News in the Humanosphere: Zika virus officially a global emergency by WHO

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. (UNMEER/Simon Ruf/flickr)

The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas, calling it an “extraordinary event” that poses a public health threat to other parts of the world. “After a review of the evidence, the committee advised that the clusters of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and public health threat to other parts of the world,” WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1WYjtgO)

More aid for cut-off Syrian towns…The United Nations said on Monday the Syrian government has approved “in principle” a U.N. request for an aid delivery to the besieged Syrian towns of Madaya, al-Foua and Kefraya. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1nAOpY9)

Stat of the day: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country has spent more than $9 billion on services for 2.5 million refugees from conflict-torn Syria and Iraq. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1nAOs64)

Africa

The African Union will send a team to Burundi to try to convince the government to accept a peacekeeping force that it had rejected, backing away from an earlier plan to send them with or without consent, a top AU official said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1KmkWLV)

Mauritania has some of West Africa’s richest fishing waters yet overfishing by foreign trawlers means that hundreds of pirogues, or wooden canoes used by small-scale fishermen, must go farther out to sea to net ever smaller catches. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1m8ZnTw)

South Sudan government troops killed about 50 people by stuffing them into a shipping container in baking heat, ceasefire monitors said in a report noting the latest atrocities in two years of war. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1m8ZoXz)

Defense lawyers for fallen Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo on Monday accused his bitter rival President Alassane Ouattara of seizing power by force aided by former colonial power France, after disputed 2010 polls. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1m8Zmz6)

The two South African men who beat and stabbed a Mozambican man to death during a wave xenophobic violence in April last year were sentenced to 17 and 10 years in prison on Monday, local media reported. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1WYjt0g)

Human rights group Amnesty International has strongly criticized the reinstatement of a Nigerian army commander, who it says is implicated in war crimes during the country’s battle with Islamist Boko Haram militants. The Nigerian government has denied the accusations. (VOA http://bit.ly/1PuCrKf)

Journalists who’ve covered extreme violence in Kenya years ago still may experience related depression and anxiety, and they have little formal support in coping with the trauma, a new study finds. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Kmmful)

The African Leaders Malaria Alliance has presented awards of excellence to 14 African countries, including Liberia, Rwanda and Senegal for their performance in controlling malaria over the past four years, and Comoros, Guinea and Mali for showing the biggest improvements. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1m8ZpuJ)

A new $65 million initiative to boost malaria control and combat resistance to insecticides by improving access to new, low-cost anti-mosquito sprays across Africa was announced. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1KmmhCh)

MENA

Syrian peace talks gained a small measure of momentum Monday with the U.N. special envoy formally declaring the start of indirect negotiations, even as the opposition spokesman accused Russia of producing a “new Hitler” in Moscow and supporting another Hitler in Damascus. (AP http://yhoo.it/1SoEJ0e)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a strong call for a change in the status quo between Israelis and Palestinians, saying he is concerned they are reaching a point of no return for a two-state solution. (VOA http://bit.ly/1PuAGgj)

Starvation of Syrian civilians is a potential war crime and crime against humanity that should be prosecuted and not covered by any amnesty linked to ending the conflict, the top United Nations human rights official said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1m8Zoa8)

More than 3,600 Turkmens and Arabs fleeing advancing pro-government Syrian forces in the north of Latakia province have crossed into Turkey over the past four days, Turkish disaster agency AFAD said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1SoEL8m)

The U.N. has quietly added four areas to its increasingly controversial list of areas under siege in Syria, including Yarmouk and Madaya, the town that brought the issue of blockades into the limelight. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1SoELFu)

The European Union is set to promise some $2.2 billion in Syrian refugee aid at an international donor conference on Thursday, officials said, although much will be spent outside Syria barring an end to its civil war. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Kmmh5k)

Mortars and rockets fired at Saudi Arabian towns and villages have killed 375 civilians, including 63 children, since the start of the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen in late March, Riyadh said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1nAOnzu)

Asia

Hundreds of lawmakers from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy were sworn into Myanmar’s parliament on Monday, with enough seats to choose the country’s first democratically elected government since the military took power in 1962. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1PuACx4)

Police arrested the maverick founder of China’s largest online finance business on suspicion of fleecing 900,000 investors of $7.6 billion, in what could be the biggest financial fraud in Chinese history. (AP http://yhoo.it/1KmkVYe)

The Americas

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will present a comprehensive plan to federal officials on Monday to test lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint, the Detroit Free Press reported. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1UEi6SW)

Brazil’s president has signed a measure allowing health officials access to any building to eradicate breeding grounds for a mosquito spreading the Zika virus. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Kmmg1a)

Doctors, public health experts and women’s rights organizations are concerned that the strongly suspected link between the Zika virus and microcephaly, a fetal deformity resulting in a shrunken head and a damaged brain, will cause women in the Americas to seek illegal abortions. (VOA http://bit.ly/1TxPkoE)

…and the rest

Authorities dealing with Europe’s migrant crisis have lost track of about 10,000 unaccompanied children amid fears that organized crime gangs are beginning to exploit the vulnerable youngsters, a senior official at the European Union’s police agency said. (AP http://yhoo.it/1m8Zn5T)

Opinion/Blogs

The WHO Declares Zika Emergency. What Now? (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1TxSSY3)

Syrian children need an education – rich countries must give $1.4bn to fund it (Guardian http://bit.ly/1PuGbvk)

Donald Trump – What Would Be His Likely Policy for Africa? (New Times http://bit.ly/1PuAHRr)

First, do no harm (XX http://bit.ly/1nARCH1)

Everybody go chop Ghana – why Ghana’s economic ‘success story’ is an imperial myth (DevTruths http://bit.ly/1TxT6OS)

What do you consider the most interesting recent news? What makes it important? (Edge http://bit.ly/1nASOdw)

Does development need virtual reality? (Devex http://bit.ly/1SoHyyn)

What’s on the international agenda in 2016? (ODI http://bit.ly/1m91Tcm)

An ambivalence towards Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (Aid Leap http://bit.ly/1m91Flx)

What AFD reform means for the future of French aid (Devex http://bit.ly/1nAT10c)

4 storytelling projects that build empathy for refugees (WhyDev http://bit.ly/1SoHIG2)

Countries That Export Corruption Should Be Brought to Account (New Times http://bit.ly/1KmkZY6)

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