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  • 47 African countries adopt plan to fight malaria

    All 47 African member states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) adopted a new framework on how to deal with malaria on the continent, which still accounts for more than 90 percent of global malaria deaths in 2015, a UN spokesman told reporters in Addis Ababa Monday.

    "They agreed on specific interventions and actions to reach the goal of a malaria-free Africa," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing.

    Although previous programs have reduced malaria deaths in Africa by 66 percent since the year 2000, the continent still bears the biggest malaria burden, Dujarric said.

    The disease struck 190 million people on the continent in 2015 alone, and caused 400,000 deaths, he added. In addition, more than 800 million people in Africa are still at risk of malaria.

    In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, WHO aims to eliminate the epidemic from the African continent by 2030, a target that would require an estimated US$66 billion to achieve.

    Some of the main challenges to tackle malaria include gaps in access to available prevention methods, the limited number of interventions available and increasing resistance to medicines and insecticides.

    At the same time, weak health systems present a very high risk to malaria control and elimination. During the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, malaria control gains were lost in the severely affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

    Source: Xinhua

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  • Al-Shabab claims responsibility for Somalia bombing

    At least 13 people have been killed and several others wounded in two suicide blasts in the central Somali town of Galkayo, according to a Somali health official.

    The first vehicle explosion on Sunday targeted the local government headquarters; the second targeted emergency services at the scene of the first blast.

    "There were two huge bombs. The first one was a truck bomb, followed a minute or so [later] by another car bomb. My brother was injured at the scene," Halima Ismail, a local resident, told Reuters news agency.

    Al-Shabab, the armed group fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, claimed responsibility for the blasts.

    The UN mission in Somalia condemned Sunday's explosions. "Terrorist attacks will not stop 2016 electoral process," UNSOM said via its Twitter account.

    Somalia is scheduled to hold elections later this year.

    The attack comes in Galkayo comes just days after Somali security services captured a wanted al-Shabab commander there.

    US-trained commandos called Danab arrested Abdulah al-Sudani and four other suspected fighters.

    Source: Agencies

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  • South Sudan opposition leader Machar seeks safety in neighboring DRC

    South Sudan's opposition leader, Riek Machar, is in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations said on Thursday, several weeks after he withdrew from the capital, Juba, during fierce fighting with government troops.

    The world body said its peacekeeping mission in the DRC became aware of Machar's presence in the country on Monday and contacted the Congolese government, which then asked the mission to pick up Machar. That operation took place on Wednesday, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

    "Riek Machar has been handed over to the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We're not in a position to confirm his location," Haq said.

    A spokesman for the DRC government, Lambert Mende, denied it had been in touch with any party on helping the former South Sudanese vice president, but Haq said Machar was removed from an area close to the border with South Sudan.

    "We can confirm that an operation was undertaken by MONUSCO (U.N. mission) on humanitarian grounds to facilitate the extraction of Riek Machar, his wife and 10 others from a location in the DRC in support of the DRC authorities," Haq said, adding MONUSCO was considered the best-suited party to move Machar safely.

    A statement issued by the leadership of the SPLA in Opposition (SPLA-IO) said he had left on Wednesday to a "safe country within the region".

    Machar led a two-year rebellion against forces loyal to his longtime rival, President Salva Kiir, before the two sides reached a peace deal in August 2015. Under the deal, Machar returned to Juba in April to resume his role as vice president.

    But fighting flared last month, leading Machar to withdraw with his forces from Juba around mid-July.

    Opposition spokesman James Gatdek Dak, writing on his Facebook page, said opposition fighters had "successfully relocated our leader to a neighbouring country where he will now have unhindered access to the rest of the world and the media."

    Machar had sustained a leg injury from weeks of walking in the bush but not serious enough to require medical attention, Gatdek Dak said.

    Since the July fighting, Kiir has sacked Machar from his post and appointed Taban Deng Gai, a former opposition negotiator who broke ranks with Machar, as vice president.

    The United Nations told Kiir any political changes must be consistent with the peace deal, which stated that the vice president must be chosen by the South Sudan Armed Opposition.

    Source: Reuters

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  • AU mission vows to help Somalia hold successful polls

    (EBC; August 18, 2016)- The Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on Wednesday vowed to help Somalia hold successful elections slated for September and October and called for support from the international community.

    The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Francisco Madeira, said a successful electoral process will not only be a victory for Somalia but also the pan-African body and the international community.

    Madeira, who is also the head of AMISOM, said that the political progress in Somalia was testament to what can be achieved through cooperation among members of the international community in tackling terrorism as a global threat and not an isolated problem in Somalia.

    AMISOM forces have been helping the Somali government battle the militants which carry out periodic attacks mostly in the country.

    He reiterated that AMISOM will work together with the Somali National Security Forces to ensure the electoral process is successful.

    Madeira said the AU would provide training to members of Somalia's Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team and send observers for the elections.

    Somalia is preparing to hold indirect elections in September and October which will culminate in the election of a new president who will lead the country in the next four years.

    Source: Xinhua

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  • First-ever African film festival in Texas bridges cultures

    There was a lot of glamour, music and humor at the first-ever African Film Festival in Dallas, Texas, July 1-3. But for filmmakers it was a serious opportunity to show their cinematic products, connect with one another and share their visions with people from other cultures.

    The festival included films made by Africans but also featured a number made about Africa by people from other regions of the world.

    The founder of the festival, Nigerian-American filmmaker Kelechi Eke, told VOA he wanted to provide a stage for films by Africans and films about Africa for both people who have come here from Africa and Americans who have an interest in its cultures.

    “I recognized that we don’t have enough film festivals to celebrate African films, thereby trying to give more exposure to our work," Eke said.

    Hooray for Nollywood!

    While Hollywood films and European films still draw large audiences in Africa, films shot in Africa, often using indigenous languages, are also very popular. Nigeria has one of the most prolific film industries in the world, right behind India, where the film industry is called Bollywood. Nigeria’s movie scene is called Nollywood.

    Nigeria and South Africa have had film production companies since the colonial period. But in the 1990s, Nigerian filmmakers began taking advantage of the availability of relatively cheap video cameras to make films that were distributed on videotapes and DVDs. While critics derided them as low-quality productions, some showcased skilled actors and told stories so compelling that viewers ignored technical faults.

    Nollywood cinema has also advanced with high-production-value films like 2009’s The Figurine, which met with acclaim at international film festivals and earned most of its revenue outside Africa. But improving digital video equipment and internet distribution have kept the market for smaller-budget films alive.

    Pan-African film movement

    Filmmakers in other nations in Africa soon followed the Nigerian example and started producing their own movies. At the Dallas festival, some of the most lauded films came from Cameroon, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso and South Sudan. But the popularity of Nigerian films to a general sub-Saharan African audience was clear in the warm reception given to Nollywood film stars Patience Ozokwo, known affectionately as Mama G, and Uche Jombo.

    Speaking to VOA after the ceremony, Ozokwo credited Nigerian filmmakers with paving the way for the rest of the continent.

    “Since Nollywood started, every country is trying to catch up with making movies, because movies seem to be the easiest way to reach out to the people,” she said.

    Jombo also credited Nollywood with showing Africans they can tell their own cinematic stories.

    “It is African people, African filmmakers, making African films, telling African stories to Africans,” she said.

    She also believes the loose nature of the Nigerian cinema industry makes it possible for people like her to make their own films in their own way.

    “You do this your way,” Jombo said. “You have to, because there is no big company, no big studio that is funding. You really don’t have to answer to anyone.”

    A film produced by and starring Jombo, Lost in Us, shown at the festival, deals with a mentally ill man stalking a movie star, played by Jombo. She said mental health is rarely dealt with in African films or discussed openly in society.

    There was an impressive range of themes presented in the 42 films screened in Dallas, ranging from the rights of women to the devastation of diseases like AIDS and Ebola to the challenges of interpersonal relationships at a time when the world is growing smaller and people of very different backgrounds meet.

    An example of the latter is the film Ben and Ara, produced by Cameroon-born Constance Ejuma, who also played the role of Ara and won the festival’s best-actress award. Ara is a Muslim woman from Cameroon who falls in love with a white American agnostic.

    “It is just an exploration of people from two completely different walks of life ... coming together and meeting in the middle, and the thing that brings them together is love,” she said.

    Another winning film was the documentary The Vanished Dream by Spanish director Juan Betancor. It tells of the work done by foreign volunteers in Guinea-Bissau in the 1970s that fell to ruin after a military coup, which led to years of mismanagement and corruption. Another documentary, Nowhere to Run, produced by a foundation in Nigeria, shows the dramatic impact of environmental abuse and climate change on West African coastal areas.

    The organizers of this African Film Festival said they would mount another one next year with the goal of making it an annual event that will grow in importance for African filmmakers and for Africans of the diaspora, many of whom now live in cities like Dallas.


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