There was progress tackling malaria, some endangered species made a comeback, and funding for coal was choked, plus more
This week’s good news roundup
Ghana has become the first nation to approve a malaria vaccine that experts believe could save thousands of lives annually, mostly children’s.
Trials suggest that the University of Oxford-developed vaccine offers up to 80 per cent protection from malaria, which kills a child every minute in Africa.
Data from a late-stage trial has yet to be made public, but according to Reuters it has been shared with regulatory authorities, including those in Ghana.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to recommend Oxford’s R21 vaccine for use. It approved a separate malaria vaccine in 2021, but that has lower efficacy levels and is reportedly costlier to scale. Oxford hopes to produce 200m doses of its vaccines annually.
Image: Bennett Tobias
Vaccines for cancer, heart disease and hitherto untreatable conditions “could be ready by 2030”, the chief medical officer for a leading pharmaceutical firm said this week.
Moderna’s Dr Paul Burton claimed that “hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives” could soon be saved by vaccines offering targeted treatment for a range of conditions. In an interview with the Guardian, Dr Burton echoed other experts in saying the race to develop a Covid jab had brought the prospect of personalised mRNA cancer jabs forward by years.
mRNA vaccines work by alerting the immune system to cancer so it can attack it without destroying healthy cells. They have been in development for years and hold much promise for improving health outcomes.
However, a large-scale analysis of how tumours grow, published this week, warned that cancer’s ability to evolve would continue to pose long-term challenges. Cancer Research said the study showed the importance of prevention and early detection.
Image: Vlad Sargu
Many will wonder what took it so long. But the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the private sector arm of the World Bank – has closed a loophole that allowed its clients to fund new coal projects.
Campaigners welcomed the move, but said it was long overdue. According to Climate Home, a news site, the IFC’s clients have supported a number of substantial coal projects in the last five years.
But an update to the organisation’s policy states that the IFC will no longer support new coal. It’s the latest financial institution to join the fossil fuel exodus. Banks such as Lloyds have already pledged to defund oil and coal. Others are being urged to do the same.
Image: Johannes Plenio
The unemployment rate for black Americans hit a record low in March, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The bureau reported that the employment gap between white and black people narrowed to 1.8 percentage points last month – a historic low.
Commentators have urged caution, however, claiming rising interest rates could lead to layoffs, which historically have disproportionately impacted black and Latino workers.
Image: Jeffery Erhunse
Tigers have clawed their way back from the brink in India, according to the country’s latest big cat census.
It recorded 3,167 tigers, more than double the 1,411 animals recorded when the census began in 2006. The turnaround is thanks to Project Tiger, a conservation programme that launched 50 years ago to save India’s iconic big cats.
Ravi Singh, CEO of WWF-India, described the project as “one of the most successful species-specific conservation programmes globally”.
Tigers are not the only big cats subject to conservation efforts in India, which recently launched a project to bring back the cheetah.
Image: Donnie Ray Crisp
After decades of decline, Britain’s loudest bird is booming. The latest bittern count recorded 228 calling males at 103 sites – not bad considering it previously went extinct in Britain.
The bittern’s British tale is one of boom and bust. Wiped out by hunting and habitat loss in the 1880s, the birds returned under their own steam only for numbers to dwindle again – by the 1990s there were just 11 calling males.
Now they are thriving again thanks to efforts to restore their wetland habitats, led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Natural England.
“Rewetting these spaces also helps prevent flooding and fights the climate crisis,” said Simon Wotton, RSPB senior conservation scientist. “Wetlands are incredible carbon sponges, with coastal wetlands locking in more carbon than forests.”
Image: Bob Frewin
A project to bring salmon back to a Cumbrian river by creating bends in it appears to be working.
Swindale Beck in Haweswater was one of many rivers straightened to make way for farms in the 1800s. This sped up the waterway, preventing salmon from laying eggs.
Now the river meanders again thanks to a project to ‘rewiggle’ Swindale Beck (pictured). It launched in 2016 and a recent survey suggests salmon are back.
“It’s fantastic to see these positive results for salmon here at Haweswater, and crucial that we continue to work hard to halt the decline of this important part of our ecosystem,” said the RSPB’s Lee Schofield.
It’s rare good news for Britain’s declining salmon population. And a bright spot for England’s polluted rivers, which are the source of a growing political storm.
Image: Lee Schofield
How to stay optimistic? It’s a question many of you may have asked yourselves at some point – and one that we recently put to Positive News readers.
It was heartening to discover what keeps you sanguine: nature, human connectivity and evidence of progress (of which this weekly column does its best to showcase) were key themes.
Find out what else readers had to say here.
Image: Jeremy Bishop
Main image: Annie Spratt
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