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NASA Preps New Mars Rover for Special Mission

NASA is preparing to send a new rover to Mars for a human exploration mission of the Red Planet. Voice of America reporter Verónica Villafañe saw the space vehicle up close and spoke with members of the mission.

Nigeria Confirms First Coronavirus Case as Africa Braces for Pandemic

Nigerian officials have confirmed a case of coronavirus in the country, the first confirmed case in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is braced for a potential coronavirus pandemic as experts warn health systems on the continent could be overwhelmed.  However, experts say the apparent delay in the virus reaching Africa has given health officials precious time to prepare, as Henry Ridgwell reports.

With Time to Prepare, Africa Braces for Coronavirus

Africa is braced for a potential Coronavirus pandemic as experts warn health systems on the continent could be overwhelmed. Beyond its source in China, outbreaks have hit South Korea, Iran and Italy – with cases detected in dozens of other countries. However, experts say the apparent delay in the virus reaching Africa on a large scale has given precious time to prepare, as Henry Ridgwell reports.

Catching Plastic: Fishermen on Frontline of Ocean Clean-up

Every year, around 12 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the world’s oceans – polluting the water, killing wildlife, and creating microplastics that enter the food chain. Now a group of fishermen in Barcelona, Spain has begun an innovative new project in which they are given financial support to catch plastic. Henry Ridgwell reports

Hand-Washing Critical To Containing Viruses, MIT Study Shows

The coronavirus outbreak has upended air travel and caused people to question the safety of cruises. Travelers have canceled trips to Asia and gone so far as to refrain from eating Chinese food prepared in countries that don't have any widespread outbreak of the virus called COVID-19.Doctors have warned that an infectious disease anywhere is hours away from being everywhere.Case in point: SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome. It was first discovered in China in February 2003. It lasted only about six months, but before it was finished, it had spread to more than two dozen countries, mostly through air travel.Christos Nicolaides is a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who sets up computational models to look at the spread of disease. He spoke to VOA by Skype."The air transportation network is the main pathway for a global disease spread,” Nicolaides said.Think of all the things you and others touch at an airport. The check-in kiosk, handrails, seats, the buttons on water fountains, table tops. In an airplane, you touch the seat, food trays, arm rests and the door knob to the toilet.When people cough or sneeze droplets of mucus spew through the air and land on surfaces that other people touch.Nicolaides led a study that concludes that if you want "to slow an epidemic, focus on hand-washing.""First of all, we tried to calculate the rate of hand-washing around the world,” Nicolaides said. Previous studies show that 70% of people wash their hands after using a toilet. And out of that number only 6% or 7% do it correctly."So correctly I mean, they wash their hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds,” Nicolaides explained. "We did some back of the envelope calculations and we found out that if you visit an airport any time in the world, you will realize that only one of five people have clean hands.”Nicolaides then looked at what he calls super-spreader airports."A super-spreader airport is an airport that combines two characteristics. The first one is that it has a lot of traffic. A lot of people. And the other characteristic is that it’s connected with many other airports with many other international flights,” Nicolaides said.These airports are basically the ten largest in the world which include the John F. Kennedy in New York, Los Angeles International, London Heathrow, Hong Kong International, Beijing Capital among them.Nicolaides calculated that if 60% of travelers had clean ...

Hospital Comes Up With a Way to Cut Costs Of Lifesaving Cancer Drugs

A lot of people are surviving cancer because new treatments are so effective. But there's one thing that stands in the way for many people, and that's having the money to pay for the drugs to fight their cancer. This includes people in the U.S. VOA's Carol Pearson reports that at least one hospital is working to make cancer treatment more affordable.

US NGO Installs Solar Panels in Maternity Wards in Zimbabwe

Staff and patients celebrated at Beatrice Government Hospital this week after a U.S. charity known as We Care Solar installed solar power in the medical center's labor and maternity wards.The hospital is one of more than 200 institutions that have benefited from the $3 million project by the California-based NGO.Eighteen-year-old Bridget Dube delivered her son Rodney under the solar-powered lights Tuesday night. Two of her sisters delivered their babies when the hospital had no solar energy."We are really happy. This is a real relief," Dube said. "We now have solar lights which are handy when there is no electricity. Our children and those in the labor ward will no longer be in darkness."It was difficult without solar energy because doctors struggled to help expectant mothers, she said, adding that changing diapers in the dark was difficult.Because of recurring droughts and dilapidated power-generating equipment, Zimbabwe faces massive power outages that can go on for days.John Mangwiro, Zimbabwe's deputy health minister, said President Emerson Mnangagwa's government is aware of the difficulties that expectant mothers and health personnel face due to the power cuts.Dr. Laura Stachel, co-founder and executive director of the California-based We Care Solar, delivers solar panels to a hospital in Beatrice, Zimbabwe, Feb. 13, 2020. (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)"(Expectant) mothers at times would be requested to bring candles," Mangwiro said. "But now there would be light permanently. ... Even mothers who were failing to come here fearing there is no light, they will be very happy to come. … We are very happy."Dr. Laura Stachel, co-founder and executive director of We Care Solar, said her organization aims to install solar energy at more than 1,000 health institutions and maternity and labor wards in Zimbabwe."I think this project is going to make a great impact because it means that health workers are no longer going to struggle by candlelight or by holding their cellphones in their mouths," she said. "I think Zimbabwe [is] going to be a world leader. It's going to show the world that it is able to reach every center with reliable electricity. And we no longer have an excuse to leave people in the dark when we have a sustainable technology like solar that is simple and reliable."We Care Solar has participated in similar projects in Liberia, Uganda and Nigeria, Stachel said, adding that maternal deaths in Nigeria fell by 70 percent at hospitals that received solar panels.

Live Brain Donations to Help Scientists Treat Epilepsy

Epilepsy,  a neurological disorder typically associated with seizures, affects millions in the United States alone.  Now, patients are helping scientists find new treatments by donating living brain tissue for research.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi takes us into the operating room.

High Hopes for Lesotho's Budding Cannabis Industry

High in the mountains of Lesotho, a green revolution is growing.  The tiny mountain kingdom, which is surrounded on all sides by South Africa, made history in 2017 by being the first African country to issue licenses for the production of medical cannabis.Marijuana is not new to Lesotho — it’s been used for centuries for medicine and recreation. The area's high elevation, low humidity and abundant arable land make it an ideal place to grow.  But by issuing production licenses, Lesotho's government has thrown open the door for a new industry — and brought in millions of dollars from foreign investors.  MG Health, one of the top five local producers, built a $23 million facility in the hills of Marakabei. It employs 380 people, many from the local area, where unemployment is sky-high.CEO Andre Bothma says this is more than just a pipe dream. He believes that the fledgling cannabis industry can bring great value to Lesotho — if it’s done right.   FILE - A worker checks on structures at a facility that grows legal cannabis near Marakabei, Lesotho, Aug. 6, 2019."This is a medicinal product that we are creating here, and our company has various brands," he said. "Some of them are for sale in South Africa at the moment. We are moving into the U.K. and France ... in the near future. We have exported to Australia already, and we are in the process of getting our extraction facility and our growing facility GMP certified, EU GMP certified," Bothma added, referring to the Good Manufacturing Practice certification.Treatment with CBD  Medical studies have only just begun to look at the effectiveness of cannabis's popular non-psychoactive compound, cannabidiol. In a 2017 report, the World Health Organization described its potential for abuse and dependence as low, and said it found "preliminary evidence that CBD may be a useful treatment for a number of ... medical conditions."MG Health's range of pharmaceutical-grade products, distilled from their CBD-rich strain of the plant, claim to treat chronic ailments such as epilepsy, pain, fibromyalgia, anxiety, arthritis and more.    That, says Finance Minister Moeketsi Majoro, is what makes Lesotho's cannabis industry stand out: It upends the traditional African narrative of exporting raw materials to the west."We don't want to export bottles of raw oil," Majoro told VOA. "We want to export pharmaceutical products. And so we want to see as much as possible for every investment, ...

New Coronavirus Transmissions Raise More Concerns as Deaths Surpass Those From SARS

The head of the World Health Organization's says there are "concerning instances" of coronavirus transmission from people who have not traveled to China, a development that could mean there is a bigger problem. This comes as a WHO team of medical experts arrived in China on Monday and the death toll surpassed that of the SARS’ epidemic in 2002/2003. According to WHO's latest data, there are now over 40,000 confirmed cases in China and more than 1,000 deaths. Outside of China, there are 319 confirmed cases and there has been one death in Philippines. VOA Correspondent Mariama Diallo reports.

Safety Advocates in Malaysia Push for Greater Use of Child Safety Seats

While waiting for his 5-year-old twins to get out of school one afternoon, Raj Rajoo got their child safety seats ready.
“My kids, their lives are very important for me so I invested in the car seats,” he said.Malaysia has been requiring the use of child safety seats — also known as child restraint systems — since January 1 but Rajoo and his wife, Jay Menon, have been using them since shortly after their children were born.
“Anything can happen in a split second and we don’t want to regret anything further on down the road,” Menon said.A study conducted last year in Malaysia found that less than half of the cars on the roads with children ages 12 and under had child safety seats. (Dave Grunebaum/VOA)Researchers in Malaysia found last year that fewer than half of the cars on the roads with children ages 12 and under had child safety seats.“For many years, people have not been having car seats here, quite a number of people have not,” Menon said, "so it’s  a change of mindset and it will take time.”Data shows that children secured properly in a child safety seat are up to 71-percent less likely to die in a car accident. (Dave Grunebaum/VOA)The Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research says more than 1,500 children under the age of 10 died in road accidents in Malaysia from 2007 to 2017. Statistics show that children secured properly in a child safety seat are up to 71% less likely to die in a car accident.“A seat belt only, it is actually designed for an adult,” the institute's director-general, Siti Zaharah Ishak, said.A child restraint system, she said, "is actually appropriate for a child to use in a car because it’s designed for a child to protect them to restrain them whenever there is a motor crash or an accident.“Omar Mohamad recently looked for a child safety seat for his 2-year-old son at a store in Kuala Lumpur. He said his family already has one in his wife’s car and he’s buying another one for his.Child safety seats became a requirement in Malaysia on Jan. 1. The government says after a six-month phase in period violators will be fined.(Dave Grunebaum/VOA)“Every time we want to move into my car, I have to prepare half an hour before, take out the car seat, put it in my car, fix it properly then we can go," he said.
“So ...

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