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Tanzania, Rwanda others recall Johnson & Johnson children’s cough syrup

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As a safety step, drug regulators in Tanzania, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe have called back a batch of Johnson & Johnson children’s cough syrup after their counterparts in Nigeria said that lab tests showed high levels of toxicity.

These countries are the fourth and fifth to recall the same batch of syrup. The syrup is used to treat children with coughs, hay fever, and other allergic responses. South Africa has also called back another group.

Nigeria’s health regulator, NAFDAC found a high amount of diethylene glycol in the syrup. This chemical has been linked to the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, Uzbekistan, and Cameroon since 2022, in one of the worst waves of poisoning from oral medications in the world. Diethylene glycol is dangerous for people to eat or drink and can cause sudden kidney failure.

J&J made the recalled batch of Benylin Paediatric syrup in South Africa in May 2021. However, the brand is now owned by Kenvue (KVUE.N), which split off from J&J last year. The Tanzania Medicines and Medical Devices Authority (TMDA) said the recall began on April 12 after learning about the test results in Nigeria.

“This is an exercise that does not involve investigation but rather monitoring to ensure that those affected drugs are removed from the market,” TMDA spokesperson Gaudensia Simwanza told Reuters on Monday.

A spokesperson for Kenya’s drug regulator said its test results on the syrup would likely be ready on Wednesday. “A review of our safety database doesn’t reveal any adverse events reported,” the Rwanda Food and Drugs Authority said in a statement dated April 12. “However, Rwanda FDA issues the present recall for precautionary measures.”

The Medicines Control Agency of Zimbabwe said it didn’t know when the product was brought into the country, but it was worried that the syrup could get into the market without permission. In this case, it said it would do more checks.

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Zambian cleric Archbishop Phiri bans politicians from speaking in Ndola archdiocese

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The Metropolitan Archbishop of Ndola, Archbishop Benjamin Phiri, has banned politicians from speaking in any church in the Ndola archdiocese following the disruption of services in the diocese by the police last Sunday.

The newly appointed Archbishop, who condemned the actions of the police, expressed deep concerns over the incident which he described as a blatant violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion and assembly.

Phiri who bared his mind during a thanksgiving service for the establishment of Ndola as an Archdiocese on Wednesday, also announced a ban on political activities in the church, citing the creation of divisions.

The Archbishop particularly referred to an incident at Divine Mercy Parish where a 66-year-old parishioner, Kamwale Phiri, was arrested for taking photographs of the heavy police presence around the church.

The incident, according to reports, occurred as police were allegedly hounding out opposition leaders including ex-president Edgar Lungu and Citizens First Party leader Harry Kalaba, who were attending services at various churches in the Ndola province.

“If you get any request that this one wants to pray, does he have to announce that he wants to pray? Why can’t he just come and sit in the crowd like everyone else?” Phiri queried while addressing the church.

He emphasized that no politician, whether from the ruling party or opposition, would be allowed to speak anymore because what they do is to bring confusion into the church.

“You are bringing confusion in the house of God. Politicians who want to pray can come to pray but don’t give them a platform to talk. I don’t want to hear that any priest allowed a politician to speak in church,” he stated.

Phiri reiterated that no politician was special, whether from the ruling party or not, and they would no longer get the privilege of preaching hatred in church.

“We are not playing, we are not joking here. I found it strange, and I do not know which law is being used by the police officers for them to detain a congregant without sufficient reasoning,” he stated.

Phiri added that it was not prohibited to take pictures in the country, especially if a person is within their own premises.

“When I was told of the police presence, I asked what the police were looking for and was told it looked like they were looking for opposition leaders. I said the church is the wrong place to look for opposition leaders. I advised my leaders to continue monitoring the situation and report to me,” he said.

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Mixed reactions as govt plans to send first Nigerian to space

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There have been mixed reactions following an announcement that the Nigerian government is planning to send a Nigerian to space in the shortest possible future.

The announcement was made by the Director-General of National Space Research and Development Agency (NARSDA), Dr Matthew Adepoju, after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a U.S firm, Space Exploration and Research Agency (SERA), on Human Space Flight programme.

Adepoju, who signed the MoU on behalf of the Federal Government in Abuja on Wednesday, said the agreement was aimed at sending the first Nigerian to space.

Adepoju noted that the event marked the commencement of the agency’s efforts to implement part of its mandate of human space flight, as the agency is committed and determined to ensure a Nigerian is sent to space.

“The Human Space Flight programme is one of the cardinal objectives of National Space Policy and Programme.

“It was with this in mind that we established the Department of Physical and Life Sciences about three years ago to forge this mandate.

“This is also coming as one of our deep space exploration because there are many spinoffs that will come from the collaboration and opportunities opened for Nigerians,’’ the DG said.

Also speaking on the plans, Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Uche Nnaji, said the human space flight was a key objective of Nigeria fully supported by the President Bola Tinubu Tinubu administration.

Nnaji said the National Space Policy and Programme (NSPP) which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2001, identified human space flight as one of its three pillars.

“Human spaceflight is not just a random aspiration of our country but a major objective of the Nigeria Space Policy and Programme which was approved by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, in 2001.

“Reviving and implementing all abandoned national plans is a cardinal point of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the administration of President Bola Tinubu. This partnership provides a way of achieving our long-time aspiration as a nation.

“This is also coming as one of our deep space explorations because there are many spinoffs that will come from the collaboration and opportunities opened for Nigerians.

“According to the 25-year roadmap approved in 2005 for the implementation of the NSPP, our first human space flight was scheduled for 2018.

“This means we are about six years behind schedule,” Nnaji said.

However, the plans have been eliciting mixed reactions from Nigerians since it was made public.

While some Nigerians have applauded the government on the move, others believe it should not be a priority as ordinary citizens are going through harrowing experiences as poverty and hardship continues to bite hard.

Those with the latter school of thought are urging the government to prioritise the welfare of the citizens instead of embarking on an audacious task of sending a Nigerian to space.

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