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By Fernando Duarte
BBC World Service

image copyrightUNHCR

image captionInnocent Havyarimana lowered the prices of his products when the pandemic struck

When Innocent Havyarimana started his soap-making business in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp in early 2015, he was trying to move on from the traumatic events that had made him flee his native Burundi a year earlier.

Little did he know that his cottage enterprise would become a major weapon in the fight against coronavirus in one of the world’s biggest settlements of its kind – Kakuma is home to almost 200,000 people.

As soon as the former chemistry student realised the importance of hand-washing in tackling the spread of Covid-19, he lowered prices and started to offer his products in smaller quantities and sizes, to make them more affordable.

“Everyone needs soap but not everybody is able to afford it. So I lowered the prices, as it was more important to protect people than to think of profit,” the 35-year-old tells the BBC.

“I had to increase my production by 75% to meet the demand when the pandemic started, so Covid-19 has been good for my business.

“But I made sure I gave free soap to vulnerable people such as the elderly and the disabled.”

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionKakuma, in north-west Kenya, is one of the world’s largest refugee camps, hosting almost 200,000 people

Mr Havyarimana’s initiative has been praised by the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, which often highlights the contribution of refugee entrepreneurs to their host communities.

“The refugees are playing a pivotal role in helping contain the spread of Covid-19 in Kakuma,” Eujin Byun, a spokesperson for UNHCR in Kenya tells the BBC.

“They helped in many ways, from disseminating information about the virus to helping people take the necessary measures.”

‘Looking after each other’

She added that she was not surprised by Mr Havyarimana’s decision to lower prices.

“Refugees are very community-oriented and they will look after each other. They have previously stepped up and helped us do our jobs in situations like that.”

Mr Havyarimana currently employs 42 people in his business, named Glap Industries – short for God Loves All People. The bulk of the workers are refugees but 18 are Kenyans from the town of Kakuma.

Glap supplies local businesses and institutions outside the camp and even relief agencies.

image copyrightInnocent Havyariama
image captionInnocent Havyarimana is keen to mentor other camp residents

“The agencies buy my soaps to give away to refugees who cannot afford them and for their own staff too,” the Burundian proudly notes.

Mr Havyarimana is not the only local soap merchant, but he does not fear the competition, and in fact offers classes to teach people how to make cleaning products.

“I want to mentor women and younger people so they can have an opportunity to become self-reliant and improve their lives like I did,” he says.

“I want to help the community in any way I can.”

Efforts like his may have helped keep Covid-19 at bay in Kakuma.

The most recent UNHCR figures, dating from 24 December, show that there had been 341 confirmed cases with 19 people under medical care. There have been 10 deaths from the virus.

Kenya has registered nearly 100,000 cases nationally, with around 1,700 deaths, health ministry figures show.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionBurundians fled their homes in large numbers in the wake of violence and instability that began in 2015

Political instability and violence have forced more than 300,000 people to flee Burundi to neighbouring African countries in the last decade, according to the UNHCR.

Mr Havyarimana was in the middle of his chemistry studies at the University of Burundi when he left. He says his life was in danger and that he was receiving death threats from relatives of his late mother, who also seized his home.

After arriving in Kakuma, he wanted to make money for himself, rather than relying on humanitarian aid.

‘No idea how to make soap’

The camp sits in an isolated and arid region where the provision of basic services is a challenge for relief agencies.

Exploring the region, Mr Havyarimana noticed there was not a soap factory, which meant that cleaning products had to be brought from elsewhere.

“I had no idea of how to make soap, so I started surfing the web for some knowledge,” he explains.

image copyrightInnocent Havyariama
image captionInnocent Havyarimana is now passing on his knowledge of soap making by organising workshops

He later enrolled in a soap-making course offered by the World Lutheran Federation aid agency, and with a loan from a former classmate in Burundi, he started the business alongside two helpers.

He also received grants from relief agencies including the UNHCR and NGOs such as the African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), which says it has supported more then 18,000 refugee entrepreneurs.

‘Lifeline for the community’

“Innocent’s story shows how refugees can contribute to their host communities in a number of ways,” Julienne Oyler, the AEC’s chair, tells the BBC.

“Camps like Kakuma are so isolated that entrepreneurs like him are a lifeline to basic goods and services at a time of lockdowns and other restrictions.”

A 2018 World Bank study identified over 2,000 businesses in Kakuma and estimated that they contributed more than $50m (£37m) to the local economy every year.

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Michelle Richey, a lecturer in technology and entrepreneurship at the UK’s Loughborough University specialising in refugee business ventures, says people like Mr Havyarimana are very import in changing the general perception of refugees.

“The human potential within refugees shows when we give them chances to work instead of just focusing on humanitarian issues,” she says.

“We can help those people have some control of their lives again after all they have been through.”

Starting a thriving business is not the only change in Mr Havyarimana’s life since arriving in Kakuma. In 2017, he married Aline, a fellow Burundian refugee he met at the camp.

They have two sons, and the youngest one, Prince, was born in late November.

Map

Mr Havyarimana speaks with fondness about life in Kenya but he dreams of being resettled in Australia or Canada.

“I like Kakuma a lot, but I want to give my wife and kids a better life,” he says.

In the meantime, Mr Havyarimana is focusing on expanding his ways to help the community, and as well as offering 21 kinds of soap and cleaning products, he has devised a hand sanitiser created from aloe vera grown in a patch just outside his workshop.

“Coronavirus has affected the whole world but for us here in Kakuma, it has made it even more important that we clean our hands in any we can,” he says.

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Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump

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“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.

The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.

“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”

But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.

On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.

Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.

A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.

The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.

Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.

Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.

A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.

But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.

The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.

Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.

A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.

Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.

The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.

Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.

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Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout

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Matt Hancock has agreed to remove some of the training modules required for volunteers to sign up to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine (PA)


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Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.

It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.

The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.

“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.

In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.

“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.

“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”

Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.

He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same. 

“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”

Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.

The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.

But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.

Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.

Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.

Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”

The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”

The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.

“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided. 

“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”

Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.

“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”

The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.

He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.

He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.

“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.

“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.

“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”

Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”

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How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers

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Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.

The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.

After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.

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