Former Arab League chief: youth driving Middle East change against bad governments

Amr Moussa says the region will change dramatically again over next five years. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Former Arab League chief: youth driving Middle East change against bad governments

  • Amr Moussa says the region will change dramatically again over next five years
  • Aspirations of young people driving calls for change against bad management

DAVOS: Young people in the Middle East are continuing to drive change in the region against “bad governments,” the former Arab League chief said on Tuesday.

Speaking to Arab News at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Amr Moussa, who was the Arab League’s secretary general from 2001 to 2011, said the Middle East will go through major changes in the next five years.

The changes will take place “thanks to the young people, thanks to their aspirations, thanks to the 21st Century, and thanks to the changes that have taken place as a result of these uprisings,” he said.

Over the past three months, the region has witnessed predominantly youth-driven protests in Iraq and Lebanon. Demonstrators have railed against the political elites, called for improved services and an end to sectarian systems of government. Large demonstrations have also taken place in Iran against the clerical regime, and last year huge protests in Sudan and Algeria brought an end to long-serving authoritarian rulers.

“The uprisings or the revolutions against the bad governments, the bad management of the citizens, of the people, and that’s why this is going on,” Moussa, who was also Egypt’s foreign minister from 1991 until 2001, said. “It is also because of the aspirations to change, this is the 21st century, the young people aspire to so many new things. They want movement, motion, change, these are also very legitimate aspirations.

“We haven’t achieved much yet but the Middle East is going through change.”

Moussa’s tenure at the Arab League ended as the Arab Spring uprisings rocked the region, bringing down governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, and sparking conflicts in Syria and Libya.

Since October, around 460 people have been killed and another 25,000 wounded in Iraq amid a brutal response to the protests by the security forces. In Lebanon, three people have been killed and hundreds injured, with violence peaking at the weekend. 

Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

Updated 28 February 2020

Protests hinder Yemen’s efforts to combat coronavirus

  • Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting

AL-MUKALLA: As workers in Yemen’s major port Aden began preparing a coronavirus quarantine facility at Al-Sadaqa Hospital, rumors swirled around the city claiming that if patients were locked inside the hospital, the disease would quickly spread through neighboring areas. 

Amid complaints about the city’s poor health facilities, hospital staff and fearful residents began protesting. People living nearby besieged the hospital, while health workers inside staged a sit-in, refusing to work unless the Health Ministry canceled plans to build the isolation room.

“They threatened to kill me,” Dr. Wafaa Dahbali, Al-Sadaqa Hospital manager, told Arab News.

The hospital’s administration was forced to ask the Health Ministry to move the facility to another location, she said.

“Now we cannot even bring in basic protective items such as masks or gloves since workers will think we still plan to build the quarantine room,” she added.

Yemen, which is gripped by a civil war that has killed thousands of people since late 2014, has intensified efforts to counter coronavirus. But due to crumbling heath services, lack of awareness among people and the influx of hundreds of African migrants via the southern coastline, health officials fear the virus could spread undetected across the country.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health in Aden on Wednesday said that Yemen is free of the disease and all Yemenis returning from China had tested negative. Health Minister Nasir Baoum opened a quarantine center at Seiyun Airport in the southeastern province of Hadramout on Sunday, and said that he had ordered all sea, land and air entry points to ramp up detection measures.

Financial constraints

Health officials across Yemen told Arab News this week that health facilities are working at full capacity to cope with the influx of war casualties, and cases of seasonal diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and H1N1.

The appearance of coronavirus in Yemen would increase the burden on the country’s crumbling and cash-strapped health facilities, they said.

Ibn Sina Hospital in Al-Mukalla provides health services to patients from the three southern provinces of Hadramout, Shabwa and Mahra in addition to treating victims of the conflict in Abyan and Jawf. 

Recently the Health Ministry decided to build a quarantine center at the hospital. Lacking sufficient space, a three-room kitchen was turned into an isolation facility.

However, Dr. Alabed Bamousa, the hospital’s director, told Arab News that the facility could not afford to furnish the unit with medical equipment and staff lacked proper know-how.

“We have nothing at the moment. We asked the ministry for the names of health workers who would be trained by the World Health Organization on dealing with coronavirus patients,” Bamousa said.

He said that workers are not being encouraged to wear masks and gloves in order to avoid triggering panic. 

“My viewpoint is that we shut up till we are ready,” Bamousa said.

Health officials at Al-Mukalla, one of Yemen’s busiest ports, have asked sailors to complete declarations showing their movements before docking.

Riyadh Al-Jariri, head of the Health Ministry’s Hadramout office, said that teams of six health workers in each district in the province are visiting Yemenis who have returned from China. 

In the streets, people say that they get information about the virus from social media rather than official channels or local media outlets.

Hassan, a shopkeeper, said that he learned about symptoms of coronavirus and protection measures from WhatsApp. 

“I know that the virus targets the lung and causes fever. We are advised to wash hands and wear marks,” he said.