|Africa News Digest
New Drug-Resistant Strain of TB Found in Africa
A deadly strain of tuberculosis, XDR-TB, identified in South Africa, has health experts extremely alarmed, because it has killed 52 of 53 people infected. "This new strain leaves us facing a nightmare," said Paul Nunn, coordinator of the World Health Organization's drug resistance unit Sept. 3. "It is resistant to nearly every drug in our arsenal. We are now on the threshold of the appearance of a strain of TB that is resistant to every medicine known to science." Most strains of multiple-drug-resistant TB can be treated with second-line drugs, but this new strain is resistant to even those drugs. "In short, we are now on the last line of our defenses against tuberculosis," Nunn said.
The new strain was discovered earlier this year among HIV-infected patients in Kwazulu-Natal province, and has now been found among patients in 28 hospitals across South Africa. The HIV-infected population, estimated to number about 4.5 million people, could be devastated by this new strain. "It appears to kill within a few weeks and that does not give us a lot of time to spot it and treat it with the right drugs," Nunn said.
At a meeting Sept. 7-8 in Johannesburg, South Africa, health experts warned of the spread of XDR-TB, and called for "dramatic improvements in tuberculosis control." Nunn commented at the meeting that "if these strains spread, then we are going to be jerked back into the pre-antibiotic era, when in fact we do not have the drugs to treat patients." The potential for catastrophe is exacerbated by the close link between TB and AIDS in South Africa and other countries.
Malaysian Business Daily Promotes South Africa's PBMR
Under the headline, "Nuclear energy to rescue," the Financial Express business daily of Malaysia carried a lengthy article on energy Sept. 3, especially focussed on South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR).
"Viewed at night from outer space, Africa really is the 'Dark Continent'," the daily wrote. "Only 10% of its 700 million people regularly get electricity. While 75% of South Africa is now fully electrified, only 5.0% of Malawi, Mozambique, and other countries are so fortunate. Much of poor and rural Asia and Latin America faces a similar predicament.
"Impoverished countries are forever dependent on foreign aid. Abundant, reliable, affordable electricity is a critical priority for developing nations.
"Now a new energy technology is about to make its debut. Designed and built in South Africa, but with suppliers and partners in many other nations, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) is a revolutionary concept in nuclear power. The 165 megawatt modules are small and inexpensive enough to provide electrical power for emerging economies, individual cities or large industrial complexes, however, multiple units can be connected and operated from one control room, to meet the needs of large or growing communities.
"Process heat from PBMR reactors can also be used directly to desalinate sea water, produce hydrogen from water, turn coal and tar sands into liquid petroleum, and power refineries, chemical plants, and tertiary recovery operations at mature oil fields. This could launch new industries and make previously untapped resources economical to produce."
The article, reflecting the genuine interest in "South-South cooperation" among leading developing sector countries, comes just a week after the announcement by the German firm SGL Carbon that it wants to build a graphite-pellet manufacturing plant in Malaysia, as the central graphite hub for the rest of Asia. SGL Carbon also supplies the South Africans with graphite pebbles for the PBMR project.
UN Security Council Votes to Invade Sudan by Year's End
The UN Security Council voted Aug. 31 to invade Sudan by the end of the year. The UN News Service reported Aug. 31 that "The Security Council agreed today to deploy a UN peacekeeping force of more than 17,000 troops in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region by the end of the year to try to end the spiralling violence and displacement there...." The relevant resolution, Resolution 1706, then "invites the consent" of the Sudanese government.
The government has repeatedly rejected this proposal and has said it would respond to an invasion with force.
Questions that are not being addressed are:
1. Why the African Union (AU) forces, accepted by Sudan government, were never provided with the funding and support they were promised? (Instead, we have the UN News Service statement saying that, before the AU hands over to the UN, "the UN has been authorized to provide air, engineering, logistics, communications, and other support" to the AU.)
2. What truth is there to the Sudan government's accusations that the International Rescue Committee (New York) and Israel have armed the Darfur rebels, and that U.S. officials have encouraged the rebels' representatives to stiffen their demands at negotiations in Nigeria?
U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton was one of the sponsors of Resolution 1706, and UN Undersecretary for "Humanitarian" Affairs Jan Egeland warned of "a man-made catastrophe of unprecedented scale" if the Security Council did not act immediately. (Egeland is on record saying that Sudan should be broken up.)
China, Russia, and Qatar abstained from voting on the resolution. Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said that because the resolution did not specify "with the consent of" the Sudanese government, China had to abstain.
Coverage of the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to South Africa and Morocco is found in this week's Russia/CIS Digest.