South Korea becomes first country to support WHO fight HIV outbreak in Sindh

A two-year-old HIV-positive girl, who is under treatment, goes through a routine medical check-up at a clinic in Ratodero, Pakistan May 24, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 21 July 2019

South Korea becomes first country to support WHO fight HIV outbreak in Sindh

  • Despite Seoul’s decision to contribute $100,000, UN health agency continues to face a significant funding gap
  • Around 935 people, including 760 children, have been reported infected by the virus since April

ISLAMABAD: South Korea will extend humanitarian assistance worth $100,000 in cash to help control the outbreak of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, the World Health Organization, which will channel the funds to the South Asian nation, said on Friday.
Spread mainly in the Larkana district of Sindh, HIV had infected 935 people in total as of July 13, including 760 children under the age of 15.
WHO Representative in Pakistan, Dr. Palitha Mahipala, met South Korean Ambassador Kwak Sung-kyu in Islamabad earlier this month, and sought his support to deal with the HIV outbreak. Korean authorities in Seoul responded positively and said they would help the WHO fight the spread of the virus.
According to a media statement, WHO will continue to face a huge funding gap despite South Korea’s commitment since its project requires $4.5 million for the next two years to deal with the epidemic.
“I expect that other governments and international NGOs will join South Korea in supporting WHO’s efforts in responding to the HIV outbreak in Pakistan,” Ambassador Kwak was reported to have said.
“WHO highly appreciates the valuable support made by the government of the Republic of Korea enabling WHO to scale up its response to the HIV affected population in Larkana district,” Palitha said during her meeting with the South Korean ambassador.
The spread of HIV in Ratodero, on the outskirts of Larkana, was first detected by medical practitioners in April this year. Since then, health authorities have screened thousands of people to determine the scale of the problem.
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.
At the heart of the current crisis is one paediatrician, Dr. Muzaffar Ghangharo, who used contaminated syringes while treating his patients in Ratodero, police officials have said. Dr. Muzaffar Ghanghro was arrested on April 30 and has been charged with unintentional murder.
Senior Sindh police officer Sartaj Jagirani told Arab News last month that 123 infected children, whose family members had recorded their statements with police, had been treated by Ghangharo.


EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

Updated 01 July 2020

EU safety agency suspends Pakistani airlines’ European authorization

  • The step has been taken due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards
  • PIA expects the ‘earliest possible’ lifting of suspension after action by the government and the airline

ISLAMABAD: The European Union Air Safety Agency (EASA) has suspended Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) authorization to fly to the bloc for six months, the airline said on Tuesday, in a major blow to the country’s flag carrier.
Separately, the safety agency said it took the action due to concerns about the country’s ability to ensure compliance with international aviation standards at all times.
The suspension follows Pakistan’s grounding of 262 of the country’s 860 pilots — including 141 of PIA’s 434 — whose licenses the aviation minister termed “dubious.”
“EASA has temporarily suspended PIA’s authorization to operate to the EU member states for a period of six months effective July 1, 2020 with the right to appeal,” PIA said in a statement. It added it would temporarily discontinue all its flights to Europe.
Confirming the move in an emailed statement, the EASA referred to a recent investigation by Pakistan which it said showed a “large share” of pilot licenses to be invalid.
Pakistan’s grounding of the pilots followed a preliminary report on a PIA crash in Karachi that killed 97 people last month.
PIA said it is in contact with the EASA to take corrective measures and appeal against the decision, adding that it expected the “earliest possible” lifting of the suspension after action by the government and the airline.
The EASA also suspended the authorization of another Pakistani airline, Vision Air International.
Vision Air International did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Following the EASA’s decision, the UK Civil Aviation Authority said it, too, was withdrawing PIA’s permit to operate from three of its airports, as required under law.
“PIA flights from Birmingham, London Heathrow and Manchester airports are suspended with immediate effect,” a spokesman for the UK authority told Reuters.
The three were major flying destinations for the airline.
Meanwhile, Pakistani pilots and their union, the Pakistan Airlines Pilots Association (PALPA), say there are discrepancies in the government’s list of pilots with licenses deemed dubious and are demanding a judicial investigation.
PIA and private airline Air Blue have also queried the list with PIA saying 36 of its pilots mentioned had either retired or left the airline, while Air Blue said it no longer employed seven of nine pilots on the list.
“It contains names of highly educated and qualified pilots who have passed all the tests,” PALPA’s president, Chaudhry Salman, told Reuters. “We want a fair and impartial resolution to this matter.”
An official at Pakistan’s aviation ministry, Abdul Sattar Khokhar, said they did not have full details of the discrepancies. “The issue is being sorted out in consultation with airlines and civil aviation authorities.”