UN sounds alarm on trafficked medicines in the Sahel

Photo/Shutterstock
Photo/Shutterstock
Short Url
Updated 01 February 2023

UN sounds alarm on trafficked medicines in the Sahel

Photo/Shutterstock
  • The financial benefits from the illicit trade are reaped by many, including pharmaceutical company employees, law enforcement officers and street vendors

DAKAR: Up to 50 percent of medicines in West Africa are substandard or fake, the UN warned Tuesday in a report on the illicit trade in medical products, which can lead to antimicrobial resistance or toxic contaminations while undermining trust in health care systems.
Between January 2017 and December 2021, at least 605 tons of medical products were seized in West Africa during international operations, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said, though reporting is inconsistent and the real number is likely to be higher.
Across sub-Saharan Africa, up to $44.7 million per year is spent on treating people who have used counterfeit or substandard malaria treatments, the report said.
And up to 267,000 deaths are linked each year to the use of substandard antimalarials, according to World Health Organization data cited by the report.
Beyond the risk of counterfeits and poorly made drugs — which at best do not work and at worst lead to toxic contaminations — the report also warned of legitimate medications being used in unauthorized ways.
That can lead to increased resistance to frontline drugs such as antibiotics and antimalarials.
“Once a (legitimate) product is diverted from the supply chain, there is very little (oversight) about how it is being used,” said Francois Patuel, the head of the UNODC’s Research and Awareness Unit.
“If you... ask for an antibiotic in the market, you will be able to purchase it. Whether it is the right antibiotic that should be used, or should be used at all, is not something that is controlled,” he added.
“It is contributing to bacterial resistance and to antimalarial resistance.”
The report, which focused specifically on trafficking within the Sahel countries of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad, said the medical products that have been diverted from the legal supply chain typically come from Europe and to a lesser extent from China and India.
They often pass through seaports in Guinea, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria before being moved into the Sahel.
The financial benefits from the illicit trade are reaped by many, including pharmaceutical company employees, law enforcement officers and street vendors.
Armed groups, however, are less involved, it said.
“Despite terrorist groups and non-state armed groups being commonly associated with trafficking in medical products in the Sahel, most reported cases in the region show that the involvement of such groups is limited and mainly revolves around consuming medical products or levying ‘taxes’ on them in the areas under their control,” it said.

 


Belarus says it decided to host Russian nuclear weapons after NATO pressure

Belarus says it decided to host Russian nuclear weapons after NATO pressure
Updated 6 sec ago

Belarus says it decided to host Russian nuclear weapons after NATO pressure

Belarus says it decided to host Russian nuclear weapons after NATO pressure
  • The Belarusian foreign ministry justified its decision to cooperate with Russia in a statement on Tuesday
Belarus said on Tuesday it had decided to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons after years of pressure from the United States and its allies aimed at changing its political and geopolitical direction.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
said on Saturday
that Moscow would in future look to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in neighboring Belarus, a staunch ally, escalating a standoff with the West.
The Belarusian foreign ministry justified its decision to cooperate with Russia in a statement on Tuesday, saying Minsk was acting to protect itself from the West.
“Over the last two and a half years, the Republic of Belarus has been subjected to unprecedented political, economic and information pressure from the United States, the United Kingdom and its NATO allies, as well as the member states of the European Union,” the statement said.
“In view of these circumstances, and the legitimate concerns and risks in the sphere of national security arising from them, Belarus is forced to respond by strengthening its own security and defense capabilities.”
Minsk said the Russian nuclear plans would not contravene international non-proliferation agreements as Belarus itself would not have control over the weapons.

UN: Prominent Afghan girls’ education advocate arrested in Kabul

UN: Prominent Afghan girls’ education advocate arrested in Kabul
Updated 28 March 2023

UN: Prominent Afghan girls’ education advocate arrested in Kabul

UN: Prominent Afghan girls’ education advocate arrested in Kabul
  • Matiullah Wesa has for years advocated for girls’ education, particularly in conservative rural areas
  • The Taliban administration has barred most girls from high school and women from universities

KABUL: The United Nations said on Tuesday that a prominent Afghan girls’ education activist was arrested in Kabul this week and called on Taliban authorities to clarify the reason for his detention.
Spokespeople for the Taliban administration’s information ministry and intelligence agency did not immediately respond to request for comment or confirm the detention.
“Matiullah Wesa, head of (Pen Path) and advocate for girls’ education, was arrested in Kabul Monday,” the UN Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement. “UNAMA calls on the de facto authorities to clarify his whereabouts, the reasons for his arrest and to ensure his access to legal representation and contact with family.”
Wesa, who comes from the southern province of Kandahar, has for years advocated for girls’ education, particularly in conservative rural areas, including during the tenure of the previous Western-backed foreign government when he said many girls living in the countryside were not reached by education services. His organization, Pen Path, has held meetings with tribal elders, encouraged communities and authorities to open schools, and disbursed books and mobile libraries.
The Taliban administration has barred most girls from high school and women from universities saying there are perceived problems including around female Islamic dress. Officials have said they are undertaking work to reopen schools but have not given a time frame.
They say they respect women’s rights in accordance with their interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan custom and that the improved security in the country since foreign forces left has made it safer for many young children to go to school.
Last year, Wesa said his work was free of political interference and impartial and his focus was on helping communities encourage girls’ education.


Australian soldier charged over Afghan killing freed on bail

Australian soldier charged over Afghan killing freed on bail
Updated 28 March 2023

Australian soldier charged over Afghan killing freed on bail

Australian soldier charged over Afghan killing freed on bail
  • Oliver Schulz had been in custody since his arrest last week on the war crime of murder
  • Helmet camera footage allegedly shows Schulz shoot man from Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province three times

SYDNEY: A former elite soldier charged with murder for allegedly killing an unarmed man in Afghanistan was released on bail Tuesday by a magistrate who concluded he would face danger from Muslim extremists in prison.
Oliver Schulz, 41, had been in custody since his arrest in rural New South Wales state last week on the war crime of murder.
His lawyer Phillip Boulten applied for bail in Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court on Monday, arguing the former Special Air Service Regiment trooper faced serious risks to his personal safety from Muslim extremists in the prison system and had to be segregated from other inmates.
“Wherever this man is going to be held in prison, he is likely to have to mix with people in prison who sympathize with the Taliban or with other Islamic extremist groups,” Boulten said.
Magistrate Jennifer Atkinson granted the request, agreeing the risks posed to him while behind bars were too great.
“It’s possible to infer that there may be some people being held there who may take an adverse position in relation to what was said to be the accused’s behavior both as a member of the (Australian Defense Force) and also on the day the incident allegedly occurred,” Atkinson told the court.
Schulz had been held at a maximum-security prison in Goulburn, 200 kilometers southwest of Sydney. Most of New South Wales’ worst convicted terrorists are held at Goulburn.
Helmet camera footage aired by Australian Broadcasting Corp. in 2020 that was shot in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan Province in 2012 will form part of the prosecution case.
The footage allegedly shows Schulz shoot local man Dad Mohammad three times as he lay on his back in a wheat field with his hands and knees raised. His father later made a complaint to the Australian Defense Force alleging his son had been shot in the head.
Atkinson said that because of the murder allegation, Schulz would be in a “very difficult if not dangerous environment” in custody and correctional staff could not be available 24 hours a day to supervise him.
“I am of the view that the position the accused finds himself in could be worse than other persons who are on remand given the particular security risks to his person,” she said.
Schulz would also have difficulties giving advice to his lawyers and accessing confidential material under strict conditions due to national security concerns surrounding the case if he were forced to do so behind bars, Atkinson said.
The court has suppressed the names of the town and region where Schulz lives to protect his family from threats.
After footage of the Afghanistan shooting was broadcast nationally, the then-Defense Minister Linda Reynolds referred the allegation to the Australian Federal Police.
Schulz was suspended from duty in 2020 and later discharged from the Australia Defense Force on medical grounds.
Schulz, who was awarded the Commendation for Gallantry for his service in Afghanistan, is the first former or serving Australian Defense Force member to face a war crime charge of murder under domestic law.
He faces a potential life sentence in prison if convicted.
He is among 19 current and former Australian special forces soldiers who a war crimes investigation found could face charges for illegal conduct in Afghanistan.
A military report released in 2020 after a four-year investigation found evidence that Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.
More than 39,000 Australian military personnel served in Afghanistan during the 20 years until the 2021 withdrawal, and 41 were killed there.


Former student shoots dead 3 children, 3 adults at Tennessee Christian school

Former student shoots dead 3 children, 3 adults at Tennessee Christian school
Updated 28 March 2023

Former student shoots dead 3 children, 3 adults at Tennessee Christian school

Former student shoots dead 3 children, 3 adults at Tennessee Christian school
  • The motive was not immediately known, but the suspect had drawn detailed maps of the school
  • Drake identified the suspect as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, a resident of the Nashville area

NASHVILLE, Tennessee: A heavily armed 28-year-old fatally shot three children and three adult staffers on Monday at a private Christian school the suspect once attended in Tennessee’s capital city before police killed the assailant, authorities said.
The motive was not immediately known, but the suspect had drawn detailed maps of the school, including entry points for the building, and left behind a “manifesto” and other writings that investigators were examining, Police Chief John Drake told reporters.
The latest in an epidemic of deadly mass gun violence that has come to routinely terrorize even the most cherished of US institutions unfolded on a warm spring morning at The Covenant School, whose students consist mostly of elementary school-age children.
Drake identified the suspect as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, a resident of the Nashville area, and referred to the assailant by female pronouns. The chief said the suspect identified as transgender but provided no further clarity.
The Tennessean newspaper cited a police spokesperson as saying Hale used he/him pronouns. Hale used male pronouns on a LinkedIn page that listed recent jobs in graphic design and grocery delivery.
Police later released a school video showing the assailant blasting through glass doors with gunfire and roaming the halls, pointing a semi-automatic rifle. Hale wore a black vest over a white T-shirt, camouflage pants and a backwards red baseball cap in a video that showed only the shooter in the frame.
Addressing an early evening news conference, Drake said police were working on a theory about what may have precipitated the shooting and would “put that out as soon as we can.” He said the suspect had no known prior criminal history.
In a subsequent NBC News television interview, Drake said investigators believed the shooting stemmed from “some resentment” the suspect harbored “for having to go to that school” as a younger person.
The police chief did not specify the nature of such presumed resentment, or whether it had anything to do with the suspect’s gender identity or the Christian orientation of the school. Drake said the school was singled out for attack but the individual victims were targeted at random.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department began receiving calls at 10:13 a.m. of a shooter at the school, and arriving officers reported hearing gunfire coming from the building’s second floor, police spokesperson Don Aaron told reporters.
Two officers from a five-member team shot the assailant in a lobby area, and the suspect was pronounced dead by 10:27 a.m.
“The police department response was swift,” Aaron said.
Police said the suspect was armed with two assault-type guns and a 9 mm pistol.
The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all age 9, along with staffers Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian, Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher, and Katherine Koonce, 60, listed on the Covenant website as “head of school.”
The Covenant School, founded in 2001, is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville with about 200 students, according to the school’s website. It serves preschool through sixth graders and held an active shooter training program in 2022, WTVF-TV reported.


New York waits... and waits... for expected Trump indictment

New York waits... and waits... for expected Trump indictment
Updated 28 March 2023

New York waits... and waits... for expected Trump indictment

New York waits... and waits... for expected Trump indictment
  • The probe centers on $130,000 paid weeks before the 2016 election to adult film star Stormy Daniels to stop her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump a decade earlier

NEW YORK: Nine days after Donald Trump announced he was about to be arrested over a hush-money payment to a porn star, the world still awaits what would be one of the most famous police mugshots in history.
The Republican former US president, who has never been shy about grabbing the limelight, sent newsrooms in the United States and beyond into a spin on March 18 when he announced he was three days away from being brought before a New York judge.
Trump, it turned out, had bad information or was simply guessing, and his equally baseless claim a week later that the case had been dropped altogether was greeted with due incredulity.
The prosecutors may not be marching to Trump’s tune but legal analysts genuinely expect the 76-year-old billionaire — who is running again for the White House — to be read his Miranda rights any day now.
A grand jury — a panel of citizens with broad investigative powers that works with prosecutors — reconvened Monday in Manhattan, where they reportedly heard from the former publisher of the National Enquirer, a central player in the hush money payment scheme.
The probe centers on $130,000 paid weeks before the 2016 election to adult film star Stormy Daniels to stop her from going public about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump a decade earlier.
Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, who has testified before the grand jury, told Congress in 2019 that he made the payment on Trump’s behalf and was later reimbursed.
Prosecutors say the checks were not properly registered, which might normally result in a misdemeanor charge of falsifying business records.
But that could be upgraded to a felony if the district attorney can persuade the grand jury that the payment and the suspect accounting were part of a cover-up, intended to benefit Trump’s election campaign by burying the scandal.
There are strict laws about how much candidates can contribute to their own election bid, and secretly funneling money toward campaign coffers can lead to jail terms of several years.
Criminal charges of any level would be uncharted territory in the United States, which has never indicted a sitting or former president.
If the jury votes to indict Trump, Manhattan’s chief local prosecutor is obliged to comply with their decision and announce it to the public.
Accused by Trump and the former president’s allies in the House of Representatives of a political “witch hunt,” prosecutor Alvin Bragg, an elected Democrat, has hit back at Republican “interference” in the investigation.
Trump staged his first official campaign rally in Texas on Saturday, brushing off his potential indictment — denying the tryst with Daniels as he railed against multiple criminal probes threatening his 2024 bid for the White House.
“I think they’ve already dropped the case,” Trump told reporters aboard his plane home to Florida, according to political website Axios.
“It’s a fake case. Some fake cases, they have absolutely nothing.”