News, June 1st

Drought Tolerant Crops:  Zambia, IAEA and FAO Help Zambia Improve Production and Farmers’ Income

“Crop production in much of Africa, including in Zambia, is hindered by heat, drought, pests and diseases to the point where some farmers cannot grow enough food,” said Fatma Sarsu, a plant breeder and geneticist at the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. “Increased drought in recent years and the effects of climate change are amplifying the challenges farmers already face. Developing improved crop varieties through plant breeding is one way to address this issue.”

The two cowpea varieties, Lunkhwakwa and Lukusuzi, developed using irradiation, which speeds up the natural process of producing genetic variation in plants, are being multiplied and the seeds will be distributed to 800 farmers in November of this year for planting.

“We are primarily targeting farmers in the dry areas of the country, who have had trouble growing enough food in recent years due to the extremely dry conditions,” said Kalaluka Munyinda, Lecturer at the Department of Plant Science at the University of Zambia. “The challenges they faced were a crucial aspect we needed to address with mutation breeding. But since these varieties are also more tolerant to diseases, we are planning to eventually grow them in high rainfall areas as well, where farmers are faced more with the issue of yield losses due to disease.”

To meet farmers’ demand for desired crop characteristics, scientists at the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria, subjected the seeds of local varieties to gamma irradiation, inducing changes in the genetic makeup. Following this, the irradiated seeds were sent back to Zambia, where they were planted in test fields to observe their characteristics under local conditions. During the testing process, farmers were working alongside with the scientists in the selection of improved plants.

FROM THE FIELD:  COVID-19-related ‘tragedy’ unfolding in Yemen

A “tragedy” fueled by the spread of COVID-19 which is unfolding in Yemen could affect millions of people there, an international UN-backed pledging conference is expected to hear on Tuesday.

Some ten million people each month have been receiving humanitarian aid from the UN and other partners as a result of five years of conflict in the Arabian Peninsula country, and there are fears that the already depleted health system will not be able to cope if the deadly virus takes hold.

The first case of COVID-19 in Yemen was recorded in April and there have already been reports of hospitals turning patients away.

Initial findings from intensive care units suggest that some 20 per cent of people being treated after becoming infected, are dying, compared to the global average of 7 per cent.

On Tuesday, an international pledging conference being held in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, aid agencies will be asking donors for US$2.41 billion to cover essential activities until the end of the year including programs to address COVID-19.

German media ‘decodes’ Vietnam’s success in fighting COVID-19

NDO/VNA – Germany’s Marzahn-hellersdorf portal has run an article pointing to factors that contributed to Vietnam’s success in its battle against COVID-19, which include early action, contact tracing, and communications.

Vietnam began preparations to cope with the outbreak several weeks prior to recording its first case of infection, it wrote, even when China and the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission.

The article mentioned Vietnam’s effective preventive measures, such as strengthening medical monitoring at border gates, airports, and seaports, cancelling all flights from and to China, and suspending entry for all foreigners.

According to Guy Thwaites, a professor of infectious diseases and Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam, Vietnam’s quick response is key to the country’s success in combating COVID-19.

Vietnam’s experience in coping with the outbreak of communicable diseases such as SARS in 2002 helped the Government and people be better prepared for COVID-19, he added.

Vietnam lifted its three-week social distancing measures in late April, the portal said, and no new infections have been recorded in the community for more than 40 days.

Palestinian Economy Struggles as Coronavirus Inflicts Losses

Jerusalem, June 1, 2020 — An abrupt decline in economic activities and pressure on the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s finances have placed Palestinian livelihoods at high risks, as the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to hit the economy hard. After growth of a mere 1% in 2019, the economy is projected to contract by at least 7.6% in 2020. Beyond the immediate crisis, lifting restrictions on the development of digital infrastructure and fostering better regulations could play an important role in stimulating an already faltering economy.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic in its third month, the crisis is affecting Palestinian lives and livelihoods. The Palestinian Authority has acted early and decisively to save lives. However, several years of declining donor support and the limited economic instruments available have turned the ability of the government to protect livelihoods into a monumental task. Hence, external support will be critical to help grow the economy during this unprecedented period,” said Kanthan Shankar, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza.

The new World Bank economic monitoring report* highlights critical challenges facing the Palestinian economy. The economy may shrink by at least 7.6%, based on a gradual return to normality from the containment, and by up to 11% in the case of a slower recovery or further restrictions. The PA’s fiscal situation is expected to become increasingly difficult, due to a decline in revenues and substantial increase in public spending on people’s medical, social, and economic needs. Even with reallocations of some expenditures, the financing gap could increase alarmingly, from an already high $800 million in 2019 to over $1.5 billion in 2020 to adequately address these needs.

Even prior to the Coronavirus pandemic, more than a quarter of Palestinians lived below the poverty line. The share of poor households is now expected to increase to 30% in the West Bank and to 64% in Gaza. Even more striking is the youth unemployment rate of 38%, well beyond the Middle East & North Africa’s regional average. The economy’s potential remains confined by restrictions on the movement of people and goods. The report makes a case for developing a digital economy to help bridge this divide and create high-end jobs.

PMBJKs achieves impressive sales of over Rs 100 crore in first two months of 2020-21

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushdhi Kendra’s -PMBJKs has achieved an impressive sale of Rs 100.40 Crore in first two months of 2020-21 as compared to Rs 44.60 Crore in same period of 2019-20.

Kendra’s have sold approx. Rs 144 Crore worth of affordable & quality medicines in the month of March, April & May 2020 which saved around Rs 800 Crore of citizens during the period when COVID-19 pandemic has affected the country.

Secret fort in US must come clean on its work

On March 10, a netizen named B.Z. launched a petition on the White House petition website. The petitioner listed the timeline related to the COVID-19 outbreak and the Fort Detrick, hoping that the US government would give a reasonable explanation:

7/2019: The top-secret US army’s medical research institute of infectious diseases at Fort Detrick was closed;

8/2019: A large-scale outbreak of “influenza” killed more than 10,000 people;

10/2019: The United States organized Event 201 — A Global Pandemic Exercise with the participation of the Deputy Director of CIA;

11/2019: An outbreak of pneumonia of undetermined origin was found in China;

2/2020: The epidemic became global;

3/2020: A large number of English-language news reports about the closure of Fort Detrick were deleted from online access.

What makes things even more puzzling is the Event 201, a Global Pandemic Exercise, mentioned in the timeline above. This exercise, organized in October 2019, has attracted continued international attention for the similarities between its scenario and the development of today’s pandemic.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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