Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Marxmas


God rest ye merry socialists, let nothing you dismay

Remember there's no evidence there was a Christmas day.
When Christ was born just is not known, no matter what they say,
Glad tidings of reason & fact, reason & fact,
Glad tidings of reason & fact. 

There was no star of Bethlehem, there was no angel song,
There could have been no wise men, for the journey was too long,
The stories in the Bible are historically wrong,
Glad tidings of reason & fact, reason & fact,
Glad tidings of reason & fact. 

Much of our Christmas custom comes from Persia & from Greece,
From solstice celebrations of the ancient Middle East,
Our so-called Christmas holiday is but a pagan feast,
Glad tidings of reason & fact, reason & fact,
Glad tidings of reason & fact. 


Although Christians celebrate December 25 as the birthday of Christ, no one in the first two Christian centuries had any knowledge of the exact day or year in which he was born.

 Most Christians were more interested in the story of his death.

 However, early in the fourth-century, Church fathers, who were concerned about the popularity of Mithraism, designated December 25th, the traditional birthday of the sun god Mithras, as Christ's official birth date. The celebration of the birth of Christ also took over the pagan winter solstice holiday, which like the birthday of Mithras, fell in late December. From thereon, December 25th was to be observed at a holy mass, or "Christ's Mass." 336AD is the first recorded celebration of Christmas on December 25 occurs in Rome.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Africa denied vaccines

 An analysis by the People's Vaccine Alliance showed that between November 11 and December 21, 2021, the E.U., U.K., and U.S.A. acquired more coronavirus vaccine doses in a six-week period before Christmas than the entire continent of Africa received in all of 2021.

They secured 513 million vaccine doses as they accelerated their booster-shot campaigns in preparation for the holiday season. African countries, meanwhile, got just 500 million vaccine doses throughout the entire year.

"Make no mistake: rich country governments are to blame for the uncertainty and fear that is once again clouding Christmas," Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam International, said in a statement. "By blocking the real solutions to vaccine access in poorer countries, they are prolonging the pandemic and all its suffering for every one of us."

Marriott said that while "rich countries are banking on boosters to keep them safe from Omicron and future variants of Covid-19," booster shots "can never be more than a temporary and inadequate firewall."

"Extinguishing the threat of variants and ending this pandemic requires vaccinating the world," said Marriott. "And that means sharing vaccine recipes and letting developing countries manufacture jabs for themselves."

Maaza Seyoum of the African Alliance echoed that message, castigating the leaders of wealthy countries for prioritizing "the obscene profits of pharmaceutical companies over the lives of people in Africa."

"The Omicron variant shows that vaccine inequality is a threat to everyone, everywhere," Seyoum said. "Boris Johnson, Olaf Scholz, and European leaders need to finally support an intellectual property waiver and let Africa and the global south unlock its capacity to manufacture and distribute vaccines. Otherwise, humanity will never beat the race against the next variant."

 Pfizer and Moderna have claimed that a patent waiver wouldn't help boost global vaccine production because low-income countries lack the manufacturing capacity necessary to make mRNA shots, experts have identified more than 100 firms in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that are qualified and prepared to do so.

"If every country was able to vaccinate at the same rate as the U.K. target," the alliance noted, "it would take just 68 days to deliver a first dose to everyone who needs one, leaving no one unvaccinated by the end of February 2022."

If current distribution trends and artificial supply constraints continue, the WHO has said, the African continent might not reach 70% vaccination against Covid-19 until late 2024. At present, just 8.6% of Africa's population is fully vaccinated.

Nick Dearden, director of the U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now, said Friday that "if we ever want to have a normal Christmas again, we need to vaccinate the world."

"But right now, the U.K. and E.U. are holding back international efforts to use and expand manufacturing and distribution capacity in low- and middle-income countries," Dearden continued. "It's reckless and risks trapping us in an endless cycle of variants, boosters, restrictions, and even lockdowns."

In Six Weeks Ahead of Christmas, Rich Nations Snagged More Vaccines Than Africa Got All Year (

No Good News for Africa

 The United Nations Economic Commission on Africa, or ECA, noted in March that about 9 in 10 of the world’s extremely poor people live in Africa. The ECA now warns that the economic effects already felt since the pandemic began in 2020 “will push an additional 5 to 29 million below the extreme poverty line.”

“If the impact of the pandemic is not limited by 2021, an additional 59 million people could suffer the same fate, which would bring the total number of extremely poor Africans to 514 million people,” the agency says. The World Bank estimates the economy went from 2.4% growth in 2019 to a 3.3% contraction in 2020, plunging Africa into its first recession in 25 years. 

“The economic disruption wrought by COVID-19 has pushed hunger crises off a cliff,” Sean Granville-Ross, Africa regional director for the nonprofit charitable organization Mercy Corps, told The Associated Press. Granville-Ross says his organization in 2021 saw “an alarming spike in need” in regions such as the Sahel, West Africa, East Africa and southern Africa where some countries were already experiencing humanitarian crises and conflict before COVID-19. Renewed travel restrictions and possible lockdowns “will only push millions more people to poverty and undermine the slight economic recovery we have started to see,” Granville-Ross says

Worry is now intensifying amid a spike in COVID infections in Africa, which currently accounts for about 9 million of the world’s roughly 275 million cases.

COVID-19 spike worsens Africa’s severe poverty, hunger woes | AP News

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Kenya, climate and conflict

  Pastoralist herders are caught in a conflict along Kenya’s border with Uganda and South Sudan over dwindling natural resources, exacerbated by severe drought and hunger ravaging the region.

The World Food Programme has reported that at least 2.4 million people in Kenya risk going hungry as drought hits the north and east of the country, a nearly threefold increase from last year. 

Two consecutive failed rainy seasons and multi-seasonal drought is expected to drive crisis and emergency across eastern and northern Kenya, as well as southern and southeastern Ethiopia and Somalia, where severe food insecurity is expected to continue into 2022, driven by the combined effects of conflict, drought, floods and economic shocks on household food and income sources.

A December bulletin issued by Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority warned that Turkana is among eight counties at the “alarm phase” of worsening drought. A forecast by Kenya’s Meteorological Department indicated Turkana among several counties experiencing below-average rainfall of less than 30-60 percent of the 40-year average in northern and eastern Kenya.

Ezekiel Dida, the programme manager at the Lotus Kenya Action for Development (LOKADO), an organisation set up to address cross-border conflict, acute poverty and illiteracy in northwestern Kenya, said “a new trend” has emerged in recent months. People were now stealing animals to sell them for money, rather than in previous years where raids would occur to restock herds, he said.

Unpredictable rainfalls are chief drivers of the conflict.

“Things have changed totally, so within the pastoral community, knowing when to be where, the formula is still not there,” said Dida. As people are forced to migrate to areas where they can find water and pasture, “those are the areas where a lot of attacks are as people struggle to share the same resources, especially with pastoralists from other countries”.

In September, Kenya’s government released two billion Kenyan shillings ($17.7m) under the National Drought Emergency Fund to respond to the ongoing drought situation in the country. But this has been slow to trickle down to the areas where it is needed most.

At the Turkana pastoralist Development Organization TUPADO, an non-governmental organsation working with pastoralists from Turkana and in neighbouring countries including South Sudan and Uganda, programme manager Sammy Ekal said a more robust government and humanitarian effort is urgently needed in severely drought-affected areas.

“The county government has no budget; as of now, they are not able to provide feed,” said Ekal, adding that the lack of rainfall since last year had prompted a “mass movement” of pastoralists from Turkana to the cross-border areas of Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia.

By January, Ekal fears there will be deaths. “That is what we need to prevent.”

‘Heading into the worst’: How drought drives conflict in Kenya | Climate | Al Jazeera

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Africa's Real Migration


The Western media concentrate its focus on African youth migrating to Europe. Less coverage is given to the intra-African migration patterns.

A 2020 IOM report confirms that 80% of Africans responding to a 2017 survey said they had no interest in leaving the continent.

African Union figures show that the level of intra-African migration rose from 13.3 million to 25.4 million between 2008 and 2017. But, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), that's only half the story.

"We really have a very incomplete picture of the most recent trends and mainly also the number of people moving across countries," Rango Marzia of the IOM's Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) told DW. "There's a whole story of migration within Africa and across Africa, particularly across countries in the same regions such as West Africa, where interregional mobility is high, which we don't really see in mainstream media," 

The causes for such massive movement of people across African countries range from economic reasons to the need for security. And there is a huge prospect that intra-African migration will continue to increase, according to Marzia. Long before the creation of colonial borders, Africans moved within the continent and beyond.

 Christian Kobla Kekeli Zilevu, an immigration official in northern Ghana, about the picture within the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), explained, "People move from one country to the other for survival. Some also travel because they feel their homes are not okay, and they want to try another place."

The IOM's Rango Marzia acknowledges that the negative perceptions associated with migration are largely linked to political instability, conflicts and climate change. However, she argues that it is not these problems that make migration bad but rather the manner in which it is managed.

"So it's more of the policies that are in place or are not in place to manage migration, and this is also true for migration from Africa to Europe," said Marzia.

The public debate that fuels anti-migrant sentiments is not often backed by evidence. But efforts are being made to reverse that.

The bittersweet reality of intra-African migration | Africa | DW | 17.12.2021

CAR Continues to Starve

 Civil war has raged since 2013 in the poverty-wracked nation of the Central African Republic, a nation of almost five million people, displacing hundreds of thousands from their homes and sparking a major humanitarian crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates 42 percent of Central Africans, on average, struggle to access enough food on a daily basis, a percentage it predicts will increase next year.

More than 600,000 people have been displaced from their homes by conflict in the Central African Republic, UN humanitarian agency OCHA says.

The food crisis is more acute in the northwest of the country bordering Chad, which is still the scene of regular clashes between rebels and government forces.

In the region of Ouham-Pende around Paoua, 61 percent of people are suffering a serious food crisis, the UN food agency says.

“Everything is becoming more expensive,” says Abas Mahamat, a member of Paoua’s transport trade union. “How will the people get by?”

In CAR, desperation grows for mothers unable to feed children | Hunger News | Al Jazeera

Friday, December 17, 2021

Human Rights, Lockdowns and South Africa

 The South African government has acknowledged high rates of gender-based violence both during and before the pandemic. The South African government has taken important steps but did not provide adequate funding for shelters and other services for gender-based violence survivors. 

 South African experts told Human Rights Watch that despite promises – including in a National Strategic Plan – to address gender-based violence and femicide, the government has still failed to provide necessary funding for shelters and other services. Efforts should be made to improve access for marginalized people, including sex workers; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people; and undocumented survivors.

Human Rights Watch interviewed staff at seven shelters spread across the country and six other frontline organizations working directly with victims to prevent gender-based violence or provide emergency support to survivors. Human Rights Watch also interviewed activists and other experts from 12 organizations working to end this violence. Human Rights Watch made unsuccessful attempts to interview or obtain feedback from South Africa’s Department of Social Development (DSD), which oversees shelter services.

Those interviewed said that the biggest problem was a lack of adequate government funding to help overwhelmed nongovernmental organizations providing direct support to victims, including shelters, cope with the pandemic.

Human Rights Watch analysis showed that the authorities did not take steps to facilitate support, including from donors, for refugees and asylum seekers whose access to food and other basic necessities were limited during the nationwide lockdown. As far as Human Rights Watch has been able to ascertain, the government did not consult with people from vulnerable and marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, leaving many at serious risk of Covid-19 infection, hunger, and other harm.

Human Rights Watch found that the pandemic had a significant impact on gender-based violence shelters. The shelters provide refuge from violence and include safe houses that offer temporary accommodation. Crises centers typically offer accommodation for three to six months, and most interviewed by Human Rights Watch also provide counseling, psychosocial and emotional assistance, and life planning, skills building and job training, as well as connections to courts or other government services such as help with protection orders or divorces.

Human Rights Watch found that shelters differed in whom they accepted as clients. Undocumented migrants, LGBT people, and women with older male children were sometimes excluded, for reasons that range from lack of private family facilities to concern about running afoul of the immigration law, or not being able to pay expenses the government would not reimburse for non-nationals. Older women, people who use drugs, and women with severe illnesses were sometimes excluded as well, with many facilities lacking the resources to provide specialized health or services, such as personal care and other support, to people with disabilities, including older people with disabilities.

While sex workers, transwomen, transmen, and lesbians, were usually accepted in theory, people working with these vulnerable groups said that particular group often did not feel welcome and that more needed to be done to help them access shelters.

“Vulnerable groups struggle to find or use shelters mainly because of stigma,” a shelter social worker said. “They are often discriminated against by the public and by staff at shelters … and they're coming from a place where there's a lack of acceptance to start with from family members.”

Citing security concerns, about half of the shelters contacted would not take older boys, usually any male over 12. Two shelters said that they did not take older women, in one case because of fears that they would never find another home for them. “We can't [discharge] them because other support structures [like [older] people’s homes] are not working,” said one social worker. More commonly shelters said that they would not take women using drugs, because they are not set up to safely provide necessary services.

“Some shelters won't take foreign nationals, especially undocumented people, [and] we spent a lot of time trying to place foreign nationals,” said one person who had helped more than 50 women leave domestic violence in Johannesburg. “We will assist, we won't judge them if they've got papers and have been referred to us and have a right to be in the country,” one shelter social worker said. Others said that they would take undocumented survivors, but it was “problematic … we then have to refer them to the correct institutions handling their cases.”

South Africa: Broken Promises to Aid Gender-Based Violence Survivors | Human Rights Watch (

Thursday, December 09, 2021

DRC''s Refugee camp at Rhoe

 Located in Rhoe, 45km northeast of the provincial capital Bunia and only accessible to aid agencies by helicopter, 75,000 displaced people -- including 35,000 children - living in a remote and inaccessible hilltop camp for displaced people in the province of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are braving "hellish conditions" without adequate food, shelter, protection, security and sanitation, UNICEF has said. It is estimated there are about 1,300 people for every toilet in Rhoe camp and sewage flows openly through densely inhabited areas.

 50,000 people are estimated to have arrived in the past two weeks - has followed several attacks on nearby camps at Drodro and Tche by armed groups, forcing thousands of already-displaced people to seek sanctuary there.

Over the last few weeks, 35 children, including 14 girls, were reported to have been killed or injured, some hacked to death by men wielding machetes. At least 13 girls were recently raped while attempting to find food in fields adjoining the camp. Terror groups have also destroyed three hospitals and two schools in the area. It is impossible to verify exact figures on the number of violations committed against children, including kidnappings because of persistent insecurity and lack of access to the Rhoe area.

The hilltop camp is located immediately next to a MONUSCO peacekeeping base. 

"Displaced people fled to Rhoe in the hope of finding some kind of safety and protection," said UNICEF Bunia Chief Field Officer Ibrahim Cisse, "But in reality, they remain in danger."

Up to 75,000 people living in a remote camp in eastern DRC facing ‘hellish conditions’ - Democratic Republic of the Congo | ReliefWeb

The cost of new roads in Kenya

 More than half of Nairobi’s population (more than 2 million) live on just 5% of the city’s residential areas in slums lined by rutted, ill-kept roads, while the green suburbs of the large, neat houses in the wealthy suburbs are far better served.

40,000 people have been made homeless by demolition works for a major toll road in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Amnesty International Kenya says it believes the roadworks have created a humanitarian crisis, as schools, businesses and 13,000 homes spread across nearly 40 hectares (100 acres) of the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum have been demolished since October, clearing land for a link to the Nairobi expressway.

The first round of demolitions in Mukuru Kwa Njenga, which were publicly announced on 8 October, started only three days later. Heavy road-building machinery flanked by Kenyan police, flattened homes and businesses along a 30-metre-wide strip of Catherine Ndereba Road. The road connects Mukuru to the industrial area to the north. The 17-mile (27km) expressway will link the international airport to the central business district and plusher residential areas. It is designed to ease the congestion on the city’s A8 main artery, so notorious that it is said to cost the country millions in lost business. The road is financed by the Chinese state-owned China Road and Bridge Corporation, which will use the tolls to recoup their $550m (£410m) investment.

 The vast majority of people will not be able to afford the road in a city where walking is the dominant mode of transport, accounting for 45.6% of commuters, compared with 40.7% by bus, 13.5% by private vehicle, and 0.2% by rail. People walk because they cannot afford a bus fare. Many people will struggle to afford the tolls, expected to cost between $1 and $15 depending on the vehicle and the length of journey. Critics have branded the elevated route a road for the rich, flying over the old, potholed highway in an illustration of the gulf between Kenya’s rich and poor. Even its bus lane is expected to carry only larger coaches, not the matatus favoured by the poor.

In November, buildings on a large area of adjacent private land were also razed, with people living there saying that they had no warning. This land, owned by a private firm, Orbit Chemical Industries, had been at the centre of several complex court disputes.

 “There were police beating people and launching teargas." Police “started caning people”

Africa Kiiza, trade policy analyst at the University of Hamburg in Germany, says infrastructure development in east Africa is happening “at all costs, whether that’s environmental or humanitarian”.

“This is development for who? You are affecting the people who you are meant to be helping.”

According to Kiiza, African governments often look to China for funding development as the country is less rigid than US or European funders when it comes to human rights or corruption. “China does not care, as long as it’s getting the construction tender,” he says.

Kenya is heavily in debt to China. Kiiza describes the relationship between the two countries as “parasitic”. The power imbalance is a “reinforcement of imperialism, where, if a country fails to pay, it is forced to give away access and control to natural and strategic resources like ports and airports”, he says.

How Nairobi’s ‘road for the rich’ resulted in thousands of homes reduced to rubble | Global development | The Guardian

Friday, December 03, 2021

TB in Kenya

 TB is one the world’s deadliest infectious diseases. It kills more people than HIV and malaria combined. For the first time in over a decade, deaths had increased.

Last year in Kenya 21,000 people died of TB, four times the number of those who have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

The number of deaths from TB is the equivalent of two bus crashes in Kenya every day. 

Left untreated, TB kills about half of those affected. Someone with active TB can infect five to 15 others through close contact over the course of a year.

Kenya is one of the 30 countries with the majority (at least 83%) of cases.

Last year, around 140,000 people in Kenya were estimated to have TB.

Nearly half of people with TB in Kenya last year were likely to have missed out on diagnosis and treatment.

 One concern is lack of diagnosis in children; two-thirds of cases in those under 15 are missed

Less than half of Kenya’s plan to tackle TB has adequate funding.

‘She didn’t deserve to die’: Kenya fights tuberculosis in Covid’s shadow | Global development | The Guardian

Thursday, December 02, 2021

The Madagascar Drought

  In southern Madagascar, a million people are struggling for food following the worst drought in 30 years. Climate change is not main cause of Madagascar's food insecurity. Poverty, lack of irrigation, COVID-19 impacts were bigger factors

In two consecutive rainy seasons in southern Madagascar rainfall has been 40% below average, causing severe drought, crop failures and a humanitarian crisis, with tens of thousands of people facing famine. 

More than 90% of people in the region live in poverty and farmers rely on each season’s rain rather than on stored water and irrigation.

Infestations of locusts and fall armyworms have made the crisis even worse.

Covid-19 restrictions have stopped people seeking work elsewhere in the country, as they have during previous difficulties.

Madagascar: Don't Blame Climate Change for Madagascar's Food Crisis, Scientists Say -