The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday launched an expert group that will examine the origins of new pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The proposed members of the WHO Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) were selected for their expertise in areas such as epidemiology, animal health, clinical medicine, virology and genomics.
WHO chief, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, announced this during his regular briefing from Geneva, Switzerland.
“SAGO will advise WHO on the development of a global framework to define and guide studies into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential, including SARS-CoV-2.
“The emergence of new viruses with the potential to spark epidemics and pandemics is a fact of nature, and while SARS-CoV-2 is the latest such virus, it will not be the last,” he said.
The 26 scientists come from several countries, and were selected from over 700 applications following a global call.
A two-week public consultation period will take place for WHO to receive feedback on the proposed SAGO members.
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19, said the world must be better prepared for any future “Disease X.”
Responding to a journalist’s question, she anticipated that SAGO will recommend further studies in China, and potentially elsewhere, to understand the origins of the new coronavirus.
While SAGO will advise WHO, any future missions will be organised by the UN agency and the country in question.
“I want to make it very clear that the SAGO is not the next mission team. There’s been some misrepresentation about that going forward,” she said. (NAN)
Niger coup pressures food markets in West Africa – World Bank
The World Bank says the coup d’état in Niger may put additional pressure on Nigeria and other West African nations’ food markets.
According to the global bank, “The Nigerien coup d’état puts an additional seven million people at risk of falling into severe food insecurity in the region against a backdrop of soaring commodity and staple food prices, and severe food insecurity already affecting 3.3 million people during the lean season.”
In its September ‘Food Security Update’, the bank stated that the coup d’état in Niger might put additional pressure on West African food markets.
The Washington-based bank stated that food prices increased by up to 21 per cent in August in Niger owing to the economic and financial sanctions the Economic Community of West African States and the West African Economic and Monetary Union imposed on the country.
It noted that as a result, it limited poor households’ access to food and their ability to meet their dietary needs.
It stated that with the government’s limited financial capacity to implement its food assistance programme, continued provision of food aid by the World Food Programme remains essential, as access restrictions are hindering delivery of aid.
The report observed that FAO expects that shortages of seeds and feed and high fertilizer costs would affect the next agriculture season, exacerbating food insecurity, which is expected to persist beyond the lean season.
According to the Bank, Western and Central Africa were facing persistent food crises, with the number of people in need of food and nutritional assistance in the region rising from around 10.7 million in 2019, 29 million in 2021, to more than 40 million in 2022 and 2023.
The Bank said that between June and August 2023, 42.5 million people in Nigeria and other West African countries were in a food crisis or worse.
It added that the main factors affecting food security are civil insecurity and conflict, which have led to forced displacement, climatic shocks, political instability, adding that the war in Ukraine have increased the volatility of prices for foodstuffs and other commodities and caused widespread inflation as current food prices remain higher than during the same period last year.
Tinubu Meets With Biden, Others At UNGA
President Bola Tinubu is expected to hold bilateral talks as well as some business meetings with the US President, Joe Biden at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The President, who will depart Abuja to attend the UNGA in New Yew on Sunday will also hold talks with his Brazilian counterpart, Lula Silva among other world leaders.
This was disclosed on Friday by the Special Adviser to the President, Ajuri Ngelale, while briefing journalists at the Presidential Villa Abuja ahead of the president’s departure to New York.
Ngelale explained that that President Tinubu will meet with major Chief Executives and leaders of multinational firms cutting across multiple sectors of the economy including the President of Microsoft company worldwide, Brad Smith to deepen digital transformation in the country.
President is also expected to meet with the President of Global Affairs for Meta Technologies, Sir Nick Clegg, for a conversation on how to leverage new innovations, such as artificial intelligence and certain other applications to impact the way business is done in Nigeria.
He will meet with the global CEO of General Electric, the global CEO of Exxon Mobil Oil and Gas Company among others.
According to Ngelale, the President will be advancing his economic development diplomatic drive to aggressively attract foreign direct investment into the country.
Speaking further, the Presidential spokesman stated that President Tinubu will be participating in the Africa Global Business Initiative, adding that the President is focusing on attracting foreign direct investment, more jobs and new tax revenues into Nigeria.
He also said the President also wants to ensure that homegrown Nigerian companies have fair and equal access to foreign and international markets.
G77 Summit: International Cooperation Needed To Resolve Global Challenges – Shettima
Vice President Kashim Shettima has emphasized the need for cooperation among world leaders in order to maximize opportunities of resolving the challenges facing the world.
According to a statement by the Director Information, Office of the Vice President, Olusola Abiola, Shettima said this Friday in his address to world leaders at the ongoing G77+China Leaders’ Summit at the Palace Convention Havana, Cuba.
“We must always remember that cooperation is our compass and the most realistic path towards maximizing the opportunities and resolving challenges before us”, says Vice President Sen. Kashim Shettima.
￼Vice President Shettima alongside other world leaders at the 2023 G77 Summit in Cuba. Twitter/@officialSKSM
Speaking to an assembly of Heads of State and Government, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres and delegates from over 100 countries from the global South, the Vice President emphasized the need to be focussed leveraging cooperation or partnership for finding realistic solutions to global challenges.
“We must not allow geopolitical tensions in any corner of the world to deter us from forging a collective and mutually advantageous path forward – a roadmap of shared prosperity and progress, he advised.
The Vice President expressed Nigeria’s commitment to tow the path of partnership with member-States of the G77+China towards addressing global challenges.
He said, “Allow me to reiterate Nigeria’s commitment to partnering with our fellow member nations of the G77 and China.”
“We shall champion initiatives that harness the potential of science, technology, and innovation to confront economic challenges, particularly within the global south.”, he pledged.
Speaking to the theme: “Current Development Challenges: The Role of Science, Technology and Innovation,” the Vice President underscored the prominent role which science, technology and innovation have always played in resolving challenges from the past to the present.”
Delivering his speech titled: “From Pandemic to Paradigm Shift: Nigeria’s Road to Reinvention” Vice President Shettima said “throughout history, science and technology have shaped the course of nations. The phases of the Industrial Revolution, from the first to the fourth, and from mechanization to automation, have determined the prosperity of those nations.”
Continuing, he observed that “it is crucial to acknowledge that the developing world found itself at a disadvantage in the earliest phases of these transformations, struggling to compete fairly as these revolutions swept across the globe.”
The Vice President told his audience that Nigeria is contributing its own share in leveraging science, technology and innovation to resolving challenges such as Covid-19 and the climate crisis.
He explained that Nigeria “understand that the key to advancing innovation in science and technology lies in fostering a vibrant knowledge economy and facilitating the unrestricted exchange of ideas.
This the Vice President said is the reason why “across the globe, one would be hard-pressed to identify a premier institution, even within the most developed nations, where a Nigerian, trained at home, is not contributing significantly, whether as a tech innovator or a medical specialist, in the noble pursuit of improving the human condition.”
On the efforts of the Federal Government to combat Covid-19 in Nigeria using science and technology, the Vice President said “the COVID-19 pandemic, while a tragic chapter, served as a catalyst for our brilliant minds in Nigeria to rejuvenate their pursuits in the fields of science and technology.”
Adding that “our scientists have successfully positioned our nation as a prominent global hub for mRNA vaccine production, a milestone currently in progress.”
Vice President Shettima who lauded the contributions of the youth in the nation’s quest for science, tech and innovation advancement emphasized that “Nigeria’s demographic advantage is not limited to the absence of an aging population. Nigeria stands as a beacon of youthful talent and innovation.”
Noting that “these young citizens are not only dedicated to integrating human elements into the evolving technological sphere, but their efforts also extend to diverse fields, ranging from telemedicine to the automation of agriculture, all with the aim of making our daily lives more seamless.”
On climate crisis, VP opined that “the climate crisis around the globe too has dominated our agenda, prompting our youthful innovators to engage in crafting solutions.”
“This fervent commitment has resulted in the establishment of start-ups like the Climate Action Africa (CMA) Labs, a hub dedicated to addressing diverse challenges posed by climate change, including severe droughts, flooding, and the escalating agricultural complexities”, he declared.
The Vice President while stressing the imperative of global partnership warned that “the stakes are high. If we fail to act now, the prevailing trend could imperil our attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
Earlier in his welcome speech at the opening ceremony, the President of Cuba and Chair of G77+China, Miguel Diaz-Canel lamented the precarious situations faced by developing countries who are member-states.
He noted that science, technology and innovation have only benefitted developed countries while the global South is largely still facing very serious development challenges; the President therefore called for collective wisdom to address the challenges.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutteres in his brief remarks also noted the development problems confronting developing countries and promised the UN system will continue to work the G77 and China to proffer solutions to these challenges.
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