian government. At the end of January, Cantareira, the most important regional reservoir, was down to five percent of its capacity. More than a quarter of São Paulo’s 20 million people depend on Cantareira water. The local water utility is working on emergency plans. It stated that, if things become worse, water might only be provided to households on two days per week.
On average, the city’s people use 130 litres per person and day. That is 20 litres more than recommended by the World Health Organisation. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Swiss daily, notes that part of the problem is that Brazil’s water infrastructure has not been developed systematically in past decades. A lot of rainwater flows into polluted rivers where it becomes worthless. Facilities such as treatment plants could help the country cope with the current drought, which is also affecting other cities.
Sources: NYT, NZZ
These items were compiled by Hans Dembowski and Theresa Krinninger on the basis of international media coverage.