Archaeologists discovered 2 ancient graves near Stonehenge, containing bones of a young woman and baby

British archaeologists have found two ancient graves near Stonehenge.

The discovery was the result of a survey of a 2-mile-long area just south of the monument. It’s a required step before a new highway tunnel can be constructed under Stonehenge; government officials approved the tunnel last year but stipulated that the land must first be searched for artifacts.

Stonehenge is one of the most impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments in the world on account of the sheer size of its megaliths, the sophistication of its concentric plan and architectural design, the shaping of the stones – uniquely using both Wiltshire Sarsen sandstone and Pembroke Bluestone – and the precision with which it was built.

The surveyors found the grave of a young woman and another with bones from a baby about a mile southwest of the monument. Both graves date back roughly 4,500 years, which is roughly the age of the bluestones that make up Stonehenge’s inner circle.

According to Matt Leivers, an archaeologist with Wessex Archaeology who is helping to survey the area, the woman and baby were likely related to the people who erected the monument.

Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland): Megumi Takimoto
Copyright: © UNESCO

The baby’s grave contained tiny ear bones, while the young woman’s skeleton suggests she died in her 20s or 30s. According to Leivers, both individuals were part of the Beaker culture, a group of people who lived in Europe between about 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.

The Beaker people are named after the pottery vessels they were typically buried with, which serve as markers of their identity, Leivers said. The infant was buried near a plain beaker, the woman was curled around an ornate one. 

The woman’s grave also contained an object made from shale, pictured below.


Ebola vaccine approved in Europe

Ebola virus isolated in November 2014 from patient blood samples.

After more than two decades of research, the world finally has an approved Ebola vaccine.

The European Commission granted marketing authorization to Merck’s vaccine, known as Ervebo, on Monday, less than a month after the European Medicines Agency recommended it be licensed. I

is currently being used in the Democratic Republic of the Congo under a “compassionate use” or research protocol similar to a clinical trial.

“The European Commission’s marketing authorization of Ervebo is the result of an unprecedented collaboration for which the entire world should be proud,” Ken Frazier, Merck’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

It is a historic milestone and a testament to the power of science, innovation and public-private partnership,” Frazier said, adding the company will work with the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and regulatory agencies in a number of African countries to license the vaccine. He said Merck will also work with the World Health Organization on vaccine prequalification, a process that would help countries that need the vaccine gain easier access to it.


Experts confirm breastfeeding protects against child obesity – New WHO studies

A new study from WHO/Europe shows that, despite efforts aimed at prevention, parts of the WHO European Region continue to struggle with comparably higher rates of childhood obesity, while a second study shows that babies who have never or only infrequently been breastfed have an increased risk of becoming obese as children.

Mother cuddling with her newborn baby in the living room. Photo credit: HuffPost UK

Progress on tackling the childhood obesity crisis has been slow and inconsistent throughout the Region, according to the 2 studies released at this year’s European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

“The longer a child is breastfed, the greater their protection from obesity. This knowledge can strengthen our efforts in preventing obesity. Acting on childhood obesity – including severe obesity – can have major benefits, not only for child health and well-being, but also for national health care systems, so we must do all we can to promote and protect breastfeeding across the Region,” said Dr Bente Mikkelsen, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Promoting Health through the Life-course, WHO/Europe.

Consequences of severe obesity

Severe obesity in children is associated with immediate and long-term cardiovascular, metabolic and other negative health outcomes. When comparing overweight children to children with severe obesity, the latter have a much worse cardio-metabolic risk factor profile. According to the new WHO study, “Prevalence of severe obesity among primary school children in 21 European countries”, severe obesity affects almost 400 000 of the roughly 13.7 million children aged 6–9 years living in the 21 participating countries.

This study is the first that investigates the prevalence of severe obesity in school children. Severe obesity is a serious public health issue and the results of this study show that a large number of children in the European Region suffer from it. Given its impact on education, health, social care and the economy, the new report emphasizes that obesity needs to be addressed via a range of approaches, from prevention to early diagnosis and treatment.

Link between breastfeeding and obesity

The second study, “Association between characteristics at birth, breastfeeding and obesity, in 22 countries”, found that despite the consistent flow of research evidence showing the health benefits from breastfeeding, along with numerous policy initiatives aimed at promoting optimal breastfeeding practices, adoption of exclusive breastfeeding in the European Region remains below the global recommended level.

WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Thereafter, infants should be given nutritionally adequate complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.

This study showed that, in nearly all countries, more than 77% of children were breastfed; but there were a few exceptions – in Ireland 46% of children were never breastfed, in France 38% and in Malta 35%. Only 4 out of 12 countries had a prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding (for 6 months or more) of 25% or higher: Tajikistan (73%), Turkmenistan (57%), Kazakhstan (51%) and Georgia (35%).

According to the study, breastfeeding practices in the Region fall short of WHO recommendations for a number of reasons, including: inefficient policies to encourage breastfeeding, lack of preparation of health professionals to support breastfeeding, intensive marketing of breast milk substitutes, and problems in legislation on maternity protection.

“The promotion of breastfeeding presents a window of opportunity for obesity prevention policy to respond to the problem of childhood obesity in the European Region. Existing national policies to promote breastfeeding practices and how these policies are developed, can lead some countries to be more or less successful in combating obesity,” said Dr Joao Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases, who also led the WHO Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative, known as COSI. Research from this initiative was used for both reports.

COSI was established more than 10 years ago to estimate prevalence and monitor changes in overweight and obesity in children aged 6–9 years. Since then, there have been 5 rounds of data collection in more than 40 countries and among more than half a million children.

Strategic partnerships and investments key to Africa’s economic transformation: African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina in the Netherlands

Intimating Dutch officials and industry captains on attractive investment opportunities in Africa, Adesina underscores the fact that Africa can feed itself in 10 years and the rest of humanity thereafter if Africa gets the needed investment to unlock its agr-business potential


The President of the African Development Bank (, Akinwumi Adesina, has taken the case for expanded partnerships and investments in Africa to the Netherlands. On a three-day visit this week, he met with government officials and private and public sector business leaders and affirmed the accord between the Bank and the Dutch government’s development agendas and foreign policy.

At a meeting with Sigrid A.M. Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, in the Hague, on 29 August, Adesina spoke about investing in Africa and commended the Netherlands for its support, which has extended to legal systems, water, food and nutrition, and gender. He also congratulated the government for its Development Policy, which emphasizes global fragility, gender and climate.

“Africa is growing economically. Foreign direct investment is on the increase. This is due to political stability and improved governance. Africa is open and ready to do business,” Adesina said.

Kaag said the adoption of renewable energy by a growing number of African countries was a key element to reducing fragility of countries and to fighting climate change and said this aligned closely with her government’s policy.

“I am happy to see where we can work together on gender, fragility, and conflict prevention in countries in Africa”, the Minister said.

Making a similar point, Peter van Mierlo, Chief Executive Officer of the Netherlands Development Finance Company (FMO),   called for greater harmonization between the work of FMO and the Bank in the area of energy, agriculture and institutional investment. President Adesina met with him and other officials, the same day.

“A benefit for Africa is that it can skip development cycles that often developed countries had to go through”, Mierlo said.

Commercial banks are withdrawing from trade finance and as such FMO and African Development Bank would be able to work jointly in boosting trade financing, Mierlo said. Currently, joint projects between FMO and the Bank are estimated at US$ 55 million.

Addressing a High-level Roundtable with Dutch Business Leaders, hosted at Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), on 29 August, Adesina presented the Africa Investment Forum (AIF), the Bank’s innovative marketplace scheduled for 7-9 November in Johannesburg, South Africa. The AIF will bring together project sponsors, lenders, fund managers and investors, to attract investment and capital for development, projects in Africa.

“Our role is to mobilise capital for Africa. We have done this through the High 5 Agenda. In the energy sector, the African Development Bank is investing US$12 billion over the next 5 years, with the goal of leveraging US$40-50 billion. The Bank will also be investing US$ 24 billion, over ten years, in agriculture to implement its Feed Africa Strategy,” Adesina said,

Susan Shannon, Vice President for Government Relations, Policy & International Organisations for Shell, who was present at the meeting, said the move towards cleaner and renewable energy in African countries had resulted in a higher level of engagement by the oil giant on the continent.

“Shell can work with the African Development Bank to expand access to energy in Africa”, Shannon said.

On 30 August in Wageningen, at the Sustainable Development Goal Conference, Adesina repeated the Bank’s call to end hunger on the continent.

“What Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world”, he said. “The greatest agenda we have is how to unlock Africa’s agricultural potential. If Africa can get the right technology to raise productivity, transform its savannahs, turn agriculture into a business and address the issue of nutrition. Africa can feed itself in 10 years and contribute to feeding the world in the years to come.”

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 67,122 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,549

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 67,122 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 26 August, with 27,994 to Spain, the leading destination this year. This compares with 123,205 (172,362 for the entire year) arrivals across the region through the same period last year, and 272,612 at this point in 2016.

Spain, with 42 per cent of all arrivals through the year, continues to receive seaborne migrants in August at a volume more than twice that of Greece and more than four times that of Italy. Italy’s arrivals through late August are the lowest recorded at this point of a normally busy summer sailing season in almost five years.

IOM Rome on Monday reported that late Saturday, after a prolonged delay, all the migrants on the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti were allowed to disembark into Italy.

The 190 migrants (mostly Eritreans and Somalis) were rescued by the Diciotti on 15 August. However, the ship was permitted only the evacuation of 13 migrants (for medical reasons) before being ordered to wait at anchor off the coast of Lampedusa. That lasted five days, before the Diciotti’s crew received authorization to move their vessel to the port of Catania.

The remaining migrants then remained on board five additional days in the port of Catania, as Italian authorities were unable to authorize their landing – because the Italian authorities insisted they would not authorize disembarkation until there was an agreement to relocate them to other EU Member States.

Following several humanitarian appeals (both IOM and UNHCR asked the Italian Government to allow these migrants to disembark) only the minors were permitted to leave the ship by Thursday evening.

While an agreement was not reached at EU level, all the migrants ultimately were allowed to disembark on Saturday night, when the Italian Minister of Interior announced that 20 migrants will be relocated to Albania and 20 to Ireland, while 100 would be welcomed by the Vatican – within Italian territory, however, on property administered by the Holy See.

According to testimonies gathered by IOM staff from the minors who disembarked Thursday evening, the migrants – all malnourished and exhausted – reported having been arbitrarily detained for up to two years in Libya, where many of them had been beaten and tortured by smugglers and traffickers seeking ransom money from their families in their countries of origin. Moreover, Italian doctors who attended the women on the Diciotti reported that many of them had been raped while in Libya.

“Migrants arriving from Libya are often victims of violence, abuses and torture; their vulnerabilities should be timely and properly identified and addressed,” added Federico Soda, Director of IOM’s Coordinating Office for the Mediterranean and Chief of Mission for Italy and Malta.

IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) has documented the deaths of 1,549 people on the Mediterranean in 2018. Most recently, in the Western Mediterranean, the Spanish Guardia Civil recovered the body of a young Sub-Saharan man near Alboran Island on 24 August. A merchant vessel had spotted his body, along with the body of another migrant, and had alerted Spanish authorities. A search operation is still underway to find the remains of the other migrant, which have not been located as of 27 August.

On 24 and 25 August, the remains of two individuals were recovered off the coast of Djerba in Tunisia. They are believed to have died in a shipwreck that took place on 20 August off the coast of Djerba. The current death toll from that shipwreck stands at eight dead and one missing. One survivor was rescued by the Tunisian National Guard.

IOM Spain’s Ana Dodevska reported that total arrivals at sea in 2018 have reached 27,994 men, women and children who have been rescued in Western Mediterranean waters through 26 August (see chart below).

She further reported that starting Sunday (26 August) a new, temporary, Motril-based reception centre for foreigners has become operational. This centre can accommodate a total of 250 migrants. A similar reception centre – the first of its type – also became operational at the Port of Crinavis in San Roque on 2 August. Currently, the centre in San Roque remains the largest centre of this type in Spain with a total capacity of 450 persons.

Given the increase in arrivals, the Spanish authorities decided to activate these types of centres in order to speed up the identification process of the newly arrived migrants. The maximum duration of stay in these centres is limited to 72 hours, after which the migrants are transferred to various Humanitarian Assistance Reception Centres. Explained Dodevska: “The newly opened centers are only for the first identification process upon arrival.  The Humanitarian ones are financed by the Ministry of Labour, Migrations and Social Security and all of them are managed by NGOs.”

IOM notes that over this year’s first five months, a total of 8,150 men, women and children were rescued in Spanish waters after leaving Africa – an average of 54 per day. Since 31 May, a total of 19,844 have arrived – or just under 230 migrants per day.

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 58,158 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,514

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 58,158 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through 1 August 2018. That total compares to 113,283 at this time last year, and over 261,228 at this time in 2016.

medupdate-20180803-1a.jpgArrivals to Spain in July overtook those to Italy and have surpassed the total number of arrivals (22,108) recorded in Spanish waters during all of 2017. This year almost 40 per cent of all Mediterranean irregular migrants have come via the Western Mediterranean route, whose irregular migration volume has more than tripled that registered on the route by this time last year.

As remarkable as Spain’s rise in irregular migration activity has been through 2018, more significant is this summer surge. Over the year’s first five months, a total of 8,150 men, women and children were rescued in Spanish waters after leaving Africa – an average of 54 per day. In the 62 days since May 31, a total of 14,898 have arrived – or over 240 migrants per day.

The Western route also extremely deadly, with over 300 fatalities recorded through 1 August – a nearly 50 per cent increase over all of last year’s total: 224.

Most recently, IOM’s Missing Migrant Project recorded a young man drowned off the coast of Tangiers, Morocco on 30 July. He was travelling with two other friends on a small inflatable raft when it capsized off Achakkar, near Tangiers. The two friends survived and were taken by local civil protection authorities to the hospital.

IOM Athens’ Antigoni Avgeropoulou said Thursday that in the three days from 30 July through 1 August, the Hellenic Coast Guard (HCG) reported at least two incidents requiring search and rescue operations off the islands of Kos and Samos. The HCG rescued a total of 55 migrants and transferred them to those respective islands.  Additionally, arrivals to Rhodes and Lesvos this week bring the total number of sea arrivals to Greek territory since 1 January to 16,114.

April remains the busiest month for irregular migration by land and sea to Greece, with a total of 7,009 men, women and children arriving. February was the lowest with 1,610.

IOM’s Ivona Zakoska reported that arrivals to Bosnia and Herzegovina between January and end of July 2018 reached a total of 10,023, ten times more than the 1,116 reported for the whole of 2017. One third of all registered migrants were of Pakistani origin, followed by 16 per cent of those who declared Syrian nationality and 13 per cent of those who declared Iranian origin.

According to the information received from IOM field staff present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are an estimated 4,500 migrants present in the country, mainly in Velika Kladusa (Una Sana canton) close to the border with Croatia. IOM is supporting the Government to increase the accommodation capacities of the official reception centres in the country by refurbishing and preparing the infrastructure to add additional 1,200 places to the existing capacity which is currently less than 600.
Increase in arrivals has been observed also in Albania and Montenegro. An estimated 1,358 irregular migrants attempting to cross the Albanian-Greek border were registered in Albania so far this year, four times the 354 reported in the same period in 2016 and almost ten times more than the 178 reported between January and July 2017.

Moreover, arrivals to Albania at the end of July 2018 exceeded the 752 registered in the whole of 2017. More than half of migrants who arrived this year are from Syrian Arab Republic (55%). Pakistani (10%), Iraqi (8%), Algerian (6%) and Moroccan (5%) are the remaining nationalities registered among the top five nationality groups this year. Similar nationality breakdown is registered also among the 740 migrants who are apprehended on exit from Albania to Montenegro (top five nationalities – 43% Syrian, 25% Pakistani, 7% Iraqi, 4% Libyan and 3% Palestinian).

In Montenegro, authorities registered 2,473 arrivals between January and July 2018, ten times more than 266 registered in the same period last year and 20 times more than 125 reported at the end of July 2016. Further on, arrivals this year are already triple the 807 registered in the whole of 2017. As in Albania, Syrian Arab Republic is the first registered nationality in Montenegro this year (42%), followed by migrants from Pakistan (18%), Algeria (11%), Iraq (8%), Morocco (6%) and Libya (4%).
Worldwide, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has documented the deaths of 2,332 people during migration to international destinations in 2018 (see chart below).

In Europe, the remains of a 14-year-old boy were recovered by Greek authorities from the Evros river on the Greece-Turkey border on 29 July. According to a forensic expert, it is likely the boy died three months before. In Serbia, two migrants were shot near the town of Dobrinci, 45km northwest of Belgrade, on 1 August, according to Serbian police.


ICC: Strengthen Court on 20th Anniversary 

Member Countries Should Step Up Efforts to Advance Justice

Member countries of the International Criminal Court (ICC) should increase their support for the court in the face of increasing challenges to delivering justice, Human Rights Watch said today. The court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, was adopted 20 years ago on July 17, 1998.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have released a video on why the ICC matters today to a new generation of law students studying around the world.

“The ICC’s hard task of bringing justice to victims of grave international crimes is needed more than ever before,” saidRichard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “ICC member countries should use the 20thanniversary of the Rome Statute to demonstrate their support for this critically important court of last resort.”

The ICC is the first permanent global court mandated to bring to justice people responsible for serious international crimes – including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide – when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. The court’s treaty was negotiated over several years, starting in 1995, and concluded after a tumultuous session in Rome.

The ICC has opened investigations in 10 countries, and a request by its prosecutor to open an investigation in Afghanistan is pending before the court’s judges. But even as the court’s workload has expanded, ICC action is needed in many other places. It has been hampered by insufficient financial support from member countries, which fund the court, and limited assistance from governments to carry out investigations and arrests. In addition, court officials have made mistakes in policy and practices that need to be addressed. Fifteen arrest warrants are outstanding.

Without political action by states, including through the United Nations Security Council, the court’s treaty restricts the prosecutor’s mandate when it comes to investigating outside ICC member countries. Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have sent crimes committed in Syria, which has not joined the court, to the ICC prosecutor for investigation. Other Security Council members have used the threat of their veto power to block other action on atrocities.

“Some of the worst international crimes committed today are beyond the ICC’s reach, but by taking effective action, the ICC sends both victims and those who would commit these crimes a powerful message that there can be justice for these crimes, and that those responsible can be held accountable,” Dicker said. “But for this to happen, court officials and member countries will need to rise to the challenge.”

July 17 is also the Day of International Criminal Justice. The work of the ICC is closely linked with broader justice efforts – in national courts, through international investigative bodies, and through international and national cooperation in hybrid institutions – to meet victims’ right to justice. Human Rights Watch has released a video that highlights the important role of trials for international crimes for victims and their loved ones, whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in locations throughout the world.

There are positive signs that ICC member countries are committed to strengthening the court, Human Rights Watch said.

Several events with participation by ministers and other senior officials from ICC member countries are planned to mark the 20th anniversary. These include events on July 17 at UN headquarters in New York, and at the seat of the court in The Hague. Government-led, high-level events in other cities, as well as efforts to promote better public understanding of the court’s mandate, are taking place throughout the year.

European Union (EU) foreign ministers were expected to adopt conclusions on July 16 reaffirming support for the ICC. Human Rights Watch, along with other nongovernmental organizations, has said that the EU should go farther and deliver on a long-standing call by the European Parliament to establish a dedicated special representative on international humanitarian law and international justice, ensuring policy commitments are translated into effective action. All ICC member countries should consider signing agreements with the court to relocate witnesses and protect defendants’ rights to release on bail.

To improve prospects for justice, court officials need to address gaps in the ICC’s performance, Human Rights Watch said. Weak investigations in some of its earliest cases, lengthy investigations and court proceedings, and too-limited efforts to support victims’ access to their rights at the ICC risk undermining confidence in the court within the communities affected by the crimes within its mandate.

Strong support from member countries is key to overcoming political obstruction to the court’s work. The United States, which has not joined the court but in recent years has supported ICC investigations on a case-by-case basis, was a no-show at a July 6 informal discussion at the Security Council aimed at improving that body’s support to the court.

“There is a risk that the deteriorating global trends on human rights will all too easily be exploited to undercut the ICC by those who have something to fear from accountability,” Dicker said. “Justice supporters will need to do all they can to see to it that the ICC will succeed on this difficult landscape and deliver victims their day in court.”