Sierra Leone: move to sell pristine beach and rainforest to China meets backlash

Sierra Leone has agreed to sell 250 acres of pristine beach and rainforest to China in a $55 million deal that would see an industrial fishing harbor built on the site.

The move has sparked outrage from conservationists, human rights and animal welfare groups and local landowners, who have said the project would “destroy pristine rainforest, plunder fish stocks, pollute the marine environment and five individual eco systems that are fish breeding grounds and support endangered bird and wildlife species.”

The details of the deal, first reported by the U.K.’s The Guardian newspaper, remain hazy. Local public policy research organizations the Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy for Justice (ILRAJ) and Namati Sierra Leone have written to the government requesting information on “plans to establish a fish harbour and carry out waste management operations at Black Johnson in the Western Area peninsula, a project funded by the Government of China.”

The groups are requesting copies of legally-mandated environmental and social impact assessments, along with the grant agreement between China and the Sierra Leonean government.

Both the Chinese and Sierra Leonean embassies in London and the Sierra Leonean state house were unavailable for comment when contacted by CNBC.

Black Johnson’s waters are rich in fish and local fishermen supply a substantial portion of the domestic market. Meanwhile, the Western Area Peninsula national park houses many endangered species.

press release from Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Emma Kowa-Jalloh on Monday contends that “the facility to be constructed is a Fish Harbour and not a Fish Mill as portrayed by the social media writers.”

“The objective of the Fish Harbour is to centralise all fishing activities. The government of Sierra Leone has been yearning for a Fish Harbour since the early 1970s, but could not actualise it due to the huge amount of money that is required,” Kowa-Jalloh said.

“With the new shift in government policy for the development of the fisheries sector, the Chinese government has given a grant of US$55m to build this platform.”

The release also asserts that Black Johnson was “the most suitable place for the construction of the facility in terms of bathymetry, social safeguards (minimum resettlement cost) and environmental issues.”

Kowa-Jalloh said the Ministry of Finance had set aside a compensation package of 13.76 billion leones (around $1.34 million) for landowners, and insisted that the sale of the land was intended to “ensure the regular supply of fish” to the local market.

Credit: CNBC

Sierra Leone’s agreement to sell 250 acres of pristine beach and rainforest to China in a $55 million deal has sparked outrage from conservationists, human rights and animal welfare groups and local landowners, who have said the project would “destroy pristine rainforest, plunder fish stocks, pollute the marine environment

WHO calls for further studies, data on origin of SARS-CoV-2 virus, reiterates that all hypotheses remain open

“As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table. This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end. We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” said Dr Tedros. “Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers.”

The WHO noted that from the very beginning of the pandemic the organization has stressed the need to understand the origin of the virus in order to better understand the emergence of new pathogens and possible exposures.

Only a few weeks into the outbreak, the IHR Emergency Committee of independent experts recommended that WHO and China pursue efforts to identify the animal source of the virus. 

Throughout 2020, WHO continued to discuss with China and other Member States the need to study and share information around the virus origins. 

The World Health Assembly resolution of May 2020, which was adopted by all Member States, cited a need “to identify the zoonotic source”:

  • WHA73.1 from 19 May 2020: 9. (6) to continue to work closely with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and countries, as part of the One-Health Approach to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts, including through efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions, which will enable targeted interventions and a research agenda to reduce the risk of similar events occurring, as well as to provide guidance on how to prevent infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV2) in animals and humans and prevent the establishment of new zoonotic reservoirs, as well as to reduce further risks of emergence and transmission of zoonotic diseases;

In July 2020 WHO sent a small team to China to plan a joint study comprising Chinese and independent international scientists.

It was agreed that WHO would select the international scientists. The Terms of Reference for the Virus Origins Study were completed by fall 2020.

The team of scientists came from around the world: Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Viet Nam.

The joint international team comprised 17 Chinese and 17 international experts from 10 other countries as well as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE); and WHO.  

Sierra Leone Receives Covid-19 Vaccines.

By Isaac Unisa Kanata.

Sierra Leone has received a consignment of 200,000 Sino-Pharm covid-19 vaccines and 201,600 pieces of disposable needles and syringes from the People’s Republic of China.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation in a press release on 25th February,2021 acknowledges the donation, describing it as a goodwill gesture that reaches the country where it is mostly needed.
The consignment was brought in a special chartered flight into the country and was followed by a handing over ceremony at the country’s international airport, Lungi.

The firstly batch of covid-19 vaccines from the People’s Republic of China to the people of Sierra Leone reflects the long time traditional friendship and deep mutual trust between the two countries said the release.

Further the Ministry of Health and Sanitation now is hopeful that the presence of the vaccines in the country opens a door way out of the pandemic and indicates China’s faith to be with Sierra Leone in thin and thick situations.

Heed to public health warnings to stop COVID-19

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

If all human efforts seem to fail in making this world a global village through internet technology, bringing nations together through sports, and strategizing together in building a united force to protect the rights of everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic should now be the reason why we must all embrace one another for the good of all, not against one another.

In just a few months since the first case was reported the virus is almost taking over the whole world and crippling economies. Unfortunately, nations are still at loss for words about what measures will exactly stop the spread of the disease as the onslaught continues with growing fatalities.

From one country to the other markets are closing, cities put on lockdown as efforts are being implemented by local and international public health experts to control and stop the pandemic. However, we should also be aware that the world is just recovering from the Ebola shock that killed thousands of people in West Africa. And before the Ebola disease, the world was faced with the Avian flu virus, among others, which also have the tendency to cause grave world crises.

But one thing that has stood out over the present health pandemic, as it was with other public health crises, is people’s concern for others and willingness to reach out to support and help those in need. Just recently, I was listening to a radio talk-show host when a caller called to commend teachers.

“I never realised how we take teachers’ role in society for granted until now that my children are home with us,” the caller said, unfortunately noting “We never appreciate the role teachers play in our lives”.

Like the caller, many of us now realise that the things we take for granted are the most important things for our social, health and economic wellbeing.  

COVID-19 has created a moment for reflection for most people to taking positive health decisions to protect themselves and others. It is only when people work together will there be a success at the end of the tunnel. One of the things we should be doing now to strengthen our love for one another is to listen to the authorities and heed to public health warnings by always washing our hands, staying home and keeping a safe distance.

If you love yourself, your family, your country, and you are a patriot – heed to your government’s public health warnings and do what is asked of you. This is a civic responsibility we should take ownership of and encourage others to follow for the safety of everyone.

I am sure you want your children to return back to school, you want to go out and have fun, visit the local zoo, or watch the latest movie with your friends; but cannot do that now for fear of the disease. That means you don’t need to be told to do the right thing because it is for you and your loved ones to heed to public health warnings so that the spread of the virus could be controlled and stop for all of us to again enjoy the things we take for granted in life. 

WHO statement on cases of COVID-19 surpassing 100 000

The World Health Organization (WHO) says as of Saturday 7th, March, 2020, the global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 100 000.

The WHO reminds all countries and communities that the spread of this virus can be significantly slowed or even reversed through the implementation of robust containment and control activities. 

The WHO says China and other countries are demonstrating that spread of the virus can be slowed and impact reduced through the use of universally applicable actions, such as working across society to identify people who are sick, bringing them to care, following up on contacts, preparing hospitals and clinics to manage a surge in patients, and training health workers.

The WHO calls on all countries to continue efforts that have been effective in limiting the number of cases and slowing the spread of the virus, adding that every effort to contain the virus and slow the spread saves lives will give health systems and all of society much needed time to prepare, and researchers more time to identify effective treatments and develop vaccines. 

The WHO warns that allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well. 

“We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system. 

“Leaders at all levels and in all walks of life must step forward to bring about this commitment across society.”

Billionaires spending millions to fight the novel coronavirus spending

Bill Gates Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates head up the Gates Foundation.

Billionaires are spending millions to fight the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 110,000 people and killed nearly 3,900 globally, including 22 reported deaths in the United States.

However the gifts, which total $129.65 million thus far according to Business Insider’s calculations, may not be doing much to help those already suffering from the growing global health crisis. Of the portion of the donations that are designated to help those on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, some are going to organizations designated by the Chinese government to handle the crisis, Fortune’s Eamon Barrett reported. However, medical workers throughout Wuhan are complaining on social media of not receiving any aid from these groups, according to Fortune.

The donations came amid a stock market correction that cost the world’s 500 wealthiest people more than $100 billion on February 28 alone. The turbulence has continued in the time since. The S&P 500 plummeted 7% immediately after trading began Monday, prompting the first market-wide trading halt since the financial crisis.

Keep reading to learn more about the coronavirus-related donations made by billionaires, in the order they were announced.

Credit: Business Insider

South Africa’s Govt. to quarantine returnees from Wuhan

South Africa’s government will quarantine dozens of citizens who’ve asked to be repatriated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

There are 201 South Africans currently living in the Wuhan area, 151 of whom indicated they wish to return home, Mkhize told reporters Sunday in Johannesburg. While all of those being repatriated have tested negative for the virus, they’ll be quarantined for 21 days as a precautionary measure, he said.

The emergence and rapid increase in cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus, pose complex challenges to the global public health, research and medical communities, write federal scientists from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Their commentary appears in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The United States and other countries instituted temporary travel restrictions, which may have slowed the spread of COVID-19 somewhat, the authors note. However, given the apparent efficiency of virus transmission, everyone should be prepared for COVID-19 to gain a foothold throughout the world, including in the United States, they add. If the disease begins to spread in U.S.

89,252 cases are reported so far, 3,058 deaths, and 45,216 recoveries.