Sahel allies have ‘shifted the dynamic’ in fight with extremists: Macron

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Chad’s President Idriss Deby, Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki and French President Emmanuel Macron at the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 30, 2020. (Reuters)
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French President Emmanuel Macron listens as Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani speaks during the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 30, 2020. (Reuters)
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Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Kabore, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou, French President Emmanuel Macron, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, Chad’s President Idriss Deby and Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 30, 2020. (Reuters)
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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez arrives at the G5 Sahel summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania, June 30, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Sahel allies have ‘shifted the dynamic’ in fight with extremists: Macron

  • Macron: We are convinced that victory is possible in the Sahel, and that it is decisive for stability in Africa and Europe
  • Macron: We now have to consolidate this dynamic and strengthen it... The ground that we have recovered will not be given back

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania: Sahel countries and their ally France have “shifted the dynamic” in the fight against an eight-year-old extremist insurgency in the region, French President Emmanuel Macron said after a summit to review a six-month-old strategy.
Speaking at an end-of-meeting press conference, Macron said the change in tactics had yielded “spectacular results.”
“We are convinced that victory is possible in the Sahel, and that it is decisive for stability in Africa and Europe,” he said.
“We are in the process of finding the right path thanks to the efforts that have been made over this last six months.”
The one-day summit in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, gathered the presidents of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as well as France.
It was called to take stock of a more aggressive strategy in the Sahel, decided in January after a string of setbacks crowned by the loss of 13 French soldiers in a helicopter crash.
Under the change, France deployed an extra 500 troops to its Barkhane anti-extremist force in the Sahel, bringing its complement to 5,100.
Since then, the extremists have continued to carry out attacks almost daily, but they also lost a key leader to a French raid and are fighting internally, according to security sources.
Coalition forces have focussed on extremists in the “three-border region,” a hotspot of extremism where the frontiers of Burkina, Niger and Mali converge.
“Areas have been taken back from the terrorist groups (and) the armies have redeployed,” said Macron, adding that the tactics “have shifted the dynamic.”
“We now have to consolidate this dynamic and strengthen it... The ground that we have recovered will not be given back,” he warned.


When coronavirus robs you of your sense of smell

Updated 6 min 23 sec ago

When coronavirus robs you of your sense of smell

  • “Anosmia cuts you off from the smells of life, it’s a torture.” — Jean-Michel Maillard, president of anosmie.org
PARIS: “What I miss most is the smell of my son when I kiss him, the smell of my wife’s body,” says Jean-Michel Maillard.
Anosmia — the loss of one’s sense of smell — may be an invisible handicap, but is psychologically difficult to live with and has no real treatment, he says.
And it is the price that an increasing number of people are paying after surviving a brush with the coronavirus, with some facing a seemingly long-term inability to smell.
“Anosmia cuts you off from the smells of life, it’s a torture,” says Maillard, president of anosmie.org, a French group designed to help sufferers.
If you have the condition you can no longer breathe in the smell of your first morning coffee, smell the cut grass of a freshly mown lawn or even “the reassuring smell of soap on your skin when you’re preparing for a meeting,” he says.
You only truly become aware of your sense of smell when you lose it, says Maillard, who lost his own following an accident.
And it is not just the olfactory pleasures you lose. He points out that people with anosmia are unable to smell smoke from a fire, gas from a leak, or a poorly washed dustbin.
Eating is a completely different experience too, as so much of what we appreciate in food is what we can smell, says Alain Corre, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Hopital-Fondation Rothschild in Paris.
“There are dozens of causes of anosmia,” he says, including nasal polyps, chronic rhinitis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Now the new coronavirus has been added to that list, says Corre — with the symptom alone allowing a diagnosis of COVID-19 in some cases.
“When people lose their sense of smell and don’t get it back, we note a real change in the quality of life and a level of depression that is not insignificant,” he adds.
The problem is when the condition persists, he says.
“To be deprived of your sense of smell for a month, it’s not serious,” says Maillard. “Two months, it starts to become a problem. But after six months, you’re all alone under a bell jar.
“There’s a psychological aspect to this which is very difficult to live with,” he insists. “You need to get help.”

CovidORL study
There is no specific treatment for the condition.
You have to address the cause, says Corre, but “the problem of the anosmias linked to the virus is that often, the treatment of the viral infection has no effect on your smell.
“According to the first numbers, around 80 percent of patients suffering from COVID-19 recover spontaneously in less than a month and often even faster, in eight to 10 days.”
For others, however, it could be that the disease has destroyed their olfactory neurons — the ones that detect smells. The good news is that these neurons, at the back of the nose, are able to regenerate.
Two Paris hospitals, Rothschild and Lariboisiere, have launched a “CovidORL” study to investigate the phenomenon, testing how well different nose washes can cure anosmia.
One cortisone-based treatment has proved effective in treating post-cold instances of anosmia and offers some hope, says Corre.
Another way to approach the condition is through olfactory re-education, to try to stimulate the associations that specific smells have in your memory, he says.
His advice is to choose five smells in your kitchen that are special to you, that you really like: cinnamon say, or thyme. Breathe them in twice a day for five to 10 minutes while looking at what it is you are inhaling.
Anosmie.org has even put together a re-education program using essential oils, working with Hirac Gurden, director of neuroscience research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). It is based on the work of Dresden-based researcher Thomas Hummel.
“As early as March, we got several hundred phone calls, emails from people who had COVID and who were calling for help because they couldn’t smell anything any more,” says Gurden.
Maillard meanwhile finished his re-education program last winter, using four smells.
“Today, I have 10 of them,” he says, including fish, cigarettes and rose essential oil. “I’ve even found a perfume that I can smell!” he declares.