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WHO to reconvene emergency panel over monkeypox outbreak

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The World Health Organization (WHO) would reconvene its expert committee on July 21 to decide whether the recent monkeypox outbreak constitutes a global health emergency.

The health body made the position on Thursday having recorded 9,200 cases of monkeypox in 63 countries in the recent outbreak of the virus.

The UN committee meeting in June 27 decided that the disease was not yet a health emergency. There have recently been reported cases in other African countries like Nigeria and Morocco.

The Regional Director for Africa for WHO, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said the continent faced an acute risk: “For Africa, the threat is severe.  New WHO analysis have revealed a 63% increase in the number of zoonotic outbreaks in the African region in the 10 years to 2022 compared to the previous decade. One in every three confirmed public health event in the region, in the past decade, was a zoonotic disease outbreak.”

“Although there’s been a notable increase in monkeypox cases since April this year compared to the same period in 2021, the positive news is the numbers are still lower than for the 2020 outbreak peak when the region recorded its highest ever monthly cases. Following a sudden drop in 2021, 203 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been recorded in the region since the beginning of the year.”

Monkeypox, a disease that was once largely restricted to Africa, has also penetrated Europe and North America in its recent spread with more than 100 cases recorded outside Africa.

The disease until recently was once largely restricted to Africa, but has gradually penetrating Europe and North America in its recent outbreak.

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US air strikes targets al-Shabaab Islamists in Somalia

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Several US air strikes have taken out several al-Shabaab commanders and their strongholds in Somalia, according to state media reports on Wednesday.

A statement by Somalia state own media said US military carried out air strikes against the al-Shabaab fighters in the central Hiran region on Tuesday, killing several fighters and their commanders.

The report said the air strikes followed a request from the Somali government following renewed attacks by the rebel group in different parts of the country.

A statement by the US-Africa Command based in the Horn of Africa country said airstrikes in June and July killed seven jihadist fighters flatter an increased in attacks on government targets in recent months by the insurgents.

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Sierra Leone: Parliament passes law to protect locals from land grabs

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The parliament in Sierra Leone has passed two laws that is widely believed will boost the rights of rural landowners and women.

The Customary Land Rights Act and the Land Commission Act, both enacted on Monday, will protect against land grabs by big mining and agribusiness firms.

The new laws empower local landowners to negotiate the value of their land with investors and prevent it being leased out without their express consent.

An official of international legal advocacy group, Namati, Eleanor Thompson, said “to our knowledge there is not a legal regime anywhere, in either hemisphere that grants such robust rights to communities facing harm.”

The move is also praised by Gerben Haringsma who is the director of SOCFIN, the biggest agribusiness company in Sierra Leone, called it a “dream of NGOs”.

“Certainly, it will block any investment… It makes things very expensive and we are all prone to enormous blackmail by various communities.” Haringsma remarked.

Sierra Leone has a history of sometimes deadly conflict between local communities and foreign companies that have cleared huge tracts of land for palm oil and sugarcane plantations in recent years.

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