The year 2020 kicked off with remarkable events ranging from political conflicts to natural disasters to pestilence. The sympathetic stories cut across continents and peoples with varying degrees of pain.
In the eve that ushered 2020 in, Australia was busy battling a range of wildfires that was wreaking contagious havoc in the country, spreading through lives and property, and constituting environmental hazard that has become more than an Australian problem.
Despite tremendous efforts to quench it, the fire succeeded 2019, and took a devastating toll on the country at the dawn of the New Year. Millions of acres have been torched, homes ravaged and scores of people killed. Gory images of its gruesome impacts liter the news and to make it worse, there are little signs that it’s receding.
Over half a billion animals have been killed in New South Wales, their charred bodies only beg empathy and help. Humans are not spared either, over 35 people have been killed so far and hundreds have been rendered homeless as the fires ravage through thousands of homes across Australian states.
About 15 million acres have been affected so far in over 200 fires burning across the country. About 3,000 firefighters are engaged including those who volunteered from the United States. In addition, the Australian Defence Force pulled 3,000 army reserve forces and others with specialist capabilities to help fight the flames that have been masterminded by intense heat and drought that have been attributed to climate change.
As the Australian wildfires kept gaining momentum, empathy, support and prayers followed it. It appeared the world concentration was centered on the country until the news of Coronavirus broke out from Wahum, China, raising another concern and breaking the focus. While the Australian wildfires take on anything that stands on the way, Coronavirus focuses on humans. They do have one thing in common – contagiousness.
Coronavirus started in the central city of Wahum, in Hebei province of China. It has so far infected over 530 people, leaving about 18 dead. It’s a contagious kind of pneumonia that has kept Asia and the rest of the world on high alert.
By January 9, two people had died of severe respiratory failure in the city Wahum, prompting an investigation by the Chinese authorities. The symptoms were found to be related to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The symptoms are fever, coughing and sometimes kidney failure. It also includes a runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache or fever that may linger for days.
Chinese scientists have linked the origin of the virus to animals. Leo Poon, a virologist at the School of Public Health at The University of Hong Kong, who was the first to decode the virus said.
“What we know is it causes Pneumonia and then doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, which is not surprising, but then in terms of mortality, SARS kills 10% of the individuals.”
Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, which means they can be transmitted from animals to humans – US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The human to human transmission of the virus happens when someone comes in contact with a carrier’s secretions. So a cough, sneeze or handshake can cause exposure. One can also be infected when he touches something an infected person has touched, then putting the hand into his mouth, nose or eyes.
There is no specific treatment for disease caused by a novel coronavirus. However, many of the symptoms can be treated. But treatment is based on the patient’s clinical condition. Every country in the world is taking steps to protect its citizens by setting up screening and quarantine measures at Port of Entries.
But Spain has got more than Coronavirus to worry about. A storm surge operating in the name, Storm Gloria has taken on the east coast of Spain and swept inland, destroying rice farms and homes in Barcelona. The delta region of the country has swept to devastation by the flood. Beach facilities have been wrecked, and seawater has caused major damage to beaches in Barcelona, Valencia and the Balearic islands. So far, about five people have been killed.
It has been described as the most devastating storm in recent times of the region. With sea waters flooding about 30sq km of rice plants and waves reaching as high 7m (23ft), crashing over a dyke protecting boats, it has become impossible for boats to sail.
“We have not seen anything like this before,” said Lluis Soler, the mayor of the delta region.
Meanwhile, France isn’t spared. Storm Gloria has reportedly touched down at Pyrenees-Orientales, France’s southernmost Mediterranean department. Gloria has been described as the worst storm to hit the region since 1982, and the authorities have been placed on high alert.
While the battle to contain these crises is being waged, East Africa has got locust-attack to deal with. Unprecedented swarms of locusts invading farms and devastating crops with such heavy impacts that may result in drought has got the region alarmed. Described as the severest locust invasion in 25 years, countries like Ethiopia and neighboring areas of Somalia, parts Sudan, Eritrea and northern Kenya are under serious threat of starvation.
The situation has also been attributed to climate change that has enabled favorable ecological conditions for locust breeding. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is warning that the insects may swarm to other regions in no time and cause food scarcity in the sub-region.
“This has become a situation of international dimensions that threatens the food security of the entire sub-region. FAO is activating fast-track mechanisms that will allow us to move swiftly to support governments in mounting a collective campaign to deal with the crisis, “FAO Director General, QU Dongyu said in a statement.
“Communities in Eastern Africa have already been impacted by extended droughts, which have eroded their capacities to grow food and make a living. We need to help them when the locusts are gone,” he added.
FAO said the ravaging swarms potentially contain hundreds of millions of locusts and that the insects can travel distances of more than 90 miles in a single day. And if left unchecked, the locust swarms could increase 500 times by June.