During the “Green Sahara” period (11,000 to 5000 years before the present), the Sahara desert received high amounts of rainfall, supporting diverse vegetation, permanent lakes, and human populations. Our knowledge of rainfall rates and the spatiotemporal extent of wet conditions has suffered from a lack of continuous sedimentary records. We present a quantitative reconstruction of western Saharan precipitation derived from leaf wax isotopes in marine sediments. Our data indicate that the Green Sahara extended to 31°N and likely ended abruptly. We find evidence for a prolonged “pause” in Green Sahara conditions 8000 years ago, coincident with a temporary abandonment of occupational sites by Neolithic humans. The rainfall rates inferred from our data are best explained by strong vegetation and dust feedbacks; without these mechanisms, climate models systematically fail to reproduce the Green Sahara. This study suggests that accurate simulations of future climate change in the Sahara and Sahel will require improvements in our ability to simulate vegetation and dust feedbacks.
The authors report the results of parasitological analyses of stool samples in N'Djamena (Chad) since 1963 and in Garoua (North Cameroon) since 1990. The number of positive stool examinations has fallen, with a significant decline in helminthiases, although the level of protozoan infections has remained essentially the same.
On August 10, 2016, 2 years after the most recent wild poliovirus (WPV) case was reported in Nigeria (in July 2014) (1), two WPV cases were reported in the northeastern state of Borno, which has been severely affected by insurgency-related insecurity since 2013. On September 9 and 26, 2016, two additional WPV cases were reported in Borno in children whose families migrated from security-compromised, inaccessible areas of the state. All four cases were WPV serotype 1 (WPV1), with genetic differences indicating prolonged undetected transmission. A large-scale emergency response plan was developed and implemented. The plan initially called for vaccination of 815,791 children during August 15-18 in five local government areas (LGAs) in the immediate vicinity of the first two WPV cases. Subsequently, the plan was expanded to regionally synchronized supplementary immunization activities (SIAs), conducted during August 27-December 6 in five Lake Chad basin countries at increased risk for national and regional WPV1 transmission (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria). In addition, retrospective searches for missed cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), enhanced environmental surveillance for polioviruses, and polio surveillance system reviews were conducted. Prolonged undetected WPV1 transmission in Borno State is a consequence of low population immunity and severe surveillance limitations associated with insurgency-related insecurity and highlights the risk for local and international WPV spread (2). Increasing polio vaccination coverage and implementing high-quality polio surveillance, especially among populations in newly secured and difficult-to-access areas in Borno and other Lake Chad basin areas are urgently needed.
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) causes a viral zoonosis, with discontinuous epizootics and sporadic epidemics, essentially in East Africa. Infection with this virus causes severe illness and abortion in sheep, goats, and cattle as well as other domestic animals. Humans can also be exposed through close contact with infectious tissues or by bites from infected mosquitoes, primarily of the Aedes and Culex genuses. Although the cycle of RVFV infection in savannah regions is well documented, its distribution in forest areas in central Africa has been poorly investigated.
Studies in different parts of the world have implicated money as a vehicle for transmission of pathogens. Such information which is necessary to facilitate infection control strategies is lacking in many sub-Saharan countries including Cameroon. This study analyzed the Franc de la Communaute Financiere d'Afrique (Franc CFA), the currency used in Cameroon and other countries in the Central African sub-region, as a potential vehicle for transmission of pathogenic bacteria and fungi, particularly drug-resistant strains, to generate findings which could create awareness on currency contamination and serve as a guide when formulating health policies on currency.
The Central African Republic has known long periods of instability. In 2014, following the fall of an interim government installed by the Séléka coalition, a series of violent reprisals occurred. These events were largely directed at the country’s Muslim minority and led to a massive displacement of the population. In 2014, we sought to document the retrospective mortality among refugees arriving from the CAR into Chad by conducting a series of surveys.
BACKGROUND: Estimating the size of forcibly displaced populations is key to documenting their plight and allocating sufficient resources to their assistance, but is often not done, particularly during the acute phase of displacement, due to methodological challenges and inaccessibility. In this study, we explored the potential use of very high resolution satellite imagery to remotely estimate forcibly displaced populations. METHODS: Our method consisted of multiplying (i) manual counts of assumed residential structures on a satellite image and (ii) estimates of the mean number of people per structure (structure occupancy) obtained from publicly available reports. We computed population estimates for 11 sites in Bangladesh, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya and Mozambique (six refugee camps, three internally displaced persons' camps and two urban neighbourhoods with a mixture of residents and displaced) ranging in population from 1,969 to 90,547, and compared these to “gold standard” reference population figures from census or other robust methods. RESULTS: Structure counts by independent analysts were reasonably consistent. Between one and 11 occupancy reports were available per site and most of these reported people per household rather than per structure. The imagery-based method had a precision relative to reference population figures of <10% in four sites and 10--30% in three sites, but severely over-estimated the population in an Ethiopian camp with implausible occupancy data and two post-earthquake Haiti sites featuring dense and complex residential layout. For each site, estimates were produced in 2--5 working person-days. CONCLUSIONS: In settings with clearly distinguishable individual structures, the remote, imagery-based method had reasonable accuracy for the purposes of rapid estimation, was simple and quick to implement, and would likely perform better in more current application. However, it may have insurmountable limitations in settings featuring connected buildings or shelters, a complex pattern of roofs and multi-level buildings. Based on these results, we discuss possible ways forward for the method's development.
Hundreds of millions of Afro-Palaearctic migrants winter in the Sahel, a semi-arid belt south of the Sahara desert, where they experience deteriorating ecological conditions during their overwintering stay and have to prepare for spring migration when conditions are worst. This well-known phenomenon was first described by R.E. Moreau and is known ever since as Moreau’s Paradox. However, empirical evidence of the deteriorating seasonal ecological conditions is limited and little is known on how birds respond. Montagu’s Harriers Circus pygargus spend 6 months of the year in their wintering areas in the Sahel. Within the wintering season, birds move gradually to the south, visiting several distinct sites to which they are site-faithful in consecutive years. At the last wintering site, birds find themselves at the southern edge of the Sahelian zone and have no other options than facing deteriorating conditions. We tracked 36 Montagu’s Harriers with GPS trackers to study their habitat use and behaviour during winter and collected data on the abundance of their main prey, grasshoppers, in Senegal. Since grasshopper abundance was positively related to vegetation greenness (measured as normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI), we used NDVI values as a proxy for prey abundance in areas where no field data were collected. Prey abundance (grasshopper counts and vegetation greenness) at wintering sites of Montagu’s Harriers decreased during the wintering period. Montagu’s Harriers responded to decreasing food availability by increasing their flight time during the second half of the winter. Individuals increased flight time more in areas with stronger declines in NDVI values, suggesting that lower food abundance required more intense foraging to achieve energy requirements. The apparent consequence was that Montagu’s Harriers departed later in spring when their final wintering site had lower NDVI values and presumably lower food abundance and consequently arrived later at their breeding site. Our results confirmed the suggestions Moreau made 40 years ago: the late wintering period might be a bottleneck during the annual cycle with possible carry-over effects to the breeding season. Ongoing climate change with less rainfall in the Sahel region paired with increased human pressure on natural and agricultural habitats resulting in degradation and desertification is likely to make this period more demanding, which may negatively impact populations of migratory birds using the Sahel.
Long-distance migrants are suffering drastic declines in the last decades. Causes beneath this problem are complex due to the wide spatial and temporal scale involved. We aim to reveal migratory routes, stopover areas, wintering grounds, and migratory strategies for the most southwestern populations of the near-threatened European Roller Coracias garrulus in order to identify conservation key areas for the non-breeding stage of this species. To this end, we used tracking data from seven satellite transmitters fitted to birds breeding in different populations throughout the Iberian Peninsula and four geolocators fitted to individuals in a southeastern Iberian population. Precise satellite data were used to describe daily activity patterns and speed in relation to the main regions crossed during the migration. Individuals from the most southwestern Iberian populations made a detour towards the Atlantic African coast whereas those from northeastern populations followed a straight north-to-south route. We identified important stopover areas in the Sahel belt, mainly in the surroundings of the Lake Chad, and wintering grounds on southwestern Africa farther west than previously reported for the species. Concerning the migratory strategy, satellite data revealed: 1) a mainly nocturnal flying activity, 2) that migration speed depended on the type of crossed habitat, with higher average speed while crossing the desert; and 3) that the migration was slower and lasted longer in autumn than in spring. The studied populations showed weak migratory connectivity, suggesting the confluence of birds from a wide range of breeding grounds in a restricted wintering area. Therefore, we suggest to target on defining precisely key areas for this species and identifying specific threats in them in order to develop an appropriate global conservation programme for the European Roller.
This article examines lake drying and livelihood dynamics in the context of multiple stressors through a case study of the “Small Lake Chad” in the Republic of Chad. Livelihoods research in regions experiencing persistent lake water fluctuations has largely focused on the well-being and security of lakeshore dwellers. Little is known about the mechanisms through which lake drying shapes livelihood drawbacks and opportunities, and whether locally evolved responses are enhancing livelihoods. Here we address these gaps using empirical, mixed-methods field research couched within the framework of livelihoods and human well-being contexts. The analysis demonstrates that limited opportunities outside agriculture, the influx of mixed ethnic migrants and the increasing spate of violence all enhance livelihood challenges. Livelihood opportunities centre on the renewal effects of seasonal flood pulses on lake waters and the learning opportunities triggered by past droughts. Although drying has spurred new adaptive behaviours predicated on seasonality, traditional predictive factors and the availability of assets, responses have remained largely reactive. The article points to where lake drying fits amongst changes in the wider socio-economic landscape in which people live, and suggests that awareness of the particularities of the mechanisms that connect lake drying to livelihoods can offer insights into the ways local people might be assisted by governments and development actors.