Some 900 migrants have reportedly died or gone missing on the dangerous migration route from West Africa to the Canary Islands, according to the U.N. migration agency. Experts say even that number is an undercount as many migrant ships sink with no confirmation.
euronews– His home went first. Then the house his father built. Then the lottery stand and hardware store he owned succumbed.
Lastly, Antonio Álvarez had to watch as lava from a volcanic eruption slowly devoured the remaining pillar of his family’s wealth: the dozen acres he dedicated to growing the Canary Island banana that for generations has provided the agricultural lifeblood of the Atlantic Ocean archipelago.
“My father always told me ‘don’t make the house too big, it won’t make you money; invest in banana! The bananas will give you a house.’ And it’s true,” Álvarez said. “When I filmed (the lava destroying) my father’s house, it was seeing him die all over again. That house was a part of him.”
Álvarez, 54, is one of thousands of farmers and workers on Spain’s La Palma island whose livelihoods have been put in jeopardy by the destruction wrecked by volcano that is still going strong six weeks after the ground first broke open on Sept. 19.
The regional government of the Canary Islands, an archipelago including La Palma located off the coast of northwest Africa, estimates that the volcano has already caused €100 million in losses for the island’s banana industry. Over 158 hectares of land used for banana farming have been covered by molten rock, and more than 300 hectares have been cut off after roads on the island’s western side were enveloped by lava.
The banana growers association for the Canary Islands, ASPROCAN, estimates that around 1,500 of the island’s 5,000 owners of banana plantations have been hurt. Most owners have small patches of a few acres. Many, like Álvarez, have seen their land burnt and crushed. Others have lost harvests because they can’t get to their trees. And many more have seen their product become unmarketable due to the volcanic ash that has ruined the banana peels.
It’s been an shock wave for an industry that provides 30% of the economic life of the island, according to regional government statistics. There are entire businesses dedicated to packing and transporting the fruit, which, along with tourism, keeps La Palma going.
“They say it has wiped out 10% of the island’s economy. I think it is more. It wasn’t just the bananas, or the apartments, or the bed and breakfasts, it has taken everything,” Álvarez said. “What has happened to us has happened to 90% of the people here.”
La Palma, an island of 85,000, is the second-largest producer of banana for the eight-member archipelago, which at its nearest point is 100 kilometres from Morocco. Last year it produced 148,000 tons of the local banana, most of which were shipped to Spain’s mainland. While usually more expensive than imported bananas from Latin America and Africa, the smaller Canary Island banana is often preferred for its sweeter taste and meatier texture.
Authorities have pledged financial aid to help the sector and fund furloughs for workers. They have also promised to revise a law that says that new land formed by the lava is property of the state.
Desalination plants have been shipped in to supply the water-dependent banana trees at points where lava flows have wrecked the irrigation systems. The island’s government has asked for the military to consider taking farmers in by boat to tend to farms that have been isolated by the rivers of lava.
The lava, however, keeps spewing from the Cumbre Vieja ridge, threatening to widen and consume more land as it churns its way downward to the Atlantic, where a new patch of lava land is forming.
The house of farmer Jesús Pérez is still at risk, but for him the most important property he owns is already gone.
“I would have preferred to lose my house instead of my banana trees,” the 56-year-old Pérez said. “The trees give you life, the house gives you nothing. I have sacrificed all my life, and for what, nothing?”
Spanish researchers pave way for fair play in global Covid testing and research
thelocal– The World Health Organisation described the accord as the first transparent, global, non-exclusive licence for a Covid-19 health tool, that should help towards correcting the “devastating global inequity” in access.
The deal brings the Spanish National Research Council CSIC together with the global Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) knowledge-sharing platform.
“The aim of the licence is to facilitate the rapid manufacture and commercialisation of CSIC’s Covid-19 serological test worldwide,” the WHO said.
The test effectively detects anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies developed in response to either a Covid-19 infection or a vaccine.
CSIC, one of Europe’s main public research institutions, will provide the MPP or prospective licencees with know-how and training.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the licence, which will be royalty-free for low and middle-income countries, as “the kind of open and transparent licence we need to move the needle on access during and after the pandemic”.
He added: “I urge developers of Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to follow this example and turn the tide… on the devastating
global inequity this pandemic has spotlighted.”
C-TAP was founded in May 2020 as a platform for developers of Covid-19 tools to share knowledge and intellectual property.
Set up during the scramble for Covid vaccines and treatments, the health technology repository was first suggested by Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado.
The information pool was intended as a voluntary global bank for IP and open-sourced data as part of a common front against the new coronavirus.
However, as it turned out, rival pharmaceutical companies have largely kept their findings to themselves rather than sharing them as global public goods.
Tuesday’s deal “shows that solidarity and equitable access can be achieved”, said Alvarado.
CSIC president Rosa Menéndez said she hoped the move would serve as an example for other research organisations.
‘Preposterous’ tests hoarding
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the test could quantify three different types of antibodies — and crucially, differentiate vaccinated people from those with natural Covid infection.
“This feature will become very important for measuring the number of Covid-19 cases in countries and the impact of control measures,” it said.
In welcoming CSIC’s move, MSF diagnostics adviser Stijn Deborggraeve said it was “preposterous” in a global pandemic that tests were being monopolised by “a handful of privileged people and countries”.
The Geneva-based MPP is a UN-backed international organisation that works to facilitate the development of medicines for low- and middle-income nations.
The antibody test licensing accord is the third Covid-related deal that the global pool has struck in a month.
Last week, the MPP reached an agreement with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to make its prospective antiviral Covid-19 pill available more cheaply in 95 low- and middle-income countries via sub-licensing to generic drug manufacturers.
The MPP signed a similar deal last month with Pfizer’s US rival Merck for its prospective oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir.
In 2 days, 10 migrants die trying to reach Spanish islands
euronews– Spanish rescuers say 10 migrants have died while trying to reach the Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.
Rescuers said Monday they found a migrant boat drifting 200 kilometres from the Canary Islands and saved 40 people but recovered two bodies.
The boat is believed to have departed from Dakhla on the coast of Western Sahara five days ago. A Spanish rescue plane spotted it drifting in the Atlantic Ocean. At least five people had to be evacuated by helicopter to a hospital on the island of Gran Canaria for urgent medical attention. The other survivors were being brought back to the port of Arguineguín on the same island in one of Spain’s rescue ships.
Spain’s Civil Guard police officers allowed to have visible tattoos
thelocal– Spain on Monday relaxed its policy banning officers from the country’s oldest police force, the Guardia Civil, from exhibiting tattoos.
Officers will now be allowed to display tattoos anywhere on their bodies “as long as they do not contain expressions that violate constitutional values or harm the discipline or image of the force,” the interior minister said in a statement.
“For the first time visible tattoos will be allowed on uniformed officers,” it added.
On the other hand, the decree prohibits hoop earrings, spikes, plugs and other inserts when they are visible in uniform, “except regular earrings, for both male and female personnel”.
The Guardia Civil mainly patrols and investigates crimes in rural areas, while Spain’s National Police focuses on urban areas.
Last year Spain’s leftist government appointed a woman to head the force for the first time in its 177-year history.
The increasing popularity of tattoos has led police forces around the world to regulate their use.
Los Angeles police are required to ensure that tattoos are not visible to the public while on-duty, while France’s Gendarmes police force also requires that they be covered.
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