The world’s youth talk of making a difference

BEIJING, Nov. 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — “We must do our part by finding our passion, dreaming big, then starting small, and loving others along the way, and we can absolutely take our impact on the world to a whole another level,” said Geresu Dagmawit Mesfin in the final of the fourth China Daily Belt and […]

BEIJING, Nov. 29, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — “We must do our part by finding our passion, dreaming big, then starting small, and loving others along the way, and we can absolutely take our impact on the world to a whole another level,” said Geresu Dagmawit Mesfin in the final of the fourth China Daily Belt and Road Youth English Speaking Competition, held online from Nov 26 to 27.

Mesfin, 24, of Ethiopia and Wang Zhisheng, 21, of China, and Gabriella Madombwe, 19, of South Africa, were the three winners among six contestants who reached the final. Nearly 40 young people in more than 30 countries and regions had taken part in the semi-final.

Speaking on the topic “Youth making a difference”, all finalists talked of how young people can contribute to making the world a better place by proposing and making positive changes.

In Wang’s speech, he calls on young people from every inch and crevice of the world to contribute to a better future for this planet for all human beings to share. “I believe, there is a huge difference youth can and should make.”

“Youth is seeing the world through your own lens, an unperturbed lens which has not been smudged by the restrictions of reality,” Madombwe said. “Optimism, hope, courage, idealism, energy – that is how I see youth.”

Concluding the final competition, one of the judges, Mark Levine, a professor at Minzu University of China, spoke highly of the event and the contestants.

“This was a very unique competition, extremely interesting and informative. People came from all over the world. ”

The China Daily Belt and Road Youth English Speaking Competition, first held three years ago, has been an important public platform for young people from all over the world to exchange ideas, deepen mutual understanding and polish their communications skills. The annual event has attracted participants from 51 countries and regions.

This year’s event began in January. Preliminary rounds were held offline in Malaysia, Russia, Serbia and South Africa, and nine universities in China. With this year’s event over, contestants will get the chance to take part in more activities so they can gain a deeper understanding of China linguistically and culturally.

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One year since the emergence of COVID-19 virus variant Omicron

It was 26 November 2021 that WHO declared that the world was facing a new variant of concern: Omicron. It would go on to change the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Emerging evidence was quickly shared by scientists from Botswana, Hong Kong and South Africa and discussed in a special meeting of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group for Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).

 

Experts at the meeting worried about the large number of mutations present in this variant, which differed greatly from the other variants that had been detected so far. Early data showed Omicron’s rapid spread in some provinces in South Africa and an increased risk of reinfection compared to the previously circulating variants.

 

Just hours later, WHO declared this new variant a variant of concern: we were dealing with something new, something different, and something that the world had to quickly prepare for.

 

The Omicron effect

 

Omicron was quickly identified as being significantly more transmissible than Delta, the preceding variant of concern. Within 4 weeks, as the Omicron wave travelled around the world, it replaced Delta as the dominant variant.

 

Countries which had so far been successful in keeping COVID-19 at bay through public health and social measures now found themselves struggling. For individuals, the greatest price was paid by those who were at risk of severe disease but not vaccinated, and we saw hospitalizations and deaths rise in a number of places around the world.

 

By March 2022, WHO and partners estimate that almost 90% of the global population had antibodies against the COVID-19 virus, whether through vaccination or infection.

 

Overall, though, this new variant caused less severe disease than Delta on average. Scientists worked to understand why this was so. A number of factors likely played a role. For example, the virus replicated more efficiently in the upper airway, and population immunity had been steadily increasing worldwide due to vaccination and infections.

 

While vaccines reduced the impact of Omicron, they themselves were impacted: studies have shown that vaccine effectiveness against infection, disease, hospitalization and death waned (though at different rates) over time. However, protection against hospitalization and death have remained high, preventing millions of people from dying.

 

The next variant of concern?

 

Since the emergence of Omicron, the virus has continued to evolve. Today, there are over 500 sublineages of this variant circulating, but not one has been designated as a new variant of concern.

 

So far, these sublineages of Omicron have much in common: they are all highly transmissible, replicate in the upper respiratory tract and tend to cause less severe disease compared to previous variants of concern, and they all have mutations that make them escape built-up immunity more easily. This means that they are similar in their impact on public health, and the response that is needed to deal with them.

 

If the virus were to change significantly – like if a new variant caused more severe disease, or if vaccines no longer prevented severe disease and death – the world would need to reconsider its response. In that case, we would have a new variant of concern, and with it, new recommendations and strategy from WHO.

 

WHO, together with scientists and public health professionals around the world, continues to monitor the circulating variants for signs of the next variant of concern. However, there is apprehension because testing and sequencing are declining globally and the sequences that are available aren’t globally representative (most sequences are shared from high-income countries).

 

WHO and partners also remain concerned that surveillance at the human-animal interface is limited, where the next variant of concern could come from.

 

While it might be difficult to stop a new variant from emerging, quick detection and information sharing means its impact on our lives can be minimized.

 

Source: World Health Organization

Congo Schedules Presidential Elections for Dec 2023

KINSHASA — Democratic Republic of Congo said it will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 20, 2023, kicking off a year of complex preparations in the vast Central African country, large parts of which are overrun by militia violence.

 

Announcing the date at a ceremony in Kinshasa Saturday, the electoral body, CENI, outlined several challenges, including the logistics of transporting ballot materials thousands of miles, health concerns about Ebola and COVID-19, and unrest that has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

 

But the government has pledged to stick to the timetable in the country of 80 million people.

 

“It is not a question of negotiating with the constitutional deadlines, it is a question of us respecting them and consolidating our democracy,” said government spokesman Patrick Muyaya.

 

He said that the election will cost about $600 million, more than $450 million of which has already been budgeted.

 

Election struggles are common in Congo. The last presidential poll, Congo’s first democratic transition, was delayed by two years until it was finally held in December 2018. In that vote, President Felix Tshisekedi took over from his long-standing predecessor Joseph Kabila.

 

This time, similar challenges remain.

 

Candidates are expected to be announced in October next year, with a final list due in November. Tshisekedi is expected to run again, and one likely challenger is Martin Fayulu, who claimed victory in the 2018 poll.

 

Presidents are limited to two terms under Congolese law.

 

Despite billions of dollars spent on one of the United Nations’ largest peacekeeping forces, more than 120 armed groups continue to operate across the east, including M23 rebels, which Congo has repeatedly accused Rwanda of supporting. Kigali denies the accusations.

 

The M23 has staged a major offensive this year, seizing territory, and forcing thousands of people from their homes.

 

Source: Voice of America

4 Burkina Troops, 3 Civilians Killed in Jihadist-hit North

OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO — A roadside bomb killed four troops in northern Burkina Faso, an area wracked by jihadi insurgency, the army said on Saturday, while three civilians died in another strike in the same region.

 

The troops were killed on Friday when an improvised explosive device went off as an army escort drove along the Bourzanga-Kongoussi road, the army said in a statement, adding that one person was also wounded.

 

The troops were returning after having escorted an aid convoy into the town of Djibo, a security source told Agence France-Presse.

 

The security source said armed men attacked the northeastern town of Falangoutou on Friday, killing three civilians.

 

A former lawmaker said jihadi forces returned on Saturday to the town, attacking local self-defense teams who were organizing themselves to protect it.

 

One of the world’s poorest countries, Burkina has been struggling with a jihadi offensive since 2015.

 

Thousands of civilians and members of the security forces have died, and an estimated 2 million people have been displaced.

 

Disgruntled army officers have carried out two coups this year in a show of anger at failures to roll back the insurgency.

 

The first, in January, saw a military junta led by Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba overthrow elected president Roch Marc Christian Kabore.

 

The second, in September, saw Captain Ibrahim Traore come to power as he and his supporters ousted Damiba.

 

Traore has been appointed transitional president with the declared aim of taking back swaths of territory held by the jihadis.

 

Source: Voice of America