From locusts invasions in the Horn of Africa, to the rollout of the recently approved Ebola vaccine, a women’s economic empowerment initiative, we’ve rounded up six stories that you might have missed this month.
Locusts invade the Horn of Africa
Massive swarms of locusts are invading the Horn of Africa. This is the worst infestation in generations due to unseasonably wet weather. Recent cyclones in East Africa created moist conditions, which are ideal for fast locust reproduction.
Each swarm can contain as many as 80 million locust adults in a square kilometer. They can travel over 80 miles a day and eat the same amount of food as about 35,000 people daily. Farmers are struggling to address the issue, and the crisis poses a threat to the food security of over 20 million people. That’s in addition to the 12 million people already experiencing food shortages in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.
Coronavirus in Africa
While much of the focus of coronavirus has (understandably) been in China and its neighboring countries, African countries are bracing for an outbreak. Nigeria confirmed its first case of the virus on 28 February, which is the first case in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 5,000 students from African countries study in Hubei province, ground zero for the deadly virus’ spread. Some of these students are are now struggling to find food and supplies. Several countries have flown their nationals home from China, but no sub-Saharan African country has evacuated citizens.
Globally, the virus has infected more than 82,0000 people and killed over 2,800 since January. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said that the “biggest concern continues to be the potential for COVID-19 to spread in countries with weak health systems,” including countries in Africa.
HIV prevalence twice as high among women in Kenya
A new study found that the HIV prevalence rate among women in Kenya is 6.6%, compared to 3.1% among men in Kenya. The report also found that the number of people living with HIV has plateaued: Kenyans with HIV are living longer, while new infections have reduced since 2012.
We have come a long way in the fight against HIV — but that progress has been uneven. Globally, nearly 850 girls and young women ages 15 to 24 contract HIV every day. And across sub-Saharan Africa, young women are more than twice as likely as young men to be living with HIV. These higher rates are attributable to gender-based discrimination, limited access to healthcare, and social stigmas around discussing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
W-GDP marked its one-year anniversary
The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP) is a U.S. government programme focused on women’s empowerment. It aims to reach 50 million women in developing countries by 2025 in three key areas: workforce development and skills training; helping women entrepreneurs access markets, capital, and networks; and working to change laws, regulations, and norms that limit women’s ability to fully participate in the economy. The White House said in the first year that W-GDP reached more than 12 million women.
The initiative enjoys rare bipartisan support in Congress: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen will co-sponsor the W-GDP Act. The act will permanently authorize the W-GDP and establish an office of women’s empowerment in the US State Department.
Ebola vaccine launches in four African countries
Four African countries will begin administering the new, highly effective Ebola vaccine. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ghana, and Zambia all approved the vaccine, and other countries are expected to follow soon.
The vaccine, known as Ervebo, was approved by the World Health Organization in November 2019. It has already been used to protect more than 250,000 people in trials and has proved effective after a single dose. Now with WHO’s approval, the use of the vaccine will not require a clinical trial or other research protocols in the four countries. Catch up on everything you need to know about the recent Ebola outbreak.
On February 25, 160 activists from across the US went to Capitol Hill for ONE’s annual Power Summit. This year, they advocated for full funding for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and for senators to pass a bill to help stop global corruption and money laundering.
Activists also took time to thank members of Congress for their support in 2019 for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Thanks to the efforts of ONE activists around the world, the Global Fund secured a record-breaking US$14 billion in pledges for its work over the next three years.
The summit brought together a range of activists — students from Nebraska to religious leaders from Georgia. Here’s everything you need to know from the Power Summit.