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Algeria backs use of malaria drug despite WHO dropping trials

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AFP

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Algeria will continue to use anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine against the coronavirus, a member of its scientific committee said, despite the World Health Organisation suspending clinical trials of such treatments.

“We’ve treated thousands of cases with this medicine, very successfully so far,” said Mohamed Bekkat, a member of the scientific committee on the north African country’s Covid-19 outbreak.

“We haven’t noted any undesirable reactions,” he told AFP.

Public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a virus treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy — despite several studies showing it to be ineffective and even increasing Covid-19 hospital deaths.

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Bekkat’s comments came days after medical journal The Lancet published a study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients, showing no benefit in those treated with the drug, which is normally used against arthritis.

The study found that administering the medicine or, separately, the related anti-malarial chloroquine, actually increased Covid-19 patients’ risk of dying.

Both drugs can produce potentially serious side effects, particularly heart arrhythmia.

Bekkat, who is also head of the Order of Algerian Doctors, said the country had not registered any deaths caused by hydroxychloroquine.

Algeria decided in late March to treat patients infected with the Covid-19 illness with a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, an antibiotic.

“For confirmed cases, we use hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Then there is a whole protocol for serious cases,” a health ministry official told AFP on Monday.

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Thousands of people infected or suspected of being infected with the virus have received such treatments, said doctor Djamel Fourar, the scientific committee’s spokesman.

The World Health Organization said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus, following the Lancet study.

That study looked at records from hundreds of hospitals, comparing a control group with patients treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, either alone or in combination with antibiotics.

At the end of the study, of those treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine alone, 18 percent and 16.4 percent respectively had died, compared with nine percent in the control group.

Those given each drug in combination with antibiotics were even more likely to die — 23.8 percent with hydroxychloroquine.

Bekkat argued that the Lancet study had led to “confusion” as it “seems to concern serious cases in which hydroxychloroquine is of no help”.

“There is evidence that the use of chloroquine by Arab and African countries has proven to be effective when used early,” he explained.

Algeria’s coronavirus outbreak is one of the worst in Africa, with a total of 8,503 cases and 609 deaths officially recorded since 25 February.

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Naivasha flower farmers protest job losses – KBC

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Flower farm workers in Naivasha are up in arms over lack of leadership and presentation by their trade unions.

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In the wake of massive job losses and earnings in the sector due to COVID-19 pandemic, the workers have hit out at COTU and its top leadership for failing to act on their grievances.

The workers from various farms pointed an accusing finger at the Kenya Plantations and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) for their continued suffering.

Since the pandemic was reported in the country, tens of workers have lost their jobs while hundreds of others have been sent home on unpaid leave.

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According to Jane Nzilani from Oserian flower farm, over 800 workers were sent home but the union had failed to act.

Nzilani hit out at COTU Secretary-General Francis Atwoli for engaging in politics as the workers continued to suffer.

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“Many workers have lost their jobs while others have been sent home on unpaid leave yet Atwoli is busy politicking as we suffer,” she said.

She added that the flower company was recruiting new workers at a lower salary adding that they were not sure of their fate.

The sentiments were echoed by the workers representative Kiprop Kosgey who said that the workers were going through untold suffering.

According to him, cases of prostitution and marital differences in estates where the workers were living had risen to alarming levels.

“We had pegged our hope on Atwoli but he is busy in BBI politics as we suffer and it’s time for change of leadership,” he said.

He noted that the top leaders in COTU were busy engaged in 2022 politics while the political leadership in the county had gone silent as the workers suffered.

A former worker of Karuturi flower farm Andrew Akunda noted since 2016 when the company went under they had not received their savings.

He said that COTU promised to intervene but they were still waiting adding that time was ripe for new leadership in the country’s trade unions.

“The union bosses have turned to politics forgetting the workers who have obediently contributed every month to COTU,” he said.

But speaking on phone, KPAWU secretary general in Naivasha Ferdinand Juma dismissed the allegations and defended his bosses saying that they had done a lot to protect the workers.

“We entered into an agreement with the employers association that no workers will be sent home during the pandemic and this has been adhered to,” he said.

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MPs invite memoranda on PFM amendment Bill to cushion SMEs from virus meltdown » Capital News

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 13 – The National Assembly is calling on Kenyans to submit their views on a proposed amendment to the Public Finance Management Bill which seeks to cushion micro, small and medium enterprises against the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through a public notice, Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai says members of the public should forward their written submissions to his office based at Parliament Building either through electronic mail or post by Monday next week.

The Bill which is sponsored by the National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya tasks the Cabinet Secretary for matters relating to finance to submit an annual report on credit guarantees to micro, small and medium enterprises to Parliament.

“The report shall include total value of credit guarantees, credit guarantees liquatedated, outstanding credit guarantees and the risk assessment of the credit guarantees of classes of guarantees,” reads the Memorandum of Objectives in the Bill.

If the legislation is enacted in its current state, then the National Secretary will be able to prescribe regulations for the operation and establishment of schemes for the guarantee of credit extended to micro, small and medium enterprises.

“The Bill further outlines the circumstances under which the CS can guarantee a loan issued to a private borrower who does not have sufficient security,” read the Bill in part.

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The Committee on Finance and National Planning will then conduct public hearings on the Bill after it was tabled in the House on July 2 before it broke for short recess.

The country has witnessed a slowdown in major sectors of the economy since the first case of COVID-19 was reported on March 13, with the government moving to enforce a countrywide dusk-to-dawn curfew and cessation of movement in some counties.

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During his 2020/21 budget statement, Finance Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani said the government will avail an allocation of Sh712 million to provide credit targeted to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the manufacturing sector.

The government is keen to cushion and revive operations in key sectors of the economy by among others moves, increasing liquidity and supporting businesses.

Data collected by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) indicates that the tourism, aviation, and non-food retail sectors which have faced the highest exposure to financial distress.

Manufacturing, chemicals, media, oil and gas, mining, and agriculture are also feeling the impact of the crisis, which has hit the local economy hard.

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Prudential Life donates learning kits worth Ksh 9.3M

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Prudential Life Assurance Kenya has donated learning materials valued at Ksh 9.3 million to 50 schools across Kenya, to benefit 15,000 secondary school students from under-privileged families.

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This, as the government delays re-opening of schools till January next year.

The beneficiaries will receive printed learning materials distributed through 50 schools across the country.

Over 11,250 students in Form 1, 2 and 3 will receive reading and revision materials while 3,750 Form 4 learners will  receive revision materials to prepare for the national exams.

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The two-month project will also provide sanitary wear for more than 4,000 female learners.

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“Education is an important investment by any community in its people and we appreciate the hardships that students have to endure daily due to the closure of schools which compromises their ability to keep up with their education especially during this time of COVID-19,” said Prudential Kenya Chief Executive Officer Mr. Raxit Soni.

He added that the project is supported by Prudence Foundation, the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm.

KEF Country Director Dominic Muasya lauded Prudential saying the gesture will make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of high school students lacking access to virtual learning opportunities.

“The beneficiaries of this project hail from some of the most vulnerable communities grappling with the harsh impact of the coronavirus pandemic on social life. Improving learning outcomes is crucial in ensuring that students in such places are not left behind,” stated Muasya.

Research by the NGO Usawa Agenda shows 80 percent of Kenya learners are missing out on virtual learning during this time of COVID-19.

The most affected are those in poor, rural communities lacking modern infrastructure to support e-learning.

Female students in such communities normally access sanitary pads at school but with learning institutions shut, they are exposed to unhygienic practices and social stigma.

Prudential partnered with the Kenya Education Fund (KEF) in 2014 to support initiatives that improve access to quality education especially to children from underprivileged families & communities in Kenya.

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