The World Health Organization reported late last month that the ongoing yellow fever outbreak in Africa is serious but that it does not warrant being declared an international health emergency.
Since it was first identified in Angola in December 2015, yellow fever has spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is believed to have sickened more than 6,300 people and killed about 400, despite millions of doses of vaccine having been sent repeatedly to Angola. In August, some 7.7 million people were vaccinated in a major campaign that was launched in the “high risk” DRC capital Kinshasa, along with 1.5 million in other parts of the country. In Angola, 2.4 million people have been vaccinated, making 11.6 million in all.
The campaigns have depleted the global stockpile of 6 million yellow fever vaccine doses twice this year already, which according to the WHO is unprecedented. The vaccine shortage has now become so acute that officials have begun diluting the vaccine by 80 percent in a bid to stretch the supply. The four major manufacturers who supply the global stockpile have worked around the clock in order to replenish the stockpile.
Last month, the UN health agency convened an emergency committee of experts to consider the outbreak’s status, stating afterwards that the increase of the mosquito-spread haemorrhagic fever appears to have slowed. The WHO further reported that since 12 July there have been no new infections reported in what is an “extremely positive” trend. The upcoming rainy season has raised fears of further spread of the worst outbreak in decades. It also noted that intense population movements across the border to neighbouring Republic of Congo pose a risk of further spread, adding that the Brazzaville government should consider a “pre-emptive vaccination campaign in high-risk areas,” noting that the virus was moving towards Central and Eastern Africa.
Last week, an African Union (AU) official reported that funding for a multinational force to combat Boko Haram’s deadly Islamist insurgency in West and Central Africa remains well short of its target.
In comments made shortly after a meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss funding, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council disclosed that so far, including Nigeria, Switzerland and France, have pledged about US $250 million to fund the 8,700-strong regional force. According to Orlando Bama, communications officer for the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, the US $250 million includes both previous pledges and those made during Monday’s conference. That effectively covers just over a third of the US $700 million budget that was announced for the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) last year.
The task force, which is to be made up of regional African militaries, has yet to mobilize. Instead, national armies are tackling Boko Haram individually, however they often cannot follow the insurgency across the region’s long, porous borders. Regional armies from Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria mounted an offensive against the insurgents last year, which ousted them from many positions in northern Nigeria. The United States has also sent troops to supply intelligence and other assistance, however progress has been slow, with Boko Haram continuing to have the capabilities to launch deadly attacks both inside Nigeria, as well as in the Lake Chad Basin.
Monday’s talks come after the militant group’s latest attack, which killed at least 65 people in northeastern Nigeria on Saturday.
An attempt earlier this week to overthrow Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza ended in failure on Friday as coup leaders admitted defeat and were either arrested or forced to go on the run.
Earlier this week, General Godefroid Niyombare launched a coup in the Central African nation as the country’s president was in neighbouring Tanzania to participate in regional talks on the on-going crisis in Burundi. On Friday a spokesman for the president confirmed that Burundian forces have arrested General Nyiombare. Earlier in the day, a senior police official had indicated “General Niyombare has evaded us but we know where he is hiding,” adding that he is believed to have fled to a southern district of the capital. Two senior army officers and a police general, who have been accused of taking part in the attempted coup, have been arrested.
The dramatic end to the coup attempt effectively ended 48 hours of uncertainty as questions arose who was in charge of the country, which in recent weeks has been gripped by a political crisis over President Nkurunziza’s controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term in office. Wednesday’s coup announcement resulted in international criticism. In emergency talks on the crisis on Thursday, the United Nations Security Council condemned the coup attempt and called for a swift return to the rule of law. The United States State Department indicated that Nkurunziza remained the legitimate president.
On Friday, the presidency announced that President Nkurunziza was back in the capital Bujumbura and that he will soon address the nation. According to an aide to the president, “he is in Bujumbura in a very secure place,” adding that he will address the nation today. The streets of Bujumbura were mostly calm, following fighting that erupted on Thursday between loyalist troops and forces supporting the General. On the ground sources have reported that police set up checkpoints along a highway in the southern region of the country. Protesters have indicated that they will return to the streets, a move that will likely lead to more clashes.