NNA – Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, today welcomed at the Grand Serail, Mr. Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the European Union For Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission (EC), heading a delegation which included: the Head of Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Ambassador Ralph Tarraf, Mr. Pedro Serrano, Head of Borrell’s Cabinet, Mr. Carl Hallergard, Deputy Managing Director of North Africa, Middle East, Arab Peninsula, Iraq and Iran at the European External Action Service, Mr. Rafael Daerr, EC Member of Cabinet, Ms. Esther Orsini-Rosenberg, EC Communication Advisor, and Ms. Hannah Severin, Political Officer at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, in the presence of Ministers Raoul Nehme and Ramzi Musharrafieh, as well as PM Advisor for Diplomatic Affairs, Ambassador Gebran Soufan.
Premier Diab briefed the delegation on the difficulties that Lebanon is going through, namely on the financial and economic levels, especially since the delay in forming the government, as a result of political bickering, exacerbates the crises and increases the suffering of the people, hoping to speed up the approval of the draft ration card by the Parliament, which was previously sent by the government with securing its funding sources to support about 750 000 vulnerable families; PM Diab requested the European Union’s assistance in this regard.
Prime Minister Diab also stressed that the key solution to the financial, economic and living crisis lies in the formation of a new government that would resume the negotiations that the current government had started with the International Monetary Fund, and on the basis of the financial recovery plan developed by the government and that needs to be updated first. Diab added that the caretaker government did not fail to fulfill its duties, in accordance with the Constitution, to facilitate citizens’ lives and alleviate their suffering.
The Prime Minister also praised the bilateral relations and partnership between Lebanon and the European Union.
For his part, Borrell affirmed the European Union’s interest in taking stock at the prevailing situation in Lebanon, and examining the various governmental, economic and social challenges and their repercussions at all levels. He also expressed the European Union’s readiness to help Lebanon and its people in overcoming the difficult crises.

Source: National News Agency (NNA)


NNA – Deputy Prime Minister, Caretaker Minister of Defense and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Zeina Akar, welcomed today the European Union’s Higher Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, along with his accompanying delegation and the European Union’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf, upon their arrival at Rafic Hariri International Airport.

Akar then held a meeting with Borrell, which included a working lunch in the presence of Ambassador Tarraf; his Office Director Pedro Serrano; Deputy Director of the Department for Africa, the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula for European External Action Karl Hallegard; Member of the European Commission Office Raphael Dyer; Director of Political Affairs at the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Ghadi Khoury; Director of International Organizations, Ambassador Caroline Ziadeh; Director of Protocols Abeer Ali; and Head of the Europe Department Youssef Jabr.

According to Akar’s office, talks centered on the situation in Lebanon in light of the current stifling conditions and the crisis of the displaced Syrians, in addition to the results of the conference in support of the Lebanese Army, which was held at the invitation of France and with the participation of the International Support Group and the United Nations.

Minister Akar explained to Borrell “the deteriorating economic, social and living situation in Lebanon,” and commended “the role of the European Union and the aid it provides, most notably the aid that arrived after the explosion of the Port of Beirut,” stressing “the importance of supporting Lebanon in all ways and the need to help it with the available means to get out of its crises.”

Source: National News Agency (NNA)

Millions of Refugees Face Hunger as Donor Support Withers

GENEVA – Ahead of World Refugee Day, the World Food Program is appealing for international support for millions of destitute refugees, many of whom are facing hunger because money to feed them has dried up.
The World Food Program assists more than 115 million people in 80 countries. Currently, it has received just 55 percent of the $15.3 billion it needs to implement its life-saving operations this year.
To make ends meet, it has been forced to make draconian cuts in food rations for millions of refugees across eastern and southern Africa, as well as the Middle East. WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says in eastern Africa alone, nearly three-quarters of refugees have had their food rations cut by half.
“In Southern Africa, refugees in Tanzania who depend entirely on WFP assistance have had their rations cut by almost one-third,” said Phiri. “Significant funding shortages for the Syria Regional Refugee Response mean 242,000 refugees in Jordan may be cut off from assistance at the end of August unless more funding is received.”
Phiri says the WFP urgently requires $4.5 billion over the coming six months to restore those benefits.
“If we do not get money, we may be forced to prioritize further or even to suspend activities. This will affect vulnerable groups depending on WFP support, particularly malnourished children,” said Phiri. “You have other vulnerable groups or other populations of concern. Pregnant and expecting mothers, nursing mothers. They are all parts lumped together in that category that we refer to as refugees.”
The U.N. refugee agency says a record number of more than 80 million refugees and internally displaced people have been forced to flee their homes because of war, violence, and persecution. It says most of those forcibly displaced live precariously on the margins of society, with little hope of returning home any time soon.
As nations prepare to commemorate World Refugee Day, the World Food Program is urging donors not to turn their back on the most vulnerable people when they need their support more than ever.

Source: Voice of America

US General: ‘Wildfire of Terrorism’ on March in Africa

TAN-TAN, MOROCCO – A senior U.S. general warned Friday that the “wildfire of terrorism” is sweeping across a band of Africa and needs the world’s attention. He spoke at the close of large-scale U.S.-led war games with American, African and European troops.
The African Lion war games, which lasted nearly two weeks, stretched across Morocco, a key U.S, ally, with smaller parts held in Tunisia and Senegal. The annual drills were skipped last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, head of the U.S. Africa Command, praised the work accomplished in joint operations, and painted a dark picture of threats besetting parts of Africa.
“I am concerned about the security situation across a band of Africa,” from the Sahel region in the west to the Horn of Africa, Townsend told reporters. He noted deadly attacks by al-Qaida- and Islamic State-linked militants and al-Shabab. “All of them are on the march,” he said.
African neighbors are helping governments deal with the threat, but, he added, “all of that does not seem to be sufficient enough to stop what I call … (the) wildfire of terrorism that’s sweeping that region.”
African Lion saw more than 7,000 troops from seven countries and NATO carry out air, land and sea exercises together.
“It has helped our interoperability, our joint capabilities, and provided readiness and a good opportunity to build cohesion across the forces,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling, commander of the U.S. Army’s Southern European Task Force Africa. He spoke Friday in the desert town of Tan-Tan.
There was a hitch at the start, with Spain withdrawing from the war games, citing budgetary reasons. Press reports attributed the move to Spain’s poor relations with Morocco, a former key partner.
The two countries have been at loggerheads since Spain took in the leader of the Polisario Front independence movement — Morocco’s No.1 enemy — for COVID-19 treatment in a Spanish hospital earlier this year. The Polisario is fighting for independence for the Western Sahara, a vast region that Morocco claims as its own.
During the exercise, Morocco held some airborne operations near the Western Sahara and not far from Polisario refugee camps in Tindouf, in neighboring Algeria.
“Those activities have been perfectly conducted and agreed upon between the two militaries,” Moroccan Brigadier Gen. Mohammed Jamil told The Associated Press.
Townsend, asked whether any action spilled into the disputed Western Sahara, was categoric: “I can confirm it did not.”
The participating countries in African Lion were the U.S., Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Italy, The Netherlands and Britain. Observers also attended from countries including Egypt, Qatar, Niger and Mali.

Source: Voice of America

Cameroon Sickle Cell Patients Say They Can Live Longer

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON – Hundreds of sickle cell disease patients in Cameroon are using World Sickle Cell Day, June 19, to teach their neighbors that people with the disease can live longer, contrary to popular beliefs and stigma that label them as witches who must die before the age of 24. Cameroon says 20% of its 25 million people are carriers of the gene primarily seen in people of African descent. The government is also telling hesitant sickle cell patients to accept vaccinations against COVID-19.
At least 300 sickle cell patients and their family members turned out at the Cameroon Baptist Convention hospital at Etoug-Ebe, a neighborhood in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé. Hospital officials said hundreds of other sickle cell patients came out in the coastal city Douala and the English-speaking western towns of Buea, Bamenda, Kumba and Kumbo to observe the 2021 World Sickle Cell Day.
Fifty-five-year-old Ashu Egbe was diagnosed with sickle cell when he was seven months old. He says he is living proof that people can live long with the disorder, in which red blood cells contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin.
‘I am a sickle cell sufferer, I usually tell people that I am a sickle cell warrior because we go through the challenges of life, the pains and we think that we are warriors, we are overcomers,” Egbe said. “The younger ones should be courageous, avoid extreme colds or extreme heat and drink plenty of nonalcoholic fluids. You have a normal diet of good vegetables and then you have continuous follow up. You can live a good life.”
Egbe said he created Ashu Egbe Foundation to educate sickle cell patients on their rights and encourage people to consider sickle cell patients normal citizens.
Cameroon’s health ministry reports that 20% of the country’s 25 million people are carriers of the gene primarily seen in people of African descent.
Cameroon says patients suffer stigma, including superstitious beliefs that sickle cell is divine punishment for wrongdoing. There are beliefs that people with the disease die before they reach 25 years because they are witches and wizards. Couples with sickle cell children are forced by their families to divorce.
Twenty-seven-year-old Somo Francis Glenn lives with sickle cell. He says communities should stop abusing the rights of sickle cell patients. He says the government should ask hospitals to pay more attention to patients.
“At times we are sick, but we are afraid to go to the hospital because if you get to the hospital at 7 a.m., you shall be received at 10 [a.m.],” Somo said. “Imagine the pain you go through. Doctors will tell you that you are not the first person to have pain. Those are the things that make us go psychologically mad. I am begging the minister of health to create a hematology center only for sickle cell patients in Cameroon. Our immune system is first of all weak. COVID-19 and sickle cell are a whole lot of problems.”
Somo said the government could help eradicate the disease by asking people to have medical consultations before marriage and before having children.
Cameroon’s health minister, Manaouda Malachie, said special services exist in all hospitals in the central African state to treat sickle cell patients. He said patients should not fear going to hospitals for fear of being infected by COVID-19.
Lydie Ze Meka is president of Cameroon’s National Association for the Protection of Sickle Cell Patients. She says the association she leads is encouraging all sickle cell patients to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
She says sickle cell patients are reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She says the coronavirus attacks lungs and sickle cell patients have fragile lungs which are constantly exposed to pulmonary infections that can cause deaths. She says on this year’s World Sickle Cell Day, she is pleading with reticent patients to voluntarily agree to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to save their lives.
The United Nations reports that sickle cell is common in most of sub-Saharan Africa, affecting close to 3% of births in some African countries.
The U.N. recognizes June 19 as World Sickle Cell Day to raise awareness of the disease, which they say has not been eradicated due to ignorance. The U.N. encourages couples to have medical consultations before marriage and before having children.

Source: Voice of America