Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections

Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections
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In this May 18, 2019 file photo, employees of the Sindh AIDS Control Programs can be seen screening patients for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Ratodero, Pakistan. (AN Photo by Amar Guriro)
Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections
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In this May 18, 2019 file photo, employees of the Sindh AIDS Control Programs can be seen screening patients for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Ratodero, Pakistan. (AN Photo by Amar Guriro)
Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections
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In this May 18, 2019 file photo, employees of the Sindh AIDS Control Programs can be seen screening patients for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Ratodero, Pakistan. (AN Photo by Amar Guriro)
Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections
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A staff member of the Sindh AIDS Control Program holds a pamphlet at the Ratodero screening camp on May 18, 2019. Distributed among patients and their families, the pamphlet was designed to educate people about the disease, misconceptions and precautionary measures. (AN Photo by Amar Guriro)
Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections
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A staff member of the Sindh AIDS Control Program collects blood sample from a child at Ratodero hospital on May 18, 2019. (AN Photo by Amar Guriro)
Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections
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A large number of women and children line up outside a free medical and screening camp in Ratodero on May 18, 2019. Screening in Ratodero started on April 25, only a few days after several HIV cases were reported by the media. By June 18, 2019, about 28,549 people had been screened for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and 812 had tested positive. (AN Photo by Amar Guriro)
Updated 21 June 2019

Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections

Pakistan’s southern Sindh province shaken by surge in HIV infections
  • 821 people, many of them children, tested positive for the virus in just the area of Ratodero
  • Police blame one paediatrician who used contaminated syringes, health officials say widespread negligence and malpractice responsible

KARACHI: Investigators have held a local pediatrician guilty for a surge in patients infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, police said this week, as health officials blamed widespread malpractice and negligence for an outbreak that has affected over 800 people in just one area.
Officials say more than 821 people, many of them children, tested positive for the HIV virus after a mass screening of 28,850 people was recently performed in Ratodero, a sub-division of Larkana, with a population of around 300,000. The source of the outbreak, according to Pakistani and World Health Organization officials, is the use of unsanitary equipment and rampant malpractice, often at the hands of quack doctors.
At the heart of the crisis is one pediatrician, Dr. Muzaffar Ghangharo, who used contaminated syringes while treating his patients in Ratodero, police officials said on Thursday. Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro was arrested on April 30 and has been charged with unintentional murder.
Police officer Sartaj Jagirani said 123 infected children, whose family members had recorded their statements with police, had been treated by Ghangharo.
“The joint investigation teams (JIT) has held Dr. Muzaffar Ghangharo responsible for spreading the virus by using contaminated syringes while vaccinating his patients,” Jagirani, who is stationed at Ratodero, told Arab News. “The doctor is guilty.”
Many local doctors and health officials, however, said not all of the 812 people who tested positive in Ratodero were treated by the accused doctor, and the problem was much bigger than one individual.
In rural Sindh — long bridled by harsh poverty and illiteracy — access to information about HIV and other diseases has kept the large swathes of the population in the dark about how the virus is transmitted. Healthcare facilities in the province are meagre and negligence by inadequately-qualified doctors is common.




(Source: Sindh AIDs Control Program)




(Source: Sindh AIDs Control Program)




(Source: Sindh AIDs Control Program)

“If a mass screening is carried out across the province, we are likely to discover that the situation in Ratodero is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Ghulam Shabbir Imran Arbani, the medical practitioner who first reported HIV cases to the media in April this year. “Since medical malpractice persists across the province, there should be a mass screening program to save people from dying.”
Dr. Ramesh Kumar, the medical superintendent of Taluka Hospital Ratodero, said the accused Ghangharo was probably one among several sources of the growing epidemic.
“There are children with HIV infection from other towns who went to other doctors for treatment,” he told Arab News. “If a mass screening is conducted in other parts of Sindh, the results will not be different.”
In April, Arbani informed police that 18 children in Ratodero had tested positive for the HIV virus, which is incurable, but if left untreated can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) within a period of six months to ten years. AIDS is fatal.
The increase in the number of new HIV cases reported in Pakistan stands in sharp contrast to a global decline. According to the National AIDS Control Program, the country’s Sindh province has 60,000 estimated cases of HIV and about 9,500 cases of AIDS.
Dr. Safdar Kamal Pasha at the World Health Organization said a mass screening was usually performed in “key HIV populations,” responding to a question of whether a province-wide screening would take place.
“Unsafe injection practices and poor infection control are among the most important drivers of the outbreak,” Pasha told Arab News.
He also added this was not the first outbreak in Sindh. After two minor outbreaks in the last decade, a third outbreak occurred in 2016 when a chronic kidney disease patient at Chandka hospital tested positive.
“Later 46 patients who used to come for blood transfusion tested positive for the virus as well,” Pasha said, speaking about the 2016 outbreak.
In rural Sindh, as across Pakistan, widespread stigma attached to HIV and AIDS and its spread has unleashed widespread rumors and superstitions.
Last month a man strangled his wife to death after she tested positive for HIV in Sindh province with her husband accusing her of having an extramarital affair.
Arbani said the woman’s murder was not the only case where a victim of the disease had been punished. He recalled the case where a father was unwilling to test his 16-month baby for the disease, saying the test was only meant “for adults with bad moral character.”
He added that during an awareness campaign at the Waris Dino Mashi village, he found a woman tied to a tree like an animal. “The family told us she was HIV positive and would spread the deadly virus if she was not tied properly,” he said.
“A 3-year-old baby who was HIV positive was brought to my clinic on Wednesday,” Arbani continued. “Her mother told me that her son was mistreated by all the children in the neighborhood who did not play with him since they thought he was going to bring harm to them.”


Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in

Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in
Updated 21 June 2021

Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in

Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in
  • Nation of 220 million expected to receive over 6 million jabs next week to continue nationwide vaccination drive, health officials say
  • Vaccine shortage in Islamabad temporary, hopeful to overcome it in next 2-3 days, district health officer Islamabad says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government struck an optimistic tone on Sunday, hoping to overcome a COVID-19 vaccine shortage in various parts of the country, including in the capital city, Islamabad, with the arrival of over 6 million doses of the crucial jabs.

Health Chief Dr. Faisal Sultan said that while Pakistan had one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in stock, authorities were expecting 1.55 million doses on Sunday, 2.5 million doses on Tuesday, and another 2-3 million doses between June 23 and June 30.

“Therefore, any pressure in the system and local/distribution issues will be eased by Mon/Tue,” Dr. Sultan said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the federal body dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, confirmed the arrival of 1.55 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccines on Sunday.

“This is part of planned contracted quantity purchased from China,” the NCOC said in a statement.

“China as a time-tested friend of Pakistan, has taken special measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of vaccines to Pakistan. Another consignment of 2-3 million doses of Chinese vaccines will be reaching Pakistan next week,” it added.

Pakistan has been grappling with a vaccine shortage since Monday, especially in Islamabad and the southern Sindh province, where authorities have shut down nearly 40 percent of vaccination centers due to a scarcity of the COVID-19 jabs.

“This vaccine shortage is temporary and we are hopeful to overcome it in the next two to three days,” Dr. Zaeem Zia, a district health officer in Islamabad, told Arab News on Sunday

He added that the federal government would provide more vaccines by Monday to “ease the pressure on vaccination centers, especially in rural areas of Islamabad.”

Islamabad’s administration has vaccinated 52.7 percent or 580,000 of its population since February when the nationwide vaccination drive was launched, with plans to inoculate at least 1.1 million by the year-end.

“We have been successful in flattening the virus curve in Islamabad through restrictions and vaccination,” Zia said.

“We will have sufficient vaccine supplies in the next couple of days to achieve our target,” he added.

Since February, the South Asian nation of 220 million has procured around 14.5 million jabs from various sources, including COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing facility for developing countries led by the World Health Organization.

Pakistan has allocated $1.1 billion in the fiscal year 2022 to procure coronavirus vaccines from the international market to achieve herd immunity.

The government says it’s aiming to vaccinate between 45 million and 65 million people this year, with plans to inoculate 70 million people by next year.

So far, Pakistan has administered more than 13 million doses of the vaccine.     


Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg
Updated 19 June 2021

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg
  • As the PSL's top scorer with 2,000 runs, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal with 1,763 runs
  • Azam on Saturday also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Babar Azam became the first player to cross the 2,000-run mark in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) during a Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators faceoff in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
During the same match, Azam also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL, as he scored 23 off 25 against Quetta Gladiators, taking his PSL6 tally to 501.
"#King #BabarAzam the 1st batsman in the history of #HBLPSL to score 2000 runs," Karachi Kings celebrated its batsman in a tweet.

 

 

The sixth edition of Pakistan’s flagship cricket super league tournament resumed at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on June 9. It was postponed in March after a string of positive coronavirus cases among players and officials.
As the PSL's top scorer, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal who has scored 1,763 runs.
Born in Lahore, the 26-year-old right-hand, top-order batsman was 12 when he already played serious tape-ball cricket. At age 15, he was declared Pakistan's best Under-15 batsman and made his List A debut.  
By 16, he was a first-class cricketer for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) cricket team. By the time he received his first ODI cap, he already had six centuries and more than 2,000 List A runs at an average of 47.88 to his name.
In September 2018, Azam passed 2,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in just 45 innings. Only one player has ever gotten there quicker and that is South African great Hashim Amla. Amla took just 40 innings.
In the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Azam made history, scoring 474 runs at 67.61 to break Javed Miandad’s 1992 record for the most runs by a Pakistan batsman in a Cricket World Cup campaign.
In April, he ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain number one position in the rankings.


Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East

Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East
Updated 04 June 2021

Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East

Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East
  • TAG Innovation plans to launch the country’s first digital retail bank after functioning as an electronic money institution for a substantial period
  • The company also intends to offer its services to Pakistan’s largest diaspora community in Saudi Arabia by the end of the year to facilitate foreign remittances

KARACHI: An Islamabad-based fintech firm is all set to launch Pakistan’s first financial super app by the end of the month that will help the country’s population open digital accounts and enjoy cross-border payment facility, the company’s top official said on Friday.
“We are planning to launch Pakistan’s first financial super app by the end of June,” Talal Ahmed Gondal, cofounder and chief executive officer of TAG Innovation, said while talking to Arab News. “Our intention is to target women and youth in the first marketing phase who don’t have access to formal bank accounts.”
“In the next stage, TAG plans to launch Pakistan’s first digital bank,” he continued, adding that his organization would operate as an electronic money institution (EMI) for now and offer relevant services to the intended target market.
“The app will enable users to open digital accounts within three minutes,” Gondal explained. “The users will then be able to make peer-to-peer transfers, dispatch money to bank accounts, pay utility bills and recharge their mobile credit. Their phone number will also be their account number.”
The fintech startup has been authorized by the State Bank of Pakistan to operate as an EMI and is launching its pilot phase.
TAG recently closed $5.5 million in a pre-seed round led by venture capitals from the United States, including Quiet Capital Management and Liberty City Ventures. Other participants were Fatima Gobi Ventures, Unpopular Ventures as well as strategic investors like Visa and Angels Investors, the TAG chief informed.
The funding round makes it the largest ever pre-seed in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan region. The position was previously held by an Egyptian fintech, Telda, which raised $5 million, according to the data compiled by various venture capital institutions.
Gondal said Pakistan was among the difficult markets for funding since the economic ecosystem was still not mature for the purpose.
“In the US, it would have taken us a maximum of five weeks, but it took us five months here to generate the funding,” he said, though he also recognized that Pakistani market was still untapped with a huge potential.
The TAG chief said his company would utilize the funding for its commercial launch and to expand its outreach in the Middle East to facilitate remittance inflows and cross-border payments.
“We will Initially launch our services in Pakistan but offer them in the Middle East by the end of the year,” he said, adding that TAG wanted to begin the process from Saudi Arabia by hiring a local team since that was where “the highest number of expat Pakistanis live.”
“The funds will be transferred between Saudi and Pakistani TAG accounts within a minute at a very low rate,” he continued while pointing out that the facility would be offered with the help of Saudi banks.
Gondal said that large number of women and youth, particularly students, did not have access to formal banking channels.
“Existing players are mainly targeting lower income segments, but we will offer services to all income groups as the first B2C operator across Pakistan,” he said, adding: “The farming community will also be tapped to receive or make payments for wheats or subsidies.”
According to the World Bank, Pakistan has the third largest unbanked adult population in the world with about 100 million people without their own accounts.
“There are 60 million total bank accounts in Pakistan out of which unique accounts are estimated at 20 million,” Muhammad Sohail, chief executive officer of Topline Securities, said. “About 70 percent of Pakistan’s adult population lacks access to bank accounts.”
According to Pakistan’s central bank, the country has a low volume of electronic transactions due to low banking penetration, lack of trust and awareness related to digital payment methods, limited interoperability and high cost of transactions.


Pakistan recalls Abbas and Shah for tests in West Indies

Pakistan recalls Abbas and Shah for tests in West Indies
Updated 04 June 2021

Pakistan recalls Abbas and Shah for tests in West Indies

Pakistan recalls Abbas and Shah for tests in West Indies

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan recalled fast bowlers Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah on Friday for the two test matches against the West Indies and named uncapped batsman Azam Khan for the Twenty20s.
Abbas was not considered for the last two test series against South Africa and Zimbabwe, but made his way back into the side after his impressive performances in the English County Championship.
“Mohammad Abbas has regained his form, (while) Naseem Shah and Haris Sohail have reclaimed the required fitness standards,” chief selector Mohammad Wasim said.
“This is an extremely important and critical tour for Pakistan as we will be playing the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League ODIs against England as well as the T20Is against England and the West Indies as part of our preparations for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. The test matches in Jamaica will count towards the ICC world test championship.”
Pakistan is scheduled to play three Twenty20s and as many ODIs against England next month before flying out to the Caribbean for five Twenty20s and two test matches.
Khan, the son of former Pakistan test captain Moin Khan, has impressed the selectors with his power-hitting in the Pakistan Super League and was included for the Twenty20s.
Sohail, a middle-order batsman, was recalled for the ODIs in England after missing the last limited-overs series in South Africa.
All-rounder Imad Wasim, who has been ignored for the last three Twenty20 series, returned to the side as Pakistan eyed the Twenty20 World Cup.
Experienced test leg-spinner Yasir Shah was named in the squad, but his availability depends on his recovery from a knee injury which sidelined him for the two test matches in Zimbabwe. The selectors have retained another leg-spinner, Zahid Mahmood, left-arm spinner Nauman Ali, and off-spinner Sajid Khan as part of their plans for the two test matches in the West Indies.

SQUADS

ODIs: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi and Usman Qadir.
Twenty20: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan, Arshad Iqbal, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Afridi, Sharjeel Khan and Usman Qadir.
Tests: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Abid Ali (Central Punjab), Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani, Yasir Shah (subject to fitness) and Zahid Mahmood.


Pakistan asks UN to deploy 'protection force' for Palestinians against Israeli attacks

Pakistan asks UN to deploy 'protection force' for Palestinians against Israeli attacks
Updated 20 May 2021

Pakistan asks UN to deploy 'protection force' for Palestinians against Israeli attacks

Pakistan asks UN to deploy 'protection force' for Palestinians against Israeli attacks
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi calls upon UN General Assembly to hold Israel accountable for 'war crimes'
  • UN chief says ‘deeply shocked’ by continued air and artillery bombardment by Israeli forces in Gaza

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday urged the United Nations General Assembly to deploy an international protection force to safeguard Palestinians against Israeli aggression and take urgent steps to ensure a cessation of hostilities in the area.

Since the crisis began on May 10, Palestinian health officials say 228 people have been killed in Israeli aerial bombardments that have worsened Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation. Israeli authorities put the death toll to date at 12 in Israel.

“We should deploy an international protection force that was called for in the General Assembly resolution ES10/20 and as demanded by the Islamic Summit Conference on 18 May 2018,” Qureshi said while addressing a special UNGA session in New York.

The foreign minister reached New York on Wednesday evening on a Palestine peace mission to attend a UNGA emergency meeting called by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League.

Qureshi called upon the General Assembly to take concrete steps to protect the people of Palestine and hold Israel accountable for its "war crimes."

“If the Security Council cannot agree to send the protection force, a coalition of the willing can be formed to provide at least civilian observers to monitor a cessation of hostilities and supervise the provision of humanitarian help to Palestinians,” he said. 

“Israel’s crimes against humanity should not escape accountability,” he added. “There should be no impunity for violation of international law.” 

So far, over 50,000 Palestinians have been rendered homeless in the Gaza Strip where they already have limited access to water, food and health services.

The foreign minister urged the international community to mobilize all possible humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian population in Gaza and other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Israel must open all access points to Gaza to ensure timely and urgent delivery of international assistance,” he said. “The voice of the Palestinian people cannot and will not be silenced.”

“It is appalling that the Security Council has been unable to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” Qureshi said, adding that the Council had even failed to demand a cessation of hostilities.

“Those preventing the Council from doing so bear a heavy responsibility,” he added.

Qureshi said the international community must not fail the Palestinian people at such a critical juncture.

“Our first priority must be to halt the Israeli aggression,” he noted. “Let’s be clear: There is no military equivalence between the beleaguered and occupied Palestinian people … and the Israeli war machine, one of the most powerful in the world.”

“This is a war between a military occupier and an occupied people,” Qureshi said. 

The minister said there was a need to implement the UNGA and Security Council resolutions for a “viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital.” 

Earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel and Palestinians to call an immediate ceasefire and pledged to launch a full humanitarian appeal for funding.

“The past ten days have witnessed a dangerous and horrific surge in deadly violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly Gaza, and in Israel,” Guterres told the special UNGA session. “I am deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment by the Israeli defense forces in Gaza.”