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BUSHMEAT! Hawkers record low sales as Congo fights Ebola epidemic

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In the city of Mbandaka, “bushmeat” is a cheap, time-honoured form of food — monkeys, bats, antelopes, crocodiles and other species caught in the wild.

But local bushmeat hawkers say sales have slumped since an outbreak of Ebola was declared in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo on May 8.

While scientists say contaminated bushmeat carries an Ebola risk, local people are pointing to rumours of sorcery — that the bushmeat has been “cursed”.

“Takings have fallen,” said Sebastien Nseka Lokila, who manages the biggest market in the city of 1.2 million people, blaming a lack of supplies from Bikoro, a remote rural area that is the epicentre of the outbreak.

Far fewer shoppers than usual were in front of the bushmeat stands on Tuesday. Hawkers chopped up pieces of meat with gloveless hands, and many buyers, also without protection, touched and poked the meat as a prelude to haggling over the price.

“I love fresh bushmeat — it’s never caused any disease,” said Nelly Mboyo, a housewife in the market, but other women passed by the bushmeat stand without stopping.

Health experts say the virus that causes Ebola holes up in species of tropical fruit bats.

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The bats themselves are asymptomatic — they do not themselves fall ill, but pass it on in their droppings to other mammals, including monkeys, which in turn fall sick.

The disease then gets passed onto humans if they hunt and butcher an infected animal. The virus may enter the bloodstream through a scratch or a cut, infiltrating cells and then multiplying.

Scientists say this risk — and that posed by eating smoked or cooked bushmeat — seems to be low.

They warn the problem amplifies when an infected human comes into close contact with another, helping the disease to spread through body fluids.

Since the outbreak was declared in Bikoro on May 8, 58 cases of Ebola have been reported with 27 deaths. Seven cases have surfaced in Mbandaka districts, the UN’s World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

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One superstition that has spread in Mbandaka, said nurse Julie Lobali, is that Ebola began in Bikoro as “a curse on those who ate stolen meat.”

Blandine Mboyo, who lives in the district of Bongondjo, told AFP “a hunter put a curse on the village because his big game was stolen.”

“This curse is so powerful because it hits those who ate this meat, having heard about the theft or having seen the stolen animal,” said Nicole Batoa, a market vendor.

– Epidemic’s ‘ground zero’ –

In December 2014, a German-led team of scientists determined that the world’s biggest Ebola epidemic could be traced to a colony of free-tailed bats that lived in a hollow tree in a remote village in Guinea.

“The close proximity of a large colony of free-tailed bats… provided opportunity for infection. Children regularly caught and played with bats in this tree,” they reported in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Guinea, along with Sierra Leone and Liberia, bore the brunt of an epidemic that ran from 2013-15, with 29,000 recorded cases and 11,300 deaths.

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Bushmeat, for many poor Congolese, is not an exotic food but a cheap and unpretentious part of their diet.

According to the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), people living in the Congo Basin annually eat five million tonnes of bushmeat — the equivalent of the cattle production of Brazil and the European Union.

Many anthropologists contend the risk from Ebola is relatively small and are angry with those who, they say, are harming poor people in rural areas by demonising the practice.

Conservationists, for their part, are deeply worried about bushmeat’s impact on biodiversity, which adds to habitat loss as a threat for vulnerable species.

AFP

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Ondo: Christians obey govt’s directive on partial reopening of worship centers

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Akeredolu sacks aide for wilful neglect of duty

Christians in Okitipupa, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State on Sunday complied with the directive of the state government on the partial reopening of worship centres in the state.

Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu on Wednesday directed a “guided” and “syndicated” resumption of mosques and churches across the state.

The state government on March 26, directed a shutdown of all religious worship centres to curtail the spread of #coronavirus.

As part of the partial reopening of the worship centres, Akeredolu also directed that mosques and churches must be disinfected.

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The governor also directed that soaps, water, hand sanitizer must be provided to worshippers as well as use of face masks and maintaining social distance, among others.

A correspondent who visited churches like Christ Apostolic, Anglican, Methodist, Winners Chapel, Mountain of Fire, Redeemed Christian Church of God, among others, in Okitipupa, noted that the churches complied with government directives.

Worshippers wore face masks, while soap, water and hand sanitisers were provided for worshippers before entering the churches.

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Worshippers also observed social distancing during the services.

Primate Elisha Akinsulere, the Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ondo South District, told NAN on telephone that the government had been magnanimous in reopening worship centres.

He urged Christians to continue to pray to God to give the leaders the necessary direction and to pray for God to take away COVID-19 permanently.

“We are happy for the partial reopening of worship centres. We thank the state government for the magnanimity and we will continue to pray for our leaders for the right direction.

“I urge all our brethren to continue to pray to God to help us defeat COVID-19 permanently for peace to return to our dear country and the world at large,” Akinsulere said.

He, however, urged Christians to continue to comply with all government preventive measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

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NAN

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65-year-old customs boss, Hameed Ali, takes new wife (Photos)

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The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) over the weekend got married to a new bride, Hajiya Zainab Abdullahi in a wedding ceremony devoid of fanfare because of the ravage of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Before being appointed as Comptroller General of NCS by President Muhammadu Buhari, Ali, 65 years of age had previously served as military administrator of Kaduna State from 1996 to 1998.

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Hameed Ali’s first wife, Hajiya Hadiza Jummai Ali died in Abuja on October 29th, 2018 at the age of 53 years old.

Hajiya Ali who was the first lady of Kaduna State when her husband served as a military administrator of the state from 1996 to 1998, left behind her husband, Hameed Ali and four children.

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Born 15 January 1955, the current Customs CG previously served as Military Governor of Kaduna State from 1996 to 1998. After retirement, he became secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum – a political and cultural association of leaders in Northern Nigeria.

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Bayelsa confirms first COVID-19 death

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The Bayelsa State Government has confirmed the death of a Coronavirus patient from complications linked to the disease.

The Director of Public Health in the state’s ministry of health and member of the state’s COVID-19 task force committee, Dr Jones Stowe who confirmed the death of the patient said the deceased is one of the two military personnel who was among the new cases announced in the state a few days ago.

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Daily Trust reported that the deceased died after suffering from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and other related complications days after testing positive for Coronavirus.

Bayelsa state has so far recorded 12 confirmed cases of Coronavirus.

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