EU, Africa leaders drum up support for impoverished Sahel

In this file photo, a soldier stands guard outside the Splendid Hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. West Africa's extremist threat has moved into a new part of the vast Sahel region, with a previously calm area of Burkina Faso facing the kinds of assaults that have forced thousands elsewhere to flee over the past year. (AP)
Updated 23 February 2018

EU, Africa leaders drum up support for impoverished Sahel

BRUSSELS: European Union leaders meet Friday with counterparts from West Africa in a show of support for the impoverished Sahel region that has fallen prey to extremists and is a key transit point for migrants heading to Europe.
The meeting in Brussels is meant as a show of political and financial support for the five nations pursuing a new regional counterterror force: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Around 30 leaders are attending, plus senior officials from the US, Japan, Norway and Morocco.
Some are likely to pledge funds for the G5 Sahel security force launched a year ago. It joins a number of security efforts that include France’s largest overseas military operation, a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and a US presence of about 800 troops in Niger, where four soldiers were killed in an October ambush.
Security has deteriorated in the vast Sahel since 2011, with attacks by a variety of extremist groups a growing occurrence. Both extremist fighters and people seeking better lives in Europe move through the long, porous borders.
More than 1,100 people have been killed in the region since 2014, nearly 400 of them last year. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is considered the most active of around eight extremists groups operating there.
The 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force is seeking more than €400 million ($500 million) for its mission along mostly desert borders, including near Libya, the main jumping-off point for migrants bound for Italy.
Around 250 million euros has been offered so far, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia, some €90 million from the EU and its member countries and $60 million from the US.
But the EU insists it is not just about security. Brussels says political help and development assistance are vital in a region wracked by extreme poverty, food shortages and health crises and where almost 5 million people have been forced from their homes.
The EU is investing more than €8 billion in development aid in the Sahel for 2014-2020. Part of that is self-interest as the EU seeks to ease its refugee burden by tackling the root causes of migration.
While migrant arrivals through Libya have dropped, more than 120,000 people still left there last year. Many die in the grueling crossing of the Sahel and Sahara before they can even take their chances in often overcrowded traffickers’ boats on the Mediterranean.

UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

Updated 4 min 22 sec ago

UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

  • Human trials of the vaccine will expand to hundreds more people in the “coming weeks.”

LONDON: A leading British scientist has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out across the country as early as the first half of next year.

Professor Robin Shattock leads the team working on Imperial College London’s vaccine, one of the UK’s two most promising research programs. He told Sky News: “We anticipate if everything goes really well, that we'll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

“Assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.”

Shattock also warned that there was “no certainty” that any of the vaccines currently being developed would work, but said the risk of that is “very, very low.”

Imperial College London is now conducting human trials of their vaccine, with 15 volunteers having received it so far. Shattock said this will be ramped up in the “coming weeks” to include another 200 to 300 patients.

“I think we're very lucky in the UK that we have two very strong candidates, the one from Imperial, the one from Oxford, and so we’re pretty well placed, but there's still not a certainty that either of those two will work,” he said.

Oxford University is also developing a vaccination for Covid-19, in partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

While Shattock said he hopes Imperial College London’s vaccine will be available for the whole of the UK in the first half of next year, it is unclear how long it would take for it to be available outside of the country.

The UK, European Union and the US have all invested huge sums into vaccine development, and struck deals with pharmaceutical companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars each to ensure first-in-line access to successful vaccinations.

However, international organizations such as the UN, International Red Crescent and Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders have raised concerns that the world’s poorest countries will be unable to access vaccinations and effective Covid-19 treatments due to rich countries outspending them.