London, Apr 23 (AP/UNB) — The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.
Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.
"It's an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives," said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who was not linked to WHO or to the vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands of children from falling ill with malaria or even dying.
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. A previous trial showed the vaccine was about 30% effective in children who got four doses, but that protection waned over time. Reported side effects include pain, fever and convulsions.
WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the new program, noting progress has "stalled and even reversed" in the ongoing fight against malaria. In the coming weeks, WHO said similar vaccination programs would begin in Kenya and Ghana together with other partners and that they aimed to reach about 360,000 children across the three countries. GSK is donating up to 10 million vaccine doses.
Other experts warned the vaccination programs should not divert limited public health funds from inexpensive and proven tools to curb malaria, like bednets and insecticides.
"This is a bold thing to do, but it's not a silver bullet," said Thomas Churcher, a malaria expert at Imperial College London. "As long as using the vaccine doesn't interfere with other efforts, like the urgent new for new insecticides, it is a good thing to do."
Craig noted one of health officials' biggest challenges could be convincing parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that only protects about a third of children for a limited amount of time.
More commonly used vaccines, like those for polio and measles, work more than 90 percent of the time.
"This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like," Craig said. "But I hope this will kick-start other research efforts so that the story doesn't end here."
Tripoli, April 22 (Xinhua/UNB)- A total of 254 people have been killed and 1,228 others injured in the fighting between the UN-backed Libyan government and the east-based army in and around the capital Tripoli so far, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Sunday.
"In the past week, WHO Libya specialized emergency medical teams in frontline hospitals handled 89 major and 63 surgeries. Our teams are bringing in additional help for these hospitals," WHO tweeted later Sunday.
Earlier on Sunday, WHO said that more than 20,000 people were forced to flee their homes since the armed conflict started.
The east-based army, led by Khalifa Haftar, has been leading a military campaign since early April to take over Tripoli where the UN-backed government is based.
Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos ever since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Havana, Apr 22 (AP/UNB) — An official newspaper in Cuba reports that officials are restricting electricity use at a time the economy is being squeezed by a series of setbacks, including reduced fuel shipments from Venezuela and tighter U.S. sanctions.
The local Communist Party newspaper Invasor in Ciego de Avila province said Sunday that authorities across the island have been told to cut consumption to conserve fuel and avoid blackouts. It says a 10 percent cut is being imposed on Ciego de Avila itself. So far there haven't been reports of any widespread power outages.
The island has suffered shortages of some basic foods in recent weeks as the government copes with reduced aid from Venezuela, the end of a medical services deal with Brazil and poor performances in sectors including nickel, sugar and tourism.
Sudan, Apr 22 (AP/UNB) — The organizers of Sudan's protests said Sunday they have suspended talks with the ruling military council because it has failed to meet their demands for an immediate transfer to a civilian government following the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir.
Mohammed al-Amin Abdel Aziz, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, said Sunday that the political committee of the military council is too close to al-Bashir, who has been jailed in the capital, Khartoum.
"The military council is delaying its response to our proposals, saying that they are considering proposals from all political forces," he said.
He said the SPA is calling for more protests, and repeated its demand for an immediate transfer to a transitional civilian government that would rule for four years.
The SPA led four months of protests that eventually ended al-Bashir's 30-year reign, which was marred by multiple armed conflicts and widespread corruption. The umbrella group of unions says around 100 people were killed by security forces since December, when the protests were sparked by a hike in the price of basic goods.
The Sudanese military overthrew and arrested al-Bashir on April 11, and has appointed a military council that says it will rule for up to two years while elections are organized. The military has arrested senior officials from al-Bashir's government and sacked top judges and prosecutors.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council, told state TV Sunday that the council is "ready to hand over power tomorrow to a civilian government agreed by political forces."
He said the military is waiting for the various political factions behind the protests to submit the names of the proposed members of a transitional government, something the organizers had said they would do on Sunday. He said the military is considering the protesters' demands for a civilian council with a military representative.
"Our role is to complete the uprising and the blessed revolution," he added.
The protesters fear the military — which is still dominated by al-Bashir appointees — will cling to power or appoint another general in his place.
Mohammed al-Asam, a senior member of the SPA, told The Associated Press late Saturday that "we are ready with a clear plan for a transition with qualified names."
The association had said it would announce the names at a press conference Sunday outside the military's headquarters in Khartoum, where thousands of protesters have kept up a sit-in since April 6. It was not immediately clear whether the announcement had been cancelled or delayed.
"We want a civil council immediately with a military representation. This is our demand," said al-Asam, who was detained for more than three months before being released after al-Bashir's ouster. He was held in the Koper prison in Khartoum, where al-Bashir and other top officials now reside.
The 28-year-old doctor urged the international community to press the military to hand over power to civilians. He said the military council is becoming more powerful every day and that "this is dangerous to the revolution."
Burhan said the military council will send a delegation to the United States later this month for talks on removing Sudan from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terror, a designation that dates back to the early 1990s, when the country briefly hosted Osama bin Laden.
"We expect a breakthrough in this issue," he said.
The military has also reached out to the African Union, saying it is working to "create an environment so political forces can rule in a peaceful and democratic way," according to the state-run SUNA news agency.
SUNA said Lt. Gen. Omer Zain-al-Abdin, head of the political committee of the military council, met with AU commission chairman Moussa Faki in Khartoum on Saturday.
The African Union on Monday gave Sudan's military 15 days to hand over power to a "civilian-led political authority" or face suspension from AU activities. The AU said a civilian authority should hold elections "as quickly as possible."
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates meanwhile announced a $3 billion aid package for Sudan. The Saudi state-run news agency said Sunday that $500 million would be deposited in Sudan's central bank, while the remaining amount will be used to purchase food, medicine and fuel.
Burhan said authorities recently searched a presidential residence, where they found more than 7 million euros ($7.8 million) and $350,000 in U.S. currency. The protesters have accused al-Bashir and his family of pillaging state resources during his three decades in power.
Venezuela, Apr 22 (AP/UNB) — Heavy rains unleashed a landslide in a remote mountain town in southwestern Colombia on Sunday, killing at least 17 people and injuring five more.
The National Disaster Risk Management agency said the early morning landslide hit at least eight homes and blocked a stretch of the Pan-American Highway in the community of Rosas, roughly 400 miles (630 kilometers) southwest of Bogota.
Officials said rescue workers were continuing their search for victims, removing earth and debris with heavy machinery.
President Iván Duque sent a tweet expressing "solidarity with families of victims." He went to the area late Sunday to check on operations.
Officials said five people were taken to local hospitals for treatment.