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Pope Francis and former Pope Benedict given Covid-19 vaccine

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Both Pope Francis and former Pope Benedict have received the first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus, the Vatican said on Thursday.

The 84-year-old pope and the 93-year-old former pope got their jabs as part of a Vatican vaccination program that began on Wednesday.

Both men are vulnerable to contracting the virus because of their age.

Francis is perhaps more at risk because part of one of his lungs was removed following an illness when he was a young man in his native Argentina.

It is an ethical choice

World

Pope criticises people going on holiday to flee Co…

Benedict is frail and suffering from a number of ailments related to old age, such as arthritis.

There have been fewer than 30 cases of coronavirus in the Vatican City, most of them among the Swiss Guard, who live in a communal barracks.

Pope Francis said at the weekend that everyone should get a jab.

“It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” he told Italy’s Canale 5 TV station.

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Relatives of plane crash victims cast flowers into Indonesia sea

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Relatives of crash victims prayed and threw flowers into the Java Sea where a Sriwijaya Air jet plunged into the water almost two weeks ago, killing all 62 people on board.

An Indonesian navy vessel took dozens of grieving relatives to the site.

Many people wept as they prayed and cast flower petals into the water, and officials from the navy, search and rescue agency, and Sriwijaya Air employees threw wreaths into the sea.

The airline’s president, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, said he hoped by visiting the location to help relatives accept what happened to their loved ones and ease their grief.

“We also do feel sad and lost… our crew, they were part of our beloved Sriwijaya Air big family,” he told reporters on the ship.

“I, personally, feel so devastated by this accident.”

Indonesian pilots salute during a memorial ceremony (Tatan Syuflana/AP)

The jet nosedived into the water minutes after taking off from Jakarta, the capital, on January 9.

Searchers have recovered plane parts and human remains from an area between Lancang and Laki islands in the Thousand Island chain.

Those retrieval efforts ended on Thursday, but a limited search is continuing for the missing memory unit of the cockpit voice recorder which apparently broke away from other parts of the device during the crash.

The flight data recorder, which tracks altitude and other parameters of the plane’s flight, was recovered earlier, and investigators are working with Boeing and engine maker General Electric to review information from the device.

Relatives throw flowers into the Java Sea where the plane crashed on January 9 (Tatan Syuflana/AP)

A team from the US National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration is part of the investigation.

The 26-year-old Boeing 737-500 was out of service for almost nine months last year because of flight cutbacks caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Regulators and the airline said it underwent inspections before resuming commercial flights in December.

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UK considers £500 payment to everyone who tests Covid positive

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Ministers in the UK are considering paying £500 (€560) to everyone who tests positive for coronavirus to increase the number of people abiding by quarantine rules.

Scientists welcomed the suggestion of more financial support but UK government sources were adamant the plan will not go ahead, with one saying bluntly: “Won’t happen.”

It is estimated the proposal of extending £500 payments to everyone who tests positive for Covid-19 in England, rather than just those who are on low incomes and are unable to work from home, would cost up to £453 million per week.

It is the “preferred position” of the England’s department of health, according to a leaked document seen by The Guardian.

England’s environment secretary George Eustice Eustice told Sky News: “We do need people, if they are asked to self-isolate because they have been contacted through our Test and Trace, we do need them to self-isolate.

“And, obviously, we always review the reasons why they might not.”

On the payment, Mr Eustice added: “No decisions have been made on this.

“But this is a dynamic, fast-moving situation with the pandemic.

“We are always keeping multiple policies under review.”

Mr Eustice said a full border closure to all visitors from abroad has been considered, adding that there “is concern at the moment about the number of mutant strains”.

The £500 payment plan was reportedly prompted by Government polling indicating that only 17 per cent of people with symptoms are coming forward for testing.

Some 25 per cent are thought to comply with rules to self-isolate for 10 days after testing positive and 15 per cent continue to go to work as normal.

‘Incentivises’ infections

There was hostility to the proposal in some parts of the British government, with one source saying the plan “incentivises people to catch Covid”.

Prof Susan Michie, an adviser on the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is a particular group of people who would need more from that £500 but at least the Government is recognising this is a key weakness in the whole pandemic strategy.

“If you have 82 per cent of people with symptoms wandering around the community, it is very, very difficult to bring this level down.”

The Resolution Foundation think tank said the current approach, which it estimates only around 13 per cent of workers are eligible for, is “not fit for purpose”.

Researcher Maja Gustafsson said: “Swiftly putting in place a much more universal and generous system will make a real difference to controlling the spread of the virus.”

Ireland

Covid-19: Northern Ireland lockdown extended to Ma…

The UK government is grappling with ways to bring the infection rate down as the vaccine programme is rolled out.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has been unable to rule out that the national lockdown in England may last until the summer.

In Northern Ireland, the lockdown was extended for a further four weeks until March 5th.

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Q&A: Why we Must Invest in Educating Children in Crisis-Hit Burkina Faso

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Africa, Aid, Armed Conflicts, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Featured, Headlines, Human Rights, Humanitarian Emergencies, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here

IPS Correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri speaks to Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Director YASMINE SHERIF about the new multi-year programme that aims to provide education to over 800,000 children and adolescents in crisis-affected areas in Burkina Faso

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Director Yasmine Sherif speaks to crisis-affected children in Burkina Faso. ECW has launched a multi-year programme in the country, providing $11 million in funding, but a further $48 million is needed. Courtesy: Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Director Yasmine Sherif speaks to crisis-affected children in Burkina Faso. ECW has launched a multi-year programme in the country, providing $11 million in funding, but a further $48 million is needed. Courtesy: Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

ACCRA, Jan 22 2021 (IPS) – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises – was on the ground in Burkina Faso last week with its Director, Yasmine Sherif, to launch a new multi-year programme that aims to provide an education to over 800,000 children and adolescents in crisis-affected areas.

ECW is providing $11 million in seed funding now, but a further $48 million is needed from both public and private donors over the next three years. Burkina Faso, located in the Central Sahel, is experiencing, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), ‘the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian and protection crisis’, with more than one million people displaced.

“The Central Sahel is among the most forgotten crisis regions in the world, and Burkina Faso is one of the most forgotten country crises globally. ECW is fully engaged in investing in education across the Sahel over the past two years, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger,” Sherif told IPS in a telephone interview from Ouagadougou.

Sherif had just returned from Kaya, the fifth-largest city in Burkina Faso, northeast of the capital, where she spent time with crisis-affected children, teachers and families. She saw much suffering there. “They sit in punishing heat, trying to learn. They don’t have the tents, school buildings or school materials. Water is missing, sanitation is missing, and they have fled incredible violence. Their eyes are hollow. These children are suffering,” she said.

Stanislas Ouaro, Minister of National Education and Literacy for Burkina Faso, said education in the country is suffering from both ongoing violence and insecurity, as well as the COVID-19 crisis. While the security crisis has seen more than 2,300 schools close, the COVID-19 pandemic further resulted in a nationwide shutdown of schools during several months in 2020.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

While the security crisis in Burkina Faso has seen more than 2,300 schools close, the COVID-19 pandemic further resulted in a nationwide shutdown of schools during several months in 2020. Courtesy: Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

While the security crisis in Burkina Faso has seen more than 2,300 schools close, the COVID-19 pandemic further resulted in a nationwide shutdown of schools during several months in 2020. Courtesy: Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

Inter Press Service (IPS): What has been the impact of the first ECW emergency programmes in the focused countries particularly Burkina Faso?

Yasmine Sherif (YS): What we see today is that more children and youth are now able to access schools across countries in the crisis-affected areas.  We see more girls, including adolescent girls, attending school and this is through ECW investments which support a holistic package of activities, from pre-school through secondary school. Today, we have invested about $40 million in these countries and the activities that we have provided include mental health and psycho-social support, which is highly important for children and adolescents who are affected by crisis. We have also responded to the COVID-19 pandemic very fast. We were among the first responders to COVID-19, providing sanitation and water facilities and building materials, as well as support for remote learning solutions for the communities.

IPS: You are currently on mission in Burkina Faso. At the end of last year, UNHCR stated that Burkina Faso is now the world’s fastest-growing displacement and protection crisis with more than one in every 20 inhabitants displaced by surging violence inside the country. More than 2.6 million children and youth are out of school in Burkina Faso, with another 1.7 million students at risk of dropping out of school. What are you finding on the ground?

YS: UNHCR was here on a mission recently and called on the world to take action and when they called for action, we had an obligation to act. So, this is why we prioritised our mission to Burkina Faso as a direct response to the call of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Now, what do we see on the ground? We see a high number of displaced communities. There are one million people who are internally displaced in Burkina Faso, as well as 20,000 refugees from neighboring countries and we also have the host communities where many of them live. These include children who have fled insecurity and violence; their villages have been burnt down and they have found security in government-controlled areas.

We visited the town of Kaya in Burkina Faso and we could feel there was more security there. But more resources are needed to provide these children and youth with the education that they deserve, which is challenging because an area of violence and insecurity is a barrier to education.

The government is very committed, the President, the Minister of Education – civil society organizations, NGOs, the United Nations – are all working together in strong partnership to provide resources and personnel to make education available in a secure environment for children and adolescents.

 

IPS: As you mentioned, you have recently returned from a field trip to Kaya. What have people, students, particularly girls, told you about the situation there? 

YS: In Burkina Faso, you see that the girls are strong but they are disempowered because they do not have the tools, they are disempowered because they do not have access to education – that is what we see and that is why we need more funding. If you want to empower girls’ education, you have to contribute the resources – because the political will is there, representatives are there to run the programme to ensure a collective outcome for girls – and learning tools. How can they concentrate and study under an insecure condition and environment? So again, resources are needed and urgently.    

IPS: Earlier this month ECW announced some $33 million in funding for Mali, Niger, the Central Sahel and Burkina Faso. Of this $11 million is being provided as a catalytic grant to Burkina Faso but $48 million is needed in additional funds over a few years. What does this mean in terms of the scope and scale of the task ahead?   

YS: The more funding we receive and the more we are able to close the funding gap, the more we can achieve the vision and goal and take action. No one can say there is no capacity to increase, we have great capacity in civil society, in UN agencies and there is great political will of the government. Now it is up to wealthier countries to provide the funding needed, and we want them to be partners because ECW is a global fund where our donor partners sit on our governance structure. Our partners provide the funding, are part of making the decisions and help fund our shared vision of quality, inclusive education for girls, for children with disabilities, for those that fall behind.

IPS: ECW focuses on collaborating with other agencies implementing the fund’s multi-year resilience programmes. How important are these partners in the execution and ultimately the success of these programmes?

YS: Our partners are absolutely essential – civil society organisations, UN agencies, and of course the leadership of the government – they are the ones working among the people, they are doing the work on the ground, they are making the sacrifices. Our job is to facilitate and make their work easier, to mobilise resources and to bring everyone together. Our partners on the ground have the credibility and they are the sources of the solution for communities who are struggling to provide for their children and their young people. They are our heroes and they keep us going.

IPS: Stanislas Ouaro, Minister of National Education and Literacy for Burkina-Faso, said that the security crisis resulted in the closure of more than 2,300 schools and the COVID-19 pandemic further resulted in the closure of all schools in Burkina Faso for several months. Why is continuity of education so important for children in crisis situation? 

YS: You know when a child does not go to school, when a girl is out of school, she is more likely to marry early, she is more likely to get pregnant early and as a result very likely to never attend school. So, the main impact of keeping her out of school is that you have disempowered her. If a boy is out of school, he is more likely to be recruited into an armed group, more likely to pick up arms and by doing that his opportunity for a proper education to be a productive citizen has been destroyed.

The longer they are out of school amidst the insecurity, the pandemic or any other crisis, the more likely that they will never come back and the vicious cycle of unintended pregnancies, trafficking, forced recruitment, extreme poverty and lack of livelihoods will continue. That is why any country affected by conflict and crisis is important to us. We have a brilliant, committed Minister of Education who was educated here in Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso was one of the most progressive country in reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in education five years ago but, because of the Sahel and Burkina Faso crisis, it has dropped back. So, we need to get them back to school quickly, we need to ensure safety of schools, we have to get protective measures for COVID-19, but the key is to also end the conflict and restore stability.

IPS: ECW’s programmes have given special attention to girls’ education, can you share the impact this decision is having on the beneficiaries?

YS: ECW has made a commitment to see a minimum of 60 per cent of girls in school through affirmative action. We believe that gender equality starts by empowering the girls through education and through our investments, we have seen more girls in school and we have also seen more girls now attending secondary education. So, there is direct correlation between our affirmative action, our financial investment and the number of girls who are now enjoying quality education. 

IPS: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

YS: Education is an investment in humanity, we are investing in the human mind, the human soul and spirit and it is more costly to ignore that investment than to make that investment.  Investing in a human being and a human being in crisis is a moral choice and I appeal to everyone to make the moral choice, the political choice and the financial choice that will create that reward. Be human, be authentic and be called to creating a better world.

 

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