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News in Brief 8 December 2021

News in Brief 8 December 2021

This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations.   

COVID-19 linked to rise in TB deaths in Africa: WHO 

Deaths from tuberculosis have increased in Africa for the first time in more than a decade because of disruption caused by COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. 

The development is a blow to public health providers, particularly as so much progress has been made against the preventable disease. 

According to the UN health agency, cases of TB fell by 19 per cent between 2015 and 2020 in Africa.  

This reflected a decline of between four and 10 per cent per year in South Africa and several other southern Africa countries.  

In 2020, however, the African region reported 549,000 deaths, a slight increase from 2019; and while cases of TB infection fell slightly last year too, WHO highlighted “significant drops” in the reporting of new infections. 

This was particularly so in countries with a high tuberculosis burden, including Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe. All of which have grappled with high COVID-19 cases, WHO said. 

‘In no circumstances’ should COVID vaccines be forcibly administered: Bachelet 

To the Human Rights Council now, where UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has spoken out on the subject of mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. 

In a video address to the Geneva-based forum, Ms. Bachelet maintained that it was “profoundly fortunate” that medical research had enabled vaccine development to move so swiftly to prevent the most severe forms of the coronavirus. 

But the High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that it seemed very unlikely that the target of protecting 40 per cent of the world's population by the end of 2021 will be met. And the target of 70 per cent by mid-2022 also appears threatened, Ms. Bachelet added. 

Turning to the human rights implications of compulsory vaccination, now a feature of many countries’ approach to the disease, the High Commissioner insisted that “in no circumstances should people be forcibly administered a vaccine”. 

If an individual refuses to comply with a mandatory vaccination policy, penalties and fines should be appropriate and proportionate and subject to review by judicial authorities, Ms. Bachelet said. 

Portugal at crossroads over racism towards people of African descent 

People of African descent in Portugal continue to be victims of systemic racism despite measures to address the issue, UN-appointed independent human rights experts said on Wednesday. 

After an official visit to the country, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said that “Portuguese identity continues to be defined by its colonial past, as well as enslavement and the trade and trafficking of Africans”. 

The development follows large anti-racism protests in Portugal in 2020 in which demonstrators called for the country’s colonial history to be reconsidered through the lens of systemic racism. 

The Working Group welcomed efforts by the Government to address racial discrimination faced by people of African descent, including the National Plan to Combat Racism, along with greater engagement with civil society to define its anti-racism agenda. 

However, the UN panel noted with concern the prevalence of systemic racism and racially motivated violence and ill-treatment, racial profiling, abuse of authority and frequent police brutality towards people of African descent. 

Efforts to achieve racial equality in the country have not acknowledged the importance a reassessment of Portuguese identity,” said Dominique Day, head of the UN-appointed panel. 

She urged the Government to use the same “welcoming narrative” that it has used on migration to demonstrate that the country’s excellence and innovation “rely on embracing diversity and anti-racism” principles.  

Daniel Johnson, UN News

  • COVID-19 linked to rise in TB deaths in Africa: WHO 

  • ‘In no circumstances’ should COVID vaccines be forcibly administered: Bachelet 

  • Portugal at crossroads over racism towards people of African descent 

Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
Photo Credit
PAHO/Karina Zambrana