Ramadan struggle in cyclone-hit Mozambique island

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A woman walks past destroyed houses on May 13, 2019, on her way to an aid distribution centre in the coastal village of Guludo on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, in the aftermath of a devastating cyclone. (AFP)
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Muslim men share food for Iftar (fast breaking meal) before sunset prayers on May 13, 2019, outside the central Mosque on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, during the holy month of Ramadan. (AFP)
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Women fetch water for ablution as they prepare for prayers on May 14, 2019, in Kumwamba village on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, during the holy month of Ramadan. (AFP)
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Muzasufa Abakari, 45, the head of the Muslim coastal village of Guludo on Ibo Island, in Mozambique's Cabo Delgado province, poses for a photograph on May 13, 2019, during the holy month of Ramadan. (AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019

Ramadan struggle in cyclone-hit Mozambique island

  • Residents of the island, where the majority of the population is Muslim, were left without shelter and with few places to worship with estimates that 90 percent of buildings were damaged

IBO, Mozambique: Muslims in the cyclone-ravaged Mozambican island of Ibo are struggling to observe the holy month of Ramadan as most mosques were destroyed and food is in short supply.
The island on the Quirimbas archipelago off Mozambique’s northeastern coast was one of the regions worst hit when Cyclone Kenneth struck last month packing winds of over 200 kilometers (125 miles) per hour.
Residents of the island, where the majority of the population is Muslim, were left without shelter and with few places to worship with estimates that 90 percent of buildings were damaged.
At one of the few mosques still standing, half of the roof was blown away by wind and prayer rugs were damaged by flooding.
Worshippers gather in one surviving section to say prayers. Female worshippers endure the harsh sun praying outdoors.
“Very few people are attending prayers because mosques were destroyed,” said Muzasufar Abakari, head of the village of Guludo.
Residents search for food to break the fast and survive mainly on high-energy biscuits handed out by aid agencies.
“As Muslims we observe Ramadan but there is no food to eat. On Friday (holy day) there was no-one because there is no wall at the mosque,” said Abakari.
The cyclone killed at least 41 people across northern Mozambique and displaced thousands.
Some people on Ibo have been sleeping in damaged mosques.
“People have been sleeping here because their houses were destroyed. With nothing — from clothes to food — God willing our prayers are answered and we will receive help,” said imam Saidi Cassabo, from Kumwamba village.
Before the storm, Ibo island, a popular tourist destination, was a haven of golden beaches, unspoiled coral reefs and lush greenery.


Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

Updated 13 min 12 sec ago

Pakistan launches anti-polio drive as COVID-19 cases decline

  • Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio is still endemic
  • Since Jan., Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani health officials on Saturday launched a seven-day vaccination campaign against polio as part of efforts aimed at eliminating the crippling disease amid a steady decline in fatalities and infections from the coronavirus, which had recently overwhelmed the country’s fragile health system.
The anti-polio campaign, which began amid tight security, aims to vaccinate as many as 34 million children across Pakistan, including former Taliban strongholds bordering Afghanistan, a government statement said.
Medical workers participating in the drive against polio were seen adhering to social distancing regulations as they wore face masks and gloves while going house-to-house to avoid a spike in coronavirus cases.
“I am hopeful that parents will continue to realize the importance of vaccinating their children during this campaign,” said Faisal Sultan, an adviser to the prime minister on health issues.
According to Rana Safdar, who heads the government’s polio program, similar campaigns against polio will be launched in October, November and December.
Earlier Saturday, Pakistan’s military said Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist, praised Islamabad’s success in the fight against coronavirus in a telephone call to the country’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. It said Gates also discussed the resumption of the drive against polio.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the three countries in the world where polio — a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the polio virus — is still endemic. The nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped Pakistan and other places worldwide fight the disease.
Pakistan had hoped to eliminate the disease by 2018, when only 12 cases were reported. But there was a surge in new cases the following year. Since January, Pakistan has reported about 100 new polio cases from various parts of the country, including the northwestern region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistani Taliban and other militants regularly stage attacks on polio teams and security forces escorting them because they claim the anti-polio drive is part of an alleged Western conspiracy to sterilize children or collect intelligence. Attacks on polio teams increased after it was revealed that a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign was used as a ruse by the CIA in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in 2011 in Pakistan.
Pakistan halted the drive against polio in March and resumed it last month amid a decline in infections and fatalities from COVID-19.
On Saturday, Pakistan reported only 9 new deaths from the new virus in the past 24 hours, increasing the country’s total of COVID-19 deaths to 6,162. So far, Pakistan has reported 288,047 cases and officials say about 93% of the patients recovered since February, when the country reported its first confirmed case.