WHO, Germany open hub for pandemic and epidemic intelligence in Berlin

Photo credit: American Stock news

To better prepare and protect the world from global disease threats, H.E. German Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization Director-General, will today inaugurate the new WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, based in Berlin. 

“The world needs to be able to detect new events with pandemic potential and to monitor disease control measures on a real-time basis to create effective pandemic and epidemic risk management,” said Dr Tedros. “This Hub will be key to that effort, leveraging innovations in data science for public health surveillance and response, and creating systems whereby we can share and expand expertise in this area globally.” 

The WHO Hub, which is receiving an initial investment of US$ 100 million from the Federal Republic of Germany, will harness broad and diverse partnerships across many professional disciplines, and the latest technology, to link the data, tools and communities of practice so that actionable data and intelligence are shared for the common good.

The  WHO Hub is part of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme and will be a new collaboration of countries and partners worldwide, driving innovations to increase availability of key data; develop state of the art analytic tools and predictive models for risk analysis; and link communities of practice around the world. Critically, the WHO Hub will support the work of public health experts and policy-makers in all countries with the tools needed to forecast, detect and assess epidemic and pandemic risks so they can take rapid decisions to prevent and respond to future public health emergencies.

“Despite decades of investment, COVID-19 has revealed the great gaps that exist in the world’s ability to forecast, detect, assess and respond to outbreaks that threaten people worldwide,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergency Programme. “The WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence is designed to develop the data access, analytic tools and communities of practice to fill these very gaps, promote collaboration and sharing, and protect the world from such crises in the future.” 

Meet Germany’s ‘bee-master’ from Sierra Leone

In response to restrictive COVID-19 measures, a Sierra Leonean man in Germany’s Bad Belzig is winning the hearts of the townsfolk by becoming a beekeeper. He’s already turning his venture into a sweet success.

Christopher O’Neill working his honey making magic

Christopher O’Neill has moved far in his life. Originally from Sierra Leone, he has been living in Bad Belzig near Germany’s capital Berlin for over 20 years.

But when the coronavirus pandemic struck Germany in the spring, O’Neill found his movements severely restricted — and this was bad news. Used to being active most of the time, he quickly put on weight, which worried him.

It also gave him an idea.

“I stopped drinking coffee with sugar and looked for an alternative — it was honey,” he told DW. “Because I have a very nice backyard, I had another idea: Produce the honey yourself!”

A sweet idea

A few months — and a few bee stings — later, O’Neill’s beekeeping hobby has flourished. It’s also captured the attention of other local honey lovers like Madelle Ngnintedem, a Cameroonian working as an accountant in Bad Belzig.

“Being from Africa, I know what real honey is,” she told DW. “So when I came to Germany, I found it difficult to find good quality honey.”

Until she tasted a jar of honey from O’Neills’ bees.

Pride and good taste

Kirsten Schmeisser, a dentist from Bad Belzig, is proud of her town’s home-made honey.

“For me the honey tastes good,” she told DW. “It is also a nice gift, so I offer it to friends when I visit them. A gift from Bad Belzig.”

The honey’s organic character stands out. Erika Moritz is well-established in the local beekeeping scene and runs her own honey business. She lives in the nearby village of Grabow, and was immediately impressed after tasting O’Neill’s honey.

“Christopher is still a young professional beekeeper,” she told DW. “He has a few years-old bees and has a good harvest. He does everything as naturally as possible.”

Madelle Ngnintedem is a fan of O’Neill’s honey

Story credit: DW

Bienen in Pflingstrose
Christopher O’Neill working his honey making magic
Fresh honey is tasty, but needs lots of work
Madelle Ngnintedem is a fan of O’Neill’s honey

Highly active HIV antibody restricts development of viral resistance

A research team led by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Florian Klein of the Institute of Virology of the University Hospital Cologne and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF) has identified a new highly active antibody targeting HIV.

They identified a new highly active antibody targeting HIV (left to right): Henning Grüll, Philipp Schommers and Florian Klein.
© Uniklinik Köln/Thies Schöning

Whereas the development of viral resistance limits the efficacy of previously described HIV antibodies, the newly identified antibody 1-18 can continuously suppress viral replication.

1-18 therefore has high potential for successful application in the prevention and treatment of HIV infection. An article describing antibody 1-18 has now been published in Cell.

Antiretroviral drugs are the gold standard for the treatment of HIV infection. They are highly effective in suppressing replication of the virus but require lifelong daily application and can be associated with side effects. Due to the high mutability of HIV and its capacity for rapid adaptation, combinations of antiretroviral agents are required to prevent the development of drug resistance and treatment failure.

Broadly neutralizing antibodies are a focus of ongoing research on novel options for the treatment and prevention of HIV infection. Their mode of action substantially differs from regular antiretroviral drugs, as antibodies target the virus through specific binding of HIV surface proteins.

Clinical trials have demonstrated the potential of broadly neutralizing antibodies by reducing the viral load in the blood of HIV-infected individuals. Similar to antiretroviral drugs, however, the effects of single antibodies were only temporary because of the development of viral resistance.

Scientists at the University Hospital Cologne have now identified a novel antibody called 1-18 that targets HIV. This antibody is highly potent and showed activity against 97% of the tested HIV variants. „1-18 is therefore among the best HIV neutralizing antibodies described to date“, says Dr. Philipp Schommers, resident physician at the Department I of Internal Medicine and one of the first authors of the article.

In collaboration with colleagues at the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, USA), the researchers identified the mode of action of antibody 1-18 in detail. 1-18 binds and inactivates a surface structure of HIV that is particularly relevant because it is essential for viral infection and replication.

The therapeutic efficacy of the newly identified antibody 1-18 was studied using a mouse model that allows recapitulation of HIV infection as it occurs in humans. In this model, other broadly neutralizing antibodies showed only short-term effects because of the rapid development of viral resistance. In contrast, treatment with the antibody 1-18 resulted in suppression of the viral load that was maintained for the duration of therapy. „These results indicate that development of viral resistance against the new antibody 1-18 is restricted when compared to other antibodies“, says Dr. Henning Grüll, resident physician at the Institute of Virology and also first author of the work.

Due to its high potency, the scientists consider 1-18 a promising candidate for HIV immunotherapy. “In addition, 1-18 has great potential for preventing HIV infection by passive immunization“, adds Prof. Dr. Florian Klein, lead and senior author of the study. Clinical trials are now planned to further investigate antibody 1-18.

“Chancellor Merkel your name is written in gold in Africa”: African Development Bank’s Adesina to stakeholders at G20 Investment Summit, Germany


On an official visit to Germany, the President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina commended the Presidents and Heads of State of the Compact with Africa countries for their strong commitment to reforms, adding the African Development Bank has worked very closely with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the policy matrices and advancing them with positive results in the compact countries.

“Your name is written in gold in Africa,” Adesina said referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in his address before the German Investors Conference Tuesday, organized as part of the G20 Investment Summit- German Business and the Compact with Africa Countries (CwA), held in Berlin. Adesina complimented Merkel for her relentless support for Africa and for believing in the continent’s and its tremendous potential.

“It is impressive that of the 101 policy commitments made by the countries, progress is being made on 98 of them, iArticlet is therefore not surprising that FDI inflows to these countries have increased by 16% in the past five years” Adesina added.

Adesina also noted that Africa-to-Africa investments are rising, reaching $12 billion “a good sign of confidence in cross-border investments on the continent. But as we think of investments, we should also look at small and medium sized enterprises, that account for 90% of the private sector in Africa, and which face a financing gap of $190 billion,”he added.

The Bank’s president, attending the summit hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel,engaged young African innovators at a breakfast meeting. He also held bilateral meetings with members of the German government,during which he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

Merkel on Tuesday announced a Euro 1 billion fund to promote and encourage businesses to invest in Africa.

The new fund will offer loan and equity financing to European and German SME’s seeking to invest in Africa, equity financing for African SME’s, and help establish a network offering advice to potential investors.

The African Development Bankhas been central to the CwA initiative, providing financing to help catalyze private sector investment in the 12 Compact countries in sectors such as Energy and Finance. In Cote d’Ivoire and Togo, the Bankhas unlocked local currency funding in the off-grid sector to scale up the deployment of solar home systems, through the Distributed Energy Service Companies (DESCO) programme.

According to Adesina, a lot more work is needed to accelerate investments in Africa and there is a compelling need to tap into the entrepreneurial skills of the youth to create startups that will help boost jobs on the continent and stem migration to Europe. “We must invest in hope,” he urged.

With over $120 trillion of assets under management globally, focus should also be on how to tap into global pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other institutional investors to invest in Africa.

Adesina invited investors at the conference to the Bank’s flagship Africa Investment Forum, the continent’s first-ever transactional marketplace bringing together investors and project sponsors to drive investment for the continent’s economic transformation.The Africa Investment Forum will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 7-9 November 2018.

“The Africa Investment Forum will serve as an important private sector investment opportunity for the Compact”, Adesina said, adding that it would offer a robust platform to engage with entrepreneurs, captains of industry and key public sector decision makers on issues that are most important to the economic transformation of the continent.

German Ambassador and Gambian High Commissioner to Sierra Leone Present Credentials to President Julius Maada Bio at State House

The German Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Horst Gruner, and the new Gambian High Commissioner, Ebraima Manneh, have presented their credentials to His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio during a brief ceremony at State House.

Ambassador Gruner said it was a pleasure handing his credentials to President Bio. He said Sierra Leone and Germany had enjoyed long-standing bilateral ties which he hoped would further be strengthened during his tenure in the country.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

He noted that the was recognised in the international scene as an example for overcoming conflicts, building peace, strengthening democracy and human rights, conducting peaceful elections and fostering economic development.

His Excellency Gruner disclosed that the German government was fully aware of the dignified role that President Bio was playing at the moment on the international stage and that he was particularly grateful to serve in the country.

“The countries have collaborated in a lot of ways, over the years. The fight against the Ebola virus was one that lasted much longer than expected and Germany was one of the countries that helped during the outbreak. Mr President, I can assure you of the full intention of the German government to stand by Sierra Leone in its quest for better social, political and economic future under the New Direction and towards prosperity,” he assured.

Meanwhile, High Commissioner Manneh of the Gambia said Sierra Leone and the Gambia had enjoyed a fruitful relationship dating back to the colonial era. He said the two countries had a lot of similarities, especially in culture, which he cherished so much. He noted that a lot of Gambians had visited Sierra Leone, especially in pursuit of education.

His Excellency Manneh expressed his appreciation to President Bio and his new administration for introducing the free quality education, adding that education was the foundation for development. He promised to use his office to further deepen the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

“Over the years, there has been a notable increase in the presence of Sierra Leoneans in The Gambia and Gambians in Sierra Leone. I am convinced, therefore, that there is a huge scope for formal cooperation in several areas like education, tourism, cultural exchanges, fisheries, health among others for the benefit of the two counties. I have followed keenly the recent ECOWAS meeting held in Lome and the role you played in the deliberations of that august body. Despite being your maiden attendance, your performance was remarkable. I have no doubt that your effective participation, zeal and the seriousness you have shown at the summit of our sub-regional body will continue to be recognised by your peers,” he said.

In his brief statement, President Bio said: “I welcome you to our country. You are here to strengthen the bond between our countries and while you are here be rest assured of my government’s support”.



Merck Foundation to underscore their long term commitment to build healthcare capacity in Senegal

Merck Foundation met the Minister of Health of Senegal to discuss their Cancer Access Program

Merck Foundation (www.Merck-Foundation.com) discusses their healthcare development programs with The President of Senegal; 5th Edition of “Merck Africa Asia Luminary” to be conducted at CICAD, Dakar on 30th & 31st of October 2018 under the patronage of The President and in partnership with Ministry of Health of Senegal; Merck Foundation met the Minister of Health of Senegal to discuss their Cancer Access Program; Merck Foundation CEO was also invited to WHO Regional meeting for African Ministers of Health to share her experience of developing “Merck More than a Mother” campaign.


Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation with His Excellency MACKY SALL, The President of Senegal

Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation met His Excellency MACKY SALL, The President of Senegal to discuss Merck Foundation’s strong and long-term commitment to build healthcare capacity on 30th August 2018 in Senegal. Merck Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany.

“I am proud and elated to meet The President to discuss Merck Foundation’s commitment to improve the health and wellbeing of people of Senegal by improving access to quality and equitable healthcare in the country”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej.

During the meeting, Dr. Kelej also finalized Merck Foundation’s annual conference 5th Edition of “Merck Africa Asia Luminary” to be conducted at CICAD, Dakar, Senegal on 30th & 31st of October 2018, under the patronage of The President of Senegal, H.E. Macky Sall and The First Lady of Senegal, H.E. Marieme Faye Sall, and in partnership with the Ministry of Health of Senegal. It will be attended by more than 450 healthcare providers, policy makers, academia and researchers from over 45 African and Asian countries. The objective is to improve disease management, early detection and prevention, build healthcare and scientific research capacity and improve access to quality and equitable healthcare solutions across Africa and Asia.

Merck Foundation CEO also conducted a meeting with the Minister of Health of Senegal, Hon. Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr to discuss the procedure for providing one and two years Oncology Fellowship to Senegalese doctors for the next five years. They also talked about the training for Fertility specialists to improve access to quality fertility care in the country and providing Diabetes Diploma in French to improve Diabetes care in Senegal.

“We are excited to partner with Merck Foundation and are happy with their strong commitment and the efficient execution of their programs in the country” said Hon. Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Moreover, Dr. Rasha Kelej was invited by World Health Organization – WHO, during its Regional Meeting for African Ministers of Health in Dakar, to share her experience in conducting Merck More Than a Mother campaign to improve access to fertility care and break the stigma around infertile women.

“It was my pleasure to be a part of WHO’s Regional Meeting for Ministers of Health of Africa to discuss the inclusion of fertility care on the global health agenda. I look forward to a long-term relation with WHO to improve access to quality and equitable fertility care solutions and include infertility in the global health agenda. It is now time from my dream, to empower infertile women and couples in Africa and developing countries, to come true” concluded Dr. Rasha Kelej.

Video Games made-in-Africa reach the Global Scene during Devcom Thanks to Paradise Game, ahead of Gamescom 2018

PARADISE GAME, the preeminent video game company in West Africa, will introduce five independent videogame studios from Africa at the devcom 2018

For the 10th anniversary of gamescom, during the largest European game convention, several African game developers will participate in devcom, the interdependent game developer conference that will be held from August 19th to August 20th 2018 in Cologne, Germany.


Five independent studios coming from different countries and with a different background will make the trip to Cologne. There will be MASSEKA GAME STUDIO (http://Kissoro-Tribal-Game.com/) that represents Central African Republic, STUDIO LOMAY (https://www.Lomaytech.com/) from Madagascar, MOG MEDIA DESIGN (https://MogMediaDesign.itch.io/) studio from Niger, WEZA INTERACTIVE (https://WezaIe.itch.io/) studio from Kenya, and FRONTFIRE (https://Twitter.com/onizumuthegame?lang=en) studio from Algeria.

Hosted at Koelnmesse International Fair and Exhibition Center (ail Est), the African game developers will be in a section named “Africa Corner by Paradise Game”. This area will be dedicated to video games made in Africa and will offer these developers the opportunity to show their games to industry professionals, as well as to showcase the African culture through their games.

Sidick Bakayoko, Founder and CEO of Paradise Game (http://ParadiseGame.net/), said: “Our dream is to have video games as one of the main driver of the African economy, and as a way to employ millions of people throughout the continent. In order to get there, we need a strong ecosystem with game developers from Africa who export their games in the world and gain publicity internationally”.

The video game industry generates close to 100 billion dollars worldwide and 27% of these revenues come from mobile games. Africa represents huge potential with 500 Millions Africans who own a mobile phone.

The Video Game industry offers business opportunities to game developers and creates jobs for the African youth. The video game is also a tool that can be used to promote the African culture. Paradise Game has taken up this mission to create a Made in Africa label that offers visibility and exposure.