International Current Affairs 2017

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First malaria vaccine to be tested in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi in 2018

The World Health Organization has announced that it is ready to test the first malaria vaccine in the real world setting in 2018. The aim of the testing will be to ascertain whether the vaccine will work under real world circumstances or not. Kenya, Ghana and Malawi have been chosen for taking part in the pilot project.

The vaccine, RTS,S, also known as Mosquirix, was produced by GlaxoSmithKline in 1987 in a public-private partnership with the PATH Malaria Initiative and with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2015, the vaccine received approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

For the next four years (2017-2021), the vaccine will be administered to children between 5 and 17 months in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. The vaccine will be given four times and will be administered by an intramuscular injection.

The RTS, S vaccine works by targeting the liver phase of the malaria parasite’s life cycle as the parasite multiplies inside the liver after getting introduced into the body by a mosquito bite. It has taken about 30 years for the creation of the vaccine to the approval of pilot programme in 2017. Only five species of Plasmodium parasite spread malarial parasite worldwide.

Need

According to WHO, malaria kills one child every two minutes and has killed 429,000 people in 2015. According to the WHO World Malaria Report 2016, Nigeria suffers most malaria deaths worldwide (26%), followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (10%), India (6%), and Mali (5%). African continent suffers the most mosquito-borne ailments and there still exists gaps in prevention coverage as many people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to mosquito protection like bed nets or bug spray.

 

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A new freight train connects Russia with China

A freight train connecting Russia with China arrived in Ganzhou an inland city in Jiangxi province, carrying goods from Moscow. The freight train travelled more than 7,000 km, before reaching Ganzhou in eastern China.

Significance for China

Jiangxi province is the former revolutionary heartland of the Communist Party. This freight train connecting Russia and China is expected to bring resources from Europe and boost local development. Ganzhou is an inland area with a complex landscape and was a hot bed of revolutionary activities owing to its remote mountain ranges. However, its complex landscape has become a stumbling block in development. Even though, the Chinese government tried to push regional development in the past few decades, Ganzhou could not fetch any major projects due to its geography, making many people to live in poverty.

Rail freight is cheap and costs only half that of air freight and half the time of sea freight. In order to boost its export revenues, China is already operating train services to several cities in Europe. In January 2017, it inaugurated a new train service to London traversing over 12,000 kilometres across 18 days. China is set to gain heavily from opening the ancient trade routes and strengthen connectivity with Europe. It would also enhance regional cooperation in countries that lie along the Silk Road.

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Cuba and Morocco re-establish diplomatic ties after 37 years

Guided by the mutual will to develop friendly relations, Cuba and Morocco has signed an agreement to re-establish diplomatic ties after a time period of 37 years. The two governments have also agreed to forge political, economic and cultural cooperation. The agreement to this effect was signed at the headquarters of the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the United Nations.

King Mohamed VI of Morocco has ordered the opening of a Moroccan embassy in Havana. Cuba is one of the few Latin American countries in which Morocco does not have any representation. It is expected that the relations between the countries would be restored after the exchange of ambassadors.

After Cuba’s diplomatic reestablishment with Morocco, Israel, South Korea and Somalia remain the only countries which do not have any ties with Cuba.

The decision to re-establish diplomatic ties has been made couple of weeks after King Mohammed’s private visit to Cuba. The visit of King Mohammed VI is the first ever made by a Moroccan king to Cuba.

Background

Morocco severed its ties with Cuba in 1980 after Fidel Castro officially recognised Western Sahara as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). Morocco claims the territory as its own.

The Cuba and Morocco relationship suffered several strains since 1960s due to Cuba’s decision to side with Algeria during the Morocco-Algerian military conflict of 1963 known as the “Sand War.” In 1970s, Cuba again decided to side with Algeria in its support for the independence of the Western Sahara from Morocco.

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