News in Brief


Plane crash victim, 7, hikes for help in dark

Piper Plane

© Bill Larkins (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A seven-year-old girl, who was the sole survivor of an air crash, walked barefoot through woods in the dark to find help.

Sailor Gutzler’s parents, sister and cousin died in the crash when a plane piloted by her father came down in Kentucky, USA. She used burning wreckage to make a torch, despite being injured herself, and eventually came upon the house of Larry Wilkins, 71, who raised the alarm.

Wilkins told NBC: “I opened the door and this little girl was standing there with bloody nose, bloody legs and bloody arms. Her voice was quivering. She told me her mum and dad were dead and she was in a plane crash and the plane was upside down.

“She was barefoot, only had one sock on.”

Heidi Moats from the National Transportation Safety Board praised Sailor’s bravery, saying that her account would help investigators discover the cause of the accident.

Schools to reopen in Liberia as Ebola infection rates fall

Liberia is planning to start reopening its schools in February, after they were  closed in the summer of 2014 to help stop the spread of Ebola.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made the announcement during an interview on UNMIL Radio in early January.

A Ministry of Education statement said: “We ask all schools to take the necessary measures for the reopening of schools next semester, which is February. All schools have to get equipped with chlorine water, thermometers, and all have to put in place measures recommended by the Health Ministry for the prevention of the virus.”

The country took various measures to reduce opportunities for the disease to spread, including limiting travel and closing markets. Infection rates are now falling.

Schools have been feeling the financial burden of having to pay staff when school fees have not been coming in. The Central Bank of Liberia has stepped in to pay off the debts of private schools.

Nigeria promises to defeat Boko Haram

In his New Year’s Address Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan vowed to focus efforts on defeating militant group Boko Haram.

“I want to assure you that the terrorists will not get away with their atrocities: they will not win; they will be routed,” he said.

Just hours before the President’s address, a New Year’s Eve service at a church in Nigeria’s north-eastern city of Gombe ended in disaster when a suicide attack left eight people wounded.

While no group has admitted carrying out the attack, it is widely held that Boko Haram is responsible.

The militant Islamist group began a campaign of violence in northern Nigeria in 2011 with a series of bombings in Bauchi, Zaria and Abuja.

In 2013 the government imposed a state of emergency in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in an attempt to ward off the militants.

But the group ramped up its attacks in 2014, carrying out raids on towns and villages in which hundreds of civilians were captured.

Now, following a series of attacks in the cities of Gombe and Bauchi during December which claimed the lives of at least 26 individuals, the President has reaffirmed his commitment to defeating the rebels.

“We will bring justice to the savage terrorists known as Boko Haram,” he said. “They will be defeated.”

Polio Day marks victory in SE Asia


Celebrity ambassadors and polio survivors joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) on World Polio Day 2014 to celebrate advances made in the fight against polio.

The event, which takes place on 24 October, commemorates the birth of Jonas Salk, the virologist who developed the first vaccine against polio.

The 2014 event was streamed live over the internet and included performances from musicians Tessanne Chin and Ziggy Marley as well as updates on GPEI’s progress towards its goal – an end to polio by 2018.

A spokesperson for GPEI said: “This is the first World Polio Day where the entire South East Asia region is verified to be polio free, following the three-year anniversary of India’s monumental achievement in ending the transmission of the virus.”

Polio is highly infectious – it causes irreversible paralysis and is sometimes fatal. There is no cure, but immunisation is cheap and effective. Two forms of vaccine are available, with the oral version being especially cost-effective because it can be given by volunteers and costs as little as 11 US cents per dose.

In 1988 polio was endemic in 125 countries. Now only three countries, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan, remain endemic for polio. Since its formation, GPEI has vaccinated more than two billion children and cases of the disease have decreased by 99 per cent. It is spearheaded by Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Typhoon destroys Filipino farmland

Ecological farmers in the Philippines have pooled their resources to help farmers in Dolores, Eastern Samar, following the destruction of all of the region’s farmland by Typhoon Hagupit (or ‘Ruby’) in December. The damage, estimated to have cost the country US$42.5 million, is being gradually replenished by the donation of seeds, crops and fertilisers.

Population set to fall in Japan

Japan’s birthrate has dropped by 9,000 since 2013, with 2014 figures recording 1,001,000 births. This demonstrates the fourth consecutive fall in as many years, even as the number of annual deaths continues to rise. By 2050 Japan’s population could be as low as 97 million – down 30 million from today – says the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research.

Treasure hunters are quids in after haul

One of the biggest hoards of ancient coins ever found in Britain has been unearthed in Buckinghamshire by a group of metal detector enthusiasts. The bucket of more than 5,000 coins is thought to date back to the 11th century late Anglo-Saxon/early Norman period and is due to be examined by the British Museum.

Egypt sees draconian clampdown

Authoritarian laws are being passed in Egypt at a rate surpassing that of any presidency since 1952. Following the removal of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, interim presidents Adly Mansour and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi have passed a string of decrees restricting citizens’ freedom, leading to political commentators labelling them “worse than the dictators”. The current lack of elected parliament has allowed controversial rulings – including laws restricting the media and citizen rights to protest – to be pass unquestioned.


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