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Voting will take place in DR Congo’s Ebola-hit region: official | DR Congo News

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Kinshasa, DRC – An election official confirmed on Saturday that voting will take place in Ebola-hit Democratic Republic of Congo‘s northeastern region on December 30, despite concerns that opening polls there might lead to new cases of the virus. 

“Voting will take place as planned,” said Jean-Pierre Kalamba, the spokesman for the country’s electoral commission (CENI)

“Nothing has changed in terms of voting centres. We are maintaining the voting centres in the Ebola-affected areas as health ministry authorities did not see any specific need to change locations.” Kalamba told Al Jazeera.

Since November 28, there have been more than 500 confirmed cases of the deadly virus in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The haemorrhagic virus has killed more than 320 people since the latest outbreak started in May 2018, the UN health agency said.

The DRC’s health ministry said that measures have been put in place to make sure voting takes place in the region without any problems. 

This includes requiring all voters to wash their hands before and after voting.

“Health ministry workers have been engaged in the fight against Ebola in the affected areas. They have increased measures to limit transmissions like sanitation,” Jessica Ilunga, health ministry spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera.

‘A risk we have to take’

Many voters in the region told Al Jazeera the threat of the disease will not stop them from casting their ballot.

“We know Ebola is here but this is not an obstacle for us to go and vote on December 30,” Kambale Kaputo, a civil servant in the city of Beni in North Kivu province, told Al Jazeera by phone.

“We have been sensitised to Ebola. We have been given measures to protect ourselves and this is helping. We always mingle in churches, at work and in markets. We will go and vote. It is a risk but we have to take it.” the 50-year-old added. 

Christian Batenahe, a teacher from Beni, said nothing was going to stop him from heading to the polls.

“We are not worried at all. We are going to vote on December 30th because it is the right of every Congolese to go and vote. Ebola is not going to stop us,” Batenahe said.

“Nobody is afraid of Ebola here in Beni. We know people are dying from that disease but those who remain have to vote for change to come to this country,” the 33-year-old added.

Election delays

More than 46 million people have registered to take part in the long-delayed poll in the mineral-rich central African country. 

Elections were first scheduled to take place in 2016 but were delayed because the electoral body said it did not have the resources to hold the vote.

On Thursday, CENI postponed the vote until December 30 following a fire that destroyed voting machines at one of its main warehouses in the capital, Kinshasa.

The blaze destroyed nearly 80 percent of the 10,000 voting machines meant for the city, which is home to about 15 percent of the country’s electorate. Officials also cited the Ebola outbreak in its delay of the election. 

The tightly-contested election is meant to choose a successor to President Joseph Kabila, who is due to step down after 18 years in power.

Twenty-one candidates are competing for the country’s top job.

The DRC, a country of more than 80 million people, has not seen a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex

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The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City

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evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

When
: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Registration: https://alumni.carleton.ca/event-registration-architecture-forum-series-with-leslie-kern-2/.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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