Sept. 14, 2021 (EIRNS)—In an interview with TASS published Sept. 13, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov warned that, due to both U.S. and UN sanctions, Afghanistan faces the threat of famine. The country is now “on life support,” he said, because it depends entirely on assistance from international development institutes, the UN, the EU, and the U.S. In fact, David Beasley, director of the World Food Program, reported during yesterday’s UN conference in Geneva on aid to Afghanistan that 40% of its GDP comes from foreign aid, and 75% of its public spending from international funding. Kortunov admonished that, if the Taliban coming to power means there will be more sanctions placed on the country, it could jeopardize food deliveries. He told TASS that it will take an estimated $1 billion a month, minimally, to maintain basic social institutions and avoid hunger in certain regions—that is, $12 billion yearly.
Kortunov also highlighted the issue of who will control distribution of humanitarian and food assistance to Afghanistan. Take the case of Syria, he said, where the West claims that President Bashar al-Assad can’t be trusted to handle this task, so it’s left in the hands of international agencies and aid groups. “It is not to be ruled out that the same position will be taken in respect of the Taliban,” Kortunov said, explaining it would lead to a situation where the international community “will be ready to provide food assistance but on the condition that unimpeded access will be granted to the areas in need,” and the Taliban excluded from any decision-making as to whom aid should be delivered. In the Syrian case, Western arguments are simply a pretext for curtailing Syrian sovereignty under the guise of “humanitarian” protection. How this plays out in Afghanistan—a more complex situation—remains to be seen. The TASS article can be found here.
China to Donate Vaccines, Medical Aid To Afghanistan; Stresses Need for Regional Cooperation and Coordination—
Sept. 9, 2021 (EIRNS)–Yesterday’s mini-summit among China, Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, called to discuss how to address the challenges posed by the Afghan situation, announced a humanitarian aid package of $31 million, including food, water, three million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and other medical supplies. The meeting was chaired by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who had just completed a tour of Afghanistan’s neighbors 10 days earlier. The three million COVID vaccine doses reportedly represent only a first batch, with more to come. Xinhua reports that State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that China is prepared to offer more anti-epidemic and emergency materials to Afghanistan under the China-South Asian Countries Emergency Supplies Reserve.
Today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian offered more details on yesterday’s meeting, stressing that it is the first attempt by Afghanistan’s neighbors “to work closely in response to the evolving situation in the country,” and to specifically establish “a coordination and cooperation mechanism.” He explained that this mechanism should be able to work smoothly with other existing multilateral mechanisms on Afghanistan “and can complement each other and form synergy. All participating parties support the continued operation of this unique mechanism so that countries can share policy propositions, coordinate positions, and jointly address challenges through this platform. The hope to host the second conference has already been expressed,” he reported.
WHO Aid Shipments Arriving in Afghanistan—
Sept. 9, 2021 (EIRNS)–On Monday, Sept. 6, a World Food Program plane carrying WHO essential medicines and supplies landed in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. This was the first of three such planned cargo deliveries. The WFP’s executive director retweeted the WHO information that the 53-metric-ton shipment contained 780 medical kits, and 50 kits to treat severe acute malnutrition in children. WHO teams were on the ground, ready to swiftly deliver the supplies to health facilities most in need. The WHO tweeted photographs of the plane and cargo.
On Monday, Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis said, from Kabul, that aid agencies, including the Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors without Borders, and the AHO, say they are running out of food and medicine. “WHO has said that 90 percent of their clinics will close imminently.” She said that WHO had 2,300 health clinics spread across the country, operating last year, treating millions of people.
Sept. 1 (EIRNS)—A focus of humanitarian aid to Haiti right now is to get food, water, tarps, tents and medical supplies into those remote rural areas in the mountainous Southern peninsula, only accessible by helicopter. Partnering with USAID or with other Haitian or foreign charities, eight military aircraft from the U.S. Southern Command are carrying supplies to these small communities to meet their immediate needs and stock them with supplies to face the months ahead. Multiple trips are made daily from the Port-au-Prince airport. Residents of these communities have lost everything– crops, livestock and even the ability to leave, as roads have been destroyed by the earthquake or mudslides caused by Tropical Storm Grace.
Food is urgently needed. According to the World Food Program, in the three most severely-affected departments, Sud, Grand’Anse and Nippes, the number of people in need of urgent food assistance has increased by one-third since the quake, from 138,000 to 215,000. A year ago, the UN had warned that 4.4 million Haitians (42% of the population) faced acute food insecurity; and the country ranked 104th out of 107 on the Global Hunger Index. Now, Lola Castro, WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said in a statement that “the earthquake rattled people who were already struggling to feed their families. The compound effects of multiple crises are devastating communities in the south faced with some of the highest levels of food insecurity in the country,” News Americas reported her saying Aug. 30.
The WFP is committed to providing food, shelter and medical aid to 215,000 people in the three southern departments—although the need extends well beyond those three. The UN’s Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has launched an appeal for $187.3 million in order to reach 500,000 affected people, although the agency’s Aug. 31 report indicated that at least 650,000 are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. The World Bank’s sustainable development and infrastructure program did an initial damage assessment of $1 billion but this is expected to increase with more extensive assessments.
In its Aug. 31 report, OCHA also pointed to the growing risk of a major COVID-19 outbreak. Such preventative measures as mask wearing and social distancing are “compromised due to the current operational context,” OCHA notes, adding that less than 1% of Haiti’s 11 million inhabitants has been vaccinated. Nor are there vaccines! The country has received only 500,000 doses through the COVAX facility. PPE is scarce. Poverty, poor sanitation, lack of clean water and the fact that people are gathering in close quarters seeking food assistance and shelter are all risk factors. Argentina’s Telam news agency quoted OCHA warning that the possibility of “new and more contagious and dangerous variants reaching the island is particularly worrisome during the weeks and months following the earthquake as the country’s healthcare system lacks the ability to respond to a COVID outbreak.” Detailed OCHA fact sheet is here.
World Food Program’s Beasley Met With Taliban in Afghanistan on Continuity of UN Relief—
Sep. 1 (EIRNS)–David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program, was in Afghanistan last week, during the evacuation period, to personally see to arrangements to continue and step-up food and humanitarian relief in these very hard times. He met with Taliban leaders on plans. Then, back in his home state of South Carolina, he was interviewed by local TV WBTW, in a video now in circulation, stressing the need for resources and action in Afghanistan. The interview can be seen here.
Overall, 18 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian relief—half the population, with over 500,000 displaced. Four million are near death this year from starvation, without reliable food relief, Beasley said.
He stressed, on his operating approach, “We have to negotiate, work with whoever controls an area. That’s why we’re in war zones. We work with both sides. We have no choice, because we’re trying to reach the innocent victims in the conflict. ” He said of his visit, “We’ve had very frank conversations and so far, quite shockingly, the Taliban has said to us, ‘We want you to do what you do. We don’t want to interfere.’ They’ve actually provided protection and warehouses and some of our supply chain and our routes.”
The World Food Program is appealing for an additional $200 million over the next 45-day period, in order to obtain and pre-stage food for the coming Winter months. Beasley is also mobilizing WFP workers to man the front lines to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in poor countries. The WFP is the UN logistics and travel service for all purposes, not just food.
Today, UN representative in Afghanistan Isabelle Moussard Carlsen gave an interview to CGTN on the dimensions of need for aid in Afghanistan. Since May, 80,000 more people have been displaced, above the 500,000, and more of this is taking place. Of the children under five years old, 60% are suffering from acute, severe malnutrition.
Epidemiologists’ `Math’ Says Vaccinate More Before Any Boosters–
Aug. 22 (EIRNS) — A low-key op-ed by two epidemiologists, “Boosters won’t stop the Delta variant: Here’s the math”, was published back on Aug. 15 in the Washington Post. While focused on the United States, if applied to the entire world’s population it appears to provide substantiation for focusing all available and contracted vaccine supplies on the basic vaccination of citizens before giving any booster shots. The premise of their analysis: “Many vaccinated people are asking whether it’s time to get a booster dose. But the math behind the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19 can help us see that it’s not.”
The argument: The basic reproductive number R0 or the original virus in this pandemic — the number of people likely to be infected by each infectious person if there is no immunity in the population — was 3; of the Delta variant, it is estimated at 6-9. Re is the effective reproductive number, which is R0 multiplied by the share of the population which is susceptible to the disease, and which must be kept at 1 or lower to keep the epidemic from spreading. The susceptible portion of the population can be expressed by [1-xv], where 1 is the whole population (or adult population), x is the percentage of people fully vaccinated and v is the vaccines’ effectiveness. Then the effective reproductive number of the virus, Re, is R0 times [1-xv]. This Re is a direct measure of how fast and how far the Delta variant infections, hospitalizations and deaths spread.
Taking the Delta variant’s R0 as 8 and the vaccine effectiveness as 85%, Re would be just 1.2 if the entire target population were fully vaccinated. At 52% fully vaccinated (where the United States is now), Re for Delta is about 4, worse than the original virus variant when no one at all was immune. If a booster shot is assumed to raise vaccine effectiveness to 95%, then Re with the currently vaccinated population, if they were all to be boosted, is still about 4.
But if 75% of the target population were to become fully vaccinated, the Re number drops below 3. If 85% were vaccinated, with no boosters, Re would be about 2.4, even having assumed an R0 value which is near the top of the range for the Delta variant.
In other words, there is a huge field for increasing x, the proportion of people vaccinated; relative to the small range for increasing v, the vaccines’ effectiveness, by booster shots; and this determines how the spread of the Delta variant of COVID can be arrested. It would seem to apply to the population of all the world’s nations, as well as to that of Americans.
The authors are Prof. Eleanor Murray, Boston Univ. School of Public Health; and her doctoral student Ruby Barnard-Mayers.
China Announces Two Billion COVID-19 Vaccines to Be Exported in 2021—
Aug. 6 (EIRNS)–President Xi Jinping announced today that China will export two billion COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. The massive expansion of production capacity this year has allowed China to export between 600 to 750 million doses so far, while also applying over 1.7 billion doses within China. The track record of Sinovac and Sinopharm so far indicates that they will produce almost 5 billion doses this year, and Tao Lina, a vaccine expert in Shanghai confirms this. Otherwise, China is presently vaccinating their population at the rate of 17.9 million shots a day, which is seven times the rate of the European Union, and 30 times that of the United States.
President Xi sent a written message today to the International Forum on Covid-19 Vaccine Cooperation, hosted by China Central Television and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang-Yi. He described the vaccine as a “global public good,” and stressed common action on world health as part of building a community with a shared future for mankind. He recognized the problem with the resurgences of the coronavirus allowing for the proliferation of mutations and variant strains. Besides exporting vaccines, he described China’s work with countries to develop and produce vaccines, with joint production already begun in the UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan and Mexico — a new capacity of over 200 million doses, which needs further expansion.
Central Asian Heads of State Meet in Turkmenistan on Energy, Transit Corridors and Fighting the Pandemic –
Aug. 6 (EIRNS)–Today the Third Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia was held in Turkmenistan, at the Caspian Sea resort town of Avaza, bringing together the presidents of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrghizstan, plus others including Natalia Gherman, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Central Asia. There were many parallel sessions, including the Economic Forum of the Central Asian Nations.
Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said during his speech, “Based on UN documents, we are moving towards the formation in Central Asia of favorable political-legal and economic conditions for a safe, sustainable energy partnership focused on meeting regional energy demand and on accessing world markets through international transit corridors.” Another focus was collaboration against the COVID-19 pandemic. Including furthering joint research on mutations, as well as methods of treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. The heads of state issued a statement.
World Health Organization: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout To Accelerate in Africa—
Aug. 5, 2021 (EIRNS) – A World Health Organization article published in Consortium News July 30 reports on the 520 million vaccine doses that will be shipped to Africa by the end of 2021 by COVAX. Can they be administered in that 4-plus-month time frame by the public health systems of the African countries? That is a vital question.
Ethiopian biologist Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said that poorer countries worldwide have administered, on average, 1.5 shots per 100 people, while developed countries have administered 100 shots for 100 people, on average.
Up to the present, only 79 million COVID doses have arrived in Africa, and 21 million people, or just (1.6 percent) of Africa’s population are fully vaccinated.
Aug. 4 (EIRNS)—China is experiencing a resurgence of COVID, particularly of the new delta variant, and is implementing more stringent measures to deal with it. Most seem to have developed through imported cases, at the airport in Nanjing and in the south Yunnan province at the Myanmar border. But the provinces of Zhejiang and Henan, where there has been major flooding recently, have also been hit with new cases. The city of Wuhan is also again in the process of conducting nucleic acid testing on its 11 million people in order to avoid a replay of the terrible 2020 outbreak.
The State Council announced on Aug. 3 that COVID-19 prevention and control would now be “the top priority” for local governments. “Airports, harbors and land borders should be closely guarded to prevent imported COVID-19 cases. International travelers and cargo should be strictly separated from spaces where local people can enter,” Sun Chunlan, a member of the Political Bureau said in her comments at the press conference announcing the new measures.
“People that are most prone to infection should be placed in quarantine immediately. Regional investigations targeting close contacts should be completed within 24 hours,” she said. Sun required nationwide scrutiny of in-hospital infection control measures. “Hospitals that fail to meet the standards should carry out rectification or even suspend operations,” she said. There are now four high-risk areas for the COVID outbreak and 150 medium-risk areas. The country has already distributed 1.7 billion doses of the vaccine.