Stigmatization and discrimination against survivors of COVID-19 and their relatives have been widespread and a huge barrier affecting response to the pandemic.
This stigma and discrimination have been highly fuelled by misconceptions, confusions and fear of contracting the virus even from patients who have recovered and their families.
There are widespread misconceptions and fear of people who have recovered from Covid-19, as they are believed to pose a health risk to others. Survivors of Covid-19 are widely avoided and stigmatized.
Stigma and discrimination against survivors of Covid-19 and their families including children, remain a common belief and fear that those who have recovered remain infectious.
People who present symptoms of Covid-19, as well as those who have tested for it whether or not the result is positive, are frequently stigmatized.
Due to this, many people shy away from testing, calling for an ambulance when the need be, or even visit a health facility when they are ill, for fear of being associated with the condition.
This issue was frequently highlighted during the weekly briefings from the Ministry of Health, where survivors including influencers were brought in to share their testimonies of the double burden they faced as stigmatized survivors of Covid-19. Psychologists were also brought in to counsel survivors as well as their immediate families and the society as a whole.
In the wake of the fear and uncertainty that emerge during a pandemic, stigma and discrimination quickly follow, exposing people to violence, harassment and isolation, and hampering the delivery and uptake of essential health services and public health measures to control the pandemic.
The stigma that arises during a pandemic can exacerbate existing inequalities including those related to race, socioeconomic status, occupation, gender, immigration status and sexual orientation. The presence of stigma specific to certain health conditions has been observed in the HIV pandemic, the outbreaks of Ebola virus and Zika virus, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the UNAIDS, the anticipation of stigma during a pandemic can interfere with the adoption of preventive measures, timely testing and adherence to treatment.
Many forms of stigma and discrimination have surfaced since the identification of COVID-19. Xenophobia has been directed at people thought to be responsible for “bringing” COVID-19 into countries. People who have recovered from COVID-19, essential workers such as health-care staff, and populations facing pre-existing stigma and discrimination.
Since the covid-19 pandemic was first reported in Ghana in March 2020, several measures including lockdowns, institution of preventive protocols such as social distancing, wearing of facemasks and ban on social gatherings were put in place to serve as guide for citizens to adhere to. Despite all the preventive measures, Ghana is among countries that have recorded high number of cases.
Globally, as of June 18, there have been 178,118,597 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 3,864,180 deaths by the WHO and a total of 2,412,226,768 vaccine doses had been administered within same time.
In Ghana, as at June 24, according to the Ghana Health Service, a total of 95,642 confirmed cases with 93,288 recoveries have been recorded. A total of 795 deaths, 1,559 active cases and 166 new cases have also been recorded.
In all, 852,047 vaccines have been administered as at May 7, 2021 according to the Ghana Health Service COVID-19 official website when the first batch of 600,000 Astrazeneca vaccines were received by the country under the COVAX facility to mark the beginning of final roll out in March 202 Globally, as of June 18, there have been 178,118,597 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 3,864,180 deaths by the WHO and a total of 2,412,226,768 vaccine doses had been administered within same time.
In Ghana, as at June 24, according to the Ghana Health Service, a total of 95,642 confirmed cases with 93,288 recoveries have been recorded. A total of 795 deaths, 1,559 active cases and 166 new cases have also been recorded.
In all, 852,047 vaccines have been administered Vaccines Administered as at May 7, 2021 according to the Ghana Health Service COVID-19 official website when the first batch of 600,000 Astrazeneca vaccines were received by the country under the COVAX facility to mark the beginning of final roll out in March 2021.
The concern for stigma and discrimination of those who contracted the diseases has become a huge worry to government and its agencies both national and international as it has the potential to derail containment efforts.
There have been unpleasant reports of people infected with covid-19 being stigmatiszed in their communities to the extent that landlords eject tenants who had contracted the virus from their homes while people refuse to sell to them simply because they have recovered from the disease or lost a relative or a friend to the disease.
Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion or feeling caused by a threat of danger, pain, or harm, which is real or imagined whiles stigma involves negative attitudes or discrimination against someone based on health condition and many others.
While fear could be genuine, stigma on the other hand, could be associated with a lack of knowledge. Considering the hospitable nature of Ghanaians and one’s attitude towards each other, it becomes difficult to accept the fact that people are being stigmatized for having contracted the virus through no fault of theirs. Perhaps, they are stigmatizing either out of fear or lack of knowledge about the mode of contracting the virus and the fact that the disease is new, makes its dynamics very difficult to grasp with.
In boosting public confidence and the understanding of the COVID-19 preventive protocols and the vaccination, and to ensure that Ghanaians are convinced of the safety of the vaccines, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, his wife, the Vice President Dr Mohammud Bawumia and his spouse, took their first jab on March 1st followed by other top government officials, parliamentarians as well as leaders of the various political parties and institutions as well as the media to convince the general public, yet, some people were still skeptical.
Some prominent people including some members of parliament who contracted the virus, and recovered had their relatives, neighbours, and well-wishers visiting them to congratulate them for surviving the deadly disease especially when some of their contemporaries had succumbed to it.
In another instance, a farmer at Fankyenebra, a small farming community near Begoro in Eastern Region contracted the virus, admitted for two weeks at a local district hospital, on the day of discharge, some health workers followed him to his house in a kind of welcome party to sensitize the community to accept him and not to discriminate against him.
But his woes begun after the health officials who accompanied him to the house had left, everybody in the house immediately went to their rooms with their families, leaving him, his wife and children to their fate. The next day, the landlord called his wife and asked her to tell the husband to relocate to their family house since the other tenants in the house were not comfortable.
Three days later, as usual, his wife a porridge seller prepared the food for sale by the roadside, it was as if the entire community had travelled, nobody bought the porridge popularly known as “Koko” and eventually, the family fed on the Koko for their breakfast, lunch and supper, she painfully narrated, As I write this piece, the innocent woman’s Koko business has collapsed just because her husband contracted COVID-19.
Ironically, this woman is not ready to take the vaccine due to the many misconceptions and conspiracy theories about the vaccine. To her, her religion, which she did not disclose, abhorred vaccines and any form of injection and so in spite of the negative effects she has suffered from the COVID-19, she and her family were not ready to take any vaccine when made available to them.
This two scenarios present the tales of two worlds in the fight against a common enemy covid-19 and must be given the needed attention to ensure that each section of the public irrespective of class, creed, status and whatever inclination, we fight the enemy with one front of understanding.
A study conducted by Edumedia, a non-governmental organization in some communities in the Eastern Region on ‘What causes Stigma’ showed that people stigmatize based on fear for lack of knowledge about the disease and its mode of transmission and not to discriminate or cause pain to people who have been infected.
According to the Executive Director of Edumedia, Mr Kofi Amparbeng, most of the people interviewed in various communities made it clear that they shun the company of people infected and their families because of fear of contracting the disease. For the fact that they shared everything in common with such people, especially bathroom and toilet.
He said for the fact that high profile people like Ministers and other high ranking officials who contracted the diseases were not stigmatized and the ordinary persons were, gives ample evidence that stigmatization was not wide spread but rather depending on one’s location and one’s status.
He called for the need to have tailored made education to address specific individual problems to ensure a holistic approach to suppress the virus.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa Director recently cautioned in a virtual news conference that the “threat of a third wave” of covid-19 in Africa is real and rising calling for strengthening of all measures adopted by African government’s including Ghana to prevent a their wave at all cost.
She said “whiles many countries outside Africa have vaccinated a greater percentage of their highly-priority groups population, African countries are unable to even fulfill with purchase of the second dose for their high-risk groups”, she said.
According to experts, COVID-19 is not going to leave us any time soon, therefore, as a people, we have to adjust to the protocols as a new normal way of living, and that calls for concerted efforts of educating people especially in the rural areas and less privileged communities as to how to go about the new life in order not to contract the virus and also not to stigmatize people who have been infected or discriminate against them.
According to Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye Director General of the GHS Stigmatisation should not be given a place in the fight against covid-19 and that people only have to stay safe by abiding by the protocols and hat hiding for fear of being stigmatiszed rather posed public health threats.
For those stigmatizing and discriminating against others for having contracting the virus, we cannot blame them so much for their act but find a way of making people understand the issues in the context of their situation and background.
My close shave with COVID on two occasions gives me the conviction that people’s conditions such as their educational and economic background as well as the environment in which they find themselves in come to play when dealing with issues such as COVID-19, it might be fear of losing their livelihoods and even death that drives the reported cases of stigma.
Adapting evidence-based interventions from other pandemics like HIV response to reduce stigma and discrimination and integrating them into the global COVID-19 response is critical.
Immediate action will reduce the negative impact of COVID-19 on public health and safety and will strengthen our collective ability to control the pandemic by removing critical barriers to seeking care, testing, and adherence to guidelines on physical distancing and use of PPE.
Afena-Gyan: A fitting replacement for Asamoah Gyan?
AS Roma striker, Felix Afena-Gyan, is one budding talent who is waiting to explode on the international stage following his sterling performance in his Black Stars debut in the World Cup play-off against Nigeria in March.
Based on that display, one can confidently say that he has earned a permanent spot in Coach Otto Addo’s squad heading to the Mundial in Qatar in November-December.
The 19-year-old burst onto the limelight after coming off the bench to score a brace for AS Roma against Serie A side, Genoa, to become the first player born in 2003 to score in a Serie A game.
Black Stars’ former Serbian coach, Milovan Rajevac, who was then monitoring the Sunyani-born youngster, immediately handed him an invitation to join his squad for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroun, despite previously rejecting an invitation for the World Cup qualifiers against Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Rejection of invitation
Even though he turned down the invitation to help him focus on his development under Coach Jose Mourinho, he could not resist the invitation for the World Cup playoff under stop-gap coach, Otto Addo.
The German-born gaffer gave Afena-Gyan his international debut in Kumasi in the first leg of the play-off where he effectively complemented the effort of Jordan Ayew in attack to impress the Stars coach, though he was unable to find the target.
“Felix [Afena-Gyan] did very well, created a lot of chances, made good runs, gave his all in defensive situations. He did exactly what I wanted him to do. He is just 19, wow, what a talent he is,” Addo said after the player’s debut.
It is for this reason that AS Roma manager, Jose Mourinho, places so much value on him and has rated him so high, having emerged from the juvenile league into such a phenomenal figure. But he believes he needs more time to learn to become the star for the future.
”Until a few months ago, he was playing on the Primavera pitch. He’s a humble boy, a boy who wants to learn. From a tactical point of view he needs simple and objective things to do that.
”He did what he had to do, he created problems for Cuadrado and also did a good job defensively.
”Unfortunately, he doesn’t have enough fuel for 90 minutes and when he came off we missed things that were too simple. He has talent, he just needs concentration,” Mourinho told DAZN in an interview.
With his imposing frame and firm control on the ball, Afena-Gyan is now likened to the Black Stars former skipper and namesake, Asamoah Gyan, who currently holds the record as the most clinical finisher in Ghana with 51 goals in 109 appearances. He is also Africa’s top scorer at the FIFA World Cup with six goals.
The same confidence was reposed in the budding goal poacher during the return leg of the playoff in Abuja and, once again, he could not register his debut goal for the country but his contribution could never be swept under the carpet, having tormented the Super Eagles rear in the entire 90 minutes he played.
In the absence of Asamoah Gyan, the onus will now rest on AS Roma forward to keep the nation’s hope alive at the FIFA World Cup as he is likely to lead the Stars’ attack.
Indeed, his rapid rise to fame seems to baffle many, having emerged straight from an amateur club in Berekum straight to the European top flight just within a year.
A student of Berekum Senior High School, Afena-Gyan was first spotted by scouts while playing in the regional inter-school sports competition where he excelled as a midfielder.
He was quickly shipped to Italy from EurAfrica FC where he went on trials with a number of teams until Roma’s junior side eventually picked him and converted him into a striker.
After impressing in a few matches in the Italian youth league, Primavera, the attacker caught the eyes of first team coach, Jose Mourinho, who invited him to start training with the senior team.
He made his senior team debut on October 27, 2021 against Cagliari, and on November 21, he came off the bench to score twice against Genoa in the Serie A which compelled Mourinho to honour his promise of buying him an €800 shoes.
Source: Graphic Online
Human Trafficking: A Canker Deriding, Painting The Culture Of The Lively People Black
The Ghanaian people are widely known and recognized as peaceful, loving and amazingly hospitable people, with great and pleasing family values.
But what is their taste, fight and eagerness towards the eradication of human trafficking especially child trafficking towards the poor and vulnerable children?
Ghanaians thought that after the elimination of slavery, the country would be free from forced labour and exploitation.
This seems to be an illusion since a new form of slavery has emerged in the form of child trafficking.
Human Trafficking, also known as trafficking in persons is the recruitment, transportation, transferring, harbouring, trading or receipt of persons for the purpose of exploitation within and across national borders.
The perpetrators use threat, force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, the abuse of power or exploitation of vulnerability consent giving or receiving payments and benefits to achieve consent.
The definition of child was listed in 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child which states, “a child means every human being below the age of 18 years, unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”
The distinction outlined in this definition is important; because some countries have chosen to set the “age of majority” lower than 18, thus influencing exactly what legally constitutes child trafficking.
Though statistics regarding the magnitude of child trafficking are difficult to obtain, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year.
In 2012 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that the percentage of child trafficking victims had risen in a three year span, thus, from 20 percent to 27 percent.
Human trafficking is a global challenge affecting people of all ages including children It is estimated that about 1,000,000 people are trafficked each year globally and that between 20,000 and 50,000 are trafficked into the United States.
Every year 30,000 children are taken around the world and sold by human traffickers as slaves.
Over 17,000 of those children were sent to the United States, representing 46 children per day.
In 2014, research conducted by the Anti-human Trafficking Organization Thorn reported that, internet sites like Craigslist were often used as crucial tools for conducting businesses within the industry and that 70 percent of child sex trafficking survivors surveyed, some were at a point sold online.
The trafficking of children has been internationally recognized as a serious crime which has human rights implications.
Yet, it is only within the past decade that the prevalence and ramifications of the practice have risen to international prominence, due to increase in research and public action. A variety of potential solutions have accordingly been suggested and implemented, which could be categorized as four types of action: broad protection, prevention, law enforcement, and victim assistance.
The main international documents currently dealing with the trafficking of children are the 1989 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1999 I.L.O. Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention and the 2000 U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.
Ghana is one of the fastest developing countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa who cannot only boast of a vast wealth in terms of natural resources but also good infrastructure both physically and technologically.
In spite of these developments, Ghana still lack behind when it comes to dealing with issues of Child Trafficking especially on the Volta Lake.
According to the statistics of Child Trafficking in Ghana, out of 187 territories and countries, Ghana was ranked at tier 2 in the watch list countries. The 2017 report named “Enhancing Criminal Accountability and Addressing Challengers in Prosecution Efforts,” was a report that sought to come up with solutions that will be effective in ending human slavery in the world.
In June 2009, the United States of America (USA) Department of Trafficking in Persons Report released a full document which states that at least 30,000 children were working as porters, fishermen and others primarily being use for sexual tourism.
The Volta Lake which was created in 1960, was currently the number one source of employment and aquatic food within its surrounded regions and beyond. With the increasing reduction of fish catch in the regions, most parents who live below poverty levels in the region always see the reason to have multiple jobs and due to that they substitute their children into fishing business.
Children are involved in almost every aspect of fishing on Lake Volta. Children produce and maintain equipment and gear including boats, traps and nets. They set and collect traps, and go out onto the lake in boats, rowing, bailing water, and reeling and casting nets. They are often made to dive to the bottom of the lake to free trapped nets, which is the most dangerous task, with a high risk of drowning.
In the 2016 report of “Our partners the International Justice Mission (IJM),” it found out that, more than half of the children working on southern Lake Volta’s waters were likely trafficked into forced labour and that the majority of them were ten years or younger.
However, the same study found out that these children often had contractual agreements for their exploitation, which were frequently between the trafficker and the child’s parents or guardian; demonstrating the real complexity of the child labour.
The study also revealed that traffickers then typically control children through intimidation, violence and limiting access to food; and sometimes kept older boys in their employment through sexual rewards and marriage. These control tactics rendered girls in the fishing industry vulnerable to multiple forms of victimisation and violence. These young victims are routinely malnourished and suffering from untreated illness – on top of the constant risk of drowning.
Due to cheap labour, children were trafficked at tender age into fishing on the lake for their tinny bodies as they could reach places older fishermen could not.
Another crucial cause of Child Trafficking in Ghana is how lot of families would be freely and willingly given their children to join hard labour to learn manual jobs through apprenticeship. This has contributed to the rise in Child Trafficking cases in the country.
The Article 28 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, stipulates that special provision should be made by Parliament to ensure that every child has the same measure of special care, assistance and maintenance as its necessary for its development, a child shall not be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No child shall be deprived by any other person of medical treatment, education or any other social or economic benefit.
The Children’s Act 1998 (ACT 560) also makes provisions for the human and legal rights of Children.
The issue boils down to public education, for most people living at rural areas and deprived communities were not aware of how dreadful and cruel the act is. The act has become a norm to them, because they are living with that for a long time, for that matter they do not see the criminal and inhuman aspect of it.
To effectively solve the problem of Child Trafficking in Ghana, all concerned stakeholders needed to be made aware of the causes of the act.
Also, areas noted for such practices should be subjected to scrutiny at this time and thereafter. Interim measures should be put in place to regulate and check activities which were leading factors to the menace.
For instance, fishing with children on the Volta Lake must be prohibited and catching fingerlings should be discouraged at all cost as it will see children involved in this activities significantly reduced.
The Children’s Act 1998(ACT560) also made provisions for the legal and human rights of Children. Section 16 ; A District Assembly shall protect the welfare and promote the rights of children within its area of authority.
Again, there was the need to educate society on the hazards of Child Trafficking and child labour. Parents and guardians should be advised to educate their children instead of involving them in Child Trafficking and child labour. Constant awareness and education will help awaken them about the dangers and effects of the act.
Section 6 provides that, no parent shall deprive a child his or her welfare whether the parents of the child are married or not at the time of the child’s birth; or the parent of the child continue to live or not every child has the right to dignity, respect, leisure, liberty, health, education and shelter from his parents.
Section 12 , provides that no person shall subject a child to exploitative labour as provided under section 87 of this Act.
Moreover, one of the urgent steps that needed to be taken by the government is formulating and implementation of effective Child Trafficking task force. With such institution in place with well financed equipments, proper checks and regulations could be done in other to help deal with the issue.
When effective policies are rollout to ensure that there are strict enforcement of the law with an enforcement agency set independently, it will help combat the menace and bring those involved to book.
Child Trafficking in Ghana can be curbed if the right measures and goodwill from all the concerned stakeholders come to play.
As a Nation there is the need to stamp out feet on critical issues of such caliber and take firm decisions without fear or favour to help combat the act of inhuman towards poor children.
By Philip Teye Agbove
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Nana Ayew Afriye writes: Political Speaker not above Parliamentary practice
Mr. Speaker, it is shameful for you to attack the president & judiciary based on emotions and without recourse to extensive research on parliamentary practices elsewhere. Ghana is a member of the CPA( Commonwealth Parliamentary Association). However, all over the commonwealth of which Ghana is a member, I came across a very interesting trend. In this write up I chose a few examples base on continental/ regional location. In;
1.Australia, the speaker is an MP and has a casting vote section 44 Australian constitution saves it,
- Also, South africa has a speaker who is an MP with a casting vote SA constitution 41( 8)
- Nigeria has speaker MP and with a casting vote.Nigeria constitution 75 a (i)
- UK speaker Addington explained why speaker’s should have a vote especially where there is a tie in 1796.
John Bercow used casting vote to block brexit…After the tie vote of 310 each to the left and 310 to the right. In UK the speaker is an MP and has a casting vote.
- India also has an MP Speaker with a casting vote. India constitution Article 189
- Additionally in Canada, the speaker is an MP and has casting vote( ie when there is a tie). Section 49 of the constitution Act( BNA Act), 1867.
According to Erskine May, the foremost authority on parliamentary procedures and practices in the world, Casting vote by a speaker allows for debate to continue otherwise, a motion is stalled and parliament makes no headway.
In Ghana at the time of voting on the e-levy bill during a division tabled by the NDC, there was obviously going to be a tie 137:137 of which the deputy speaker would have had to exercise his casting vote. However, the minority prevented the deputy speaker from doing so by shouting, it was unconstitutional. Hence, the current dispute. I am not a lawyer but the question is, who presides over disputes in a civilised society? Is it not the courts if I may ask?
As a matter of fact, the supreme Court in the wisdom of the very learned judges decided to rectify the ambiguity in the constitution by ruling for deputy speakers who are MPs(unlike the speaker) to vote. The speaker of Ghana’s Parliament says its absurd, reckless and that the president is myopic for speaking on it.
Mr Speaker, please don’t insult and let’s apply ourselves to the wisdom of common practice and precedence. If we you were guided by Erskine May, then, probably you wouldn’t have occasioned this needless write up.
I share in the pain of the deputy speakers who are MPs just as me. Unlike other jurisdictions in the commonwealth where speakers are also members of parliament and have a casting vote, Ghana’s speaker is not an MP and hence have no casting vote per Ghana’s constitution.Thus by extension, I see the ruling as Ghana applying itself to the logic of global or commonwealth parliamentary practice.
May be it’s about time we amend the constitution to vote for MP speakers who will have casting vote too. This will save the tax payers some more money as the hefty provision of emoluments for non MP speaker’s as backed by article 95(5), treat non MP speaker’s in a special category of article 71 office holders. The speaker’s benefits is way above that of an MP. This is NOT same for deputy speakers. Deputy speakers are only limited to their salaries as MPs as provided for in article 98(1) of the constitution for members of parliament.
According to the principle of equal work, and equal pay, the deputy speakers salaries and end of service benefit atleast should have been in the same category (though not at the same level) as the speaker. But this is not so. As it is by the law, deputy speakers preside ONLY over proceedings in the house and have no administrative authority unless delegated by the speaker to do so.
The power of a deputy speaker is just same as that of any MP in the chamber. The constitution envisaged MPs as representatives with a vote to define the position of their constituents on issues contrary to that of the speaker who has no representation and has neither an original or casting vote.
During the tenure of Prof Oquaye, 1st deputy speaker(s) performed some delegated administrative responsibilities when he was absent. Under the current speaker this is not so. why is this so? are the speaker’s words and deeds are gradually polarising parliament and the nation?
On Thursday 10th March (as the speaker is currently not in the Country), a certain NDC’s Kofi Attor invited me (as chairman of health committee), the ranking member on health as well as the leaders of the house to a meeting to be hosted on the speaker’s behalf by him. I registered my strong displeasure to the speaker’s office. Indeed I made it clear I wasn’t attending as I didn’t know the locus of that gentleman in the scheme of parliamentary practice. This was rectified , apologise extended, and I joined the meeting chaired by the minority leader last thursday.
The question I ask is, where were the deputy speakers? and why couldn’t any of them have represented the speaker. And so therefore, if among others, they are also denied of their only power in Parliament(ie to exercise their representative right to vote) then to me , what is really their use as deputy speakers to their constituents???
May be the council of state will have to find a way of engaging all living former speakers of Ghana’s parliament in a meeting for them to share their thoughts on this point of law in the presence of the speaker.
Finally, in the write up of the speaker on parliament official Facebook page, I came across the greeting…” Good morning comrades…”, Which people were the speaker reaching out to, his NDC comrades or the good people of Ghana. Something is very wrong. The speaker must separate his political self from the parliamentary administrative process. All previous speakers had their political inclination yet did a good job without politicising the parliamentary administrative process.
The parliamentary service is clearly under attack and soon we will not distinguish the service from the political interest of the speaker. Whatever it turns out to be, the speaker is to be blamed.”
Written by Dr. Nana Ayew Afriye, Member of Parliament for the Effiduase-Asokore Constituency.
Source: Dr. Nana Ayew Afriye
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