The topics chosen for our international relations column in the first week of December are: the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron; the drought in East Africa and the most recent refugee crisis in Europe.
A new variant was discovered in South Africa, and it was named after the Greek letter Omicron. There are many researches being developed in the present, but not much is known about the lethality of the variant. It is definitely a different variant, and the main concern is about the mutations on the spike protein which is the part of the virus that is targeted by vaccines, and it is how the virus enters the organism. This, however, does not mean it is worse or more likely to kill patients. The new variant is now in about 40 countries which led to many of them to block flights to South Africa, also Europe is announcing tighter restrictions to contains the spread of the virus such as booster jabs, restrictions to unvaccinated people and compulsory vaccination. The World Health Organization affirms that it is not necessary to panic about Omicron, and now the main concern is to get as many people vaccinated as possible all over the world. Some scientists are not surprised about the new variant, but some claim to be the worse one so far, however, the same was said about the Beta variant and it turned out not to be as bad.
It is not certain whether we will need new vaccines or not, or how effective are the ones being used nowadays, but it is proven that the greater the number of fully vaccinated people, the lower of number of people infected. South Africa had 23% of the population fully vaccinated when the first case of the Omicron variant was detected, and it is necessary to decrease the vaccination gap between richer and poorer countries as soon as possible in order to avoid new variants and number of deceased due to COVID-19.
East Africa is living the “worst drought seen since 2011”, specifically in northern Kenia, Somalia, and southern Ethiopia, and it caused the death of 70% of the cattle. The numbers are not exact since Ethiopia is going through a political conflict, so the data is harder to collect, but the risk of massive starvation of the population is high, since the absence of rain results in lack of food for the cattle, which leads to no income and no food for the population once the cattle farming is the main source of money. Not much is being said about this unstable scenario in East Africa, however there is a high risk of a humanitarian crisis approaching the region, and soon interference will be required, considering the pandemic, the political conflict and weather complications.
The current situation of refugees in Europe is mainly focused on the English Channel where 27 migrants drowned and another 106 were rescued in France. This year, about 1.600 people drowned or disappeared in the Mediterranean Ocean and the UN calls for an increase of efforts to prevent such tragedies. These refugees come from countries in conflict, such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Eritrea, and the main approach being studied by England and France is to stop the boats. Boris Johnson suggested to conduct British authorities to French beaches, which was denied by France. Criminal gangs are playing a major role in this situation, selling a fictious life in Europe for the endangered population and proposes travelling on boats in poor conditions, which leads to a massive number of refugees and a high risk of drowning along the way.
It is stated that the pandemic alone is a massive problem for the world population, but the circumstances for populations in underdeveloped countries in far worse once the political, humanitarian and environmental issues are also present and worsening the situation.