Muslim charity helps Italy deal with crisis

On a national level, aid offered since the end of February by Muslim organizations has exceeded €500,000. (AFP)
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Updated 14 May 2020

Muslim charity helps Italy deal with crisis

  • Financial, food aid eases economic hardship in wake of curbs

ROME: Muslim communities in Italy have been praised for their generosity during the coronavirus crisis after donating more than €500,000 in cash and food aid since the outbreak began more than two months ago.

Italy’s death toll so far is approaching 31,000, with almost half the fatalities occurring in Lombardy, the northern region considered the country’s powerhouse because of the key role it plays in the national economy.
But with the whole country feeling the pinch after the two-month lockdown, local media have highlighted Muslims’ generosity, especially during Ramadan.

Muslim communities and Islamic centers around Italy have worked hard to deliver food packages and aid to needy families during the crisis.

“Every single day we provide food deliveries everywhere to families who struggle to make ends meet. This is our charitable contribution,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of the Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), told Avvenire, the Italian Episcopal Conference newspaper.
“Muslims are citizens and workers with families. They share the economic hardship that all Italian families are experiencing. Even though Muslims are also facing difficulties, there have been generous donations from the community,” he added.

On a national level, aid offered since the end of February by Muslim organizations has exceeded €500,000.

Funds have been donated to municipal administrations, the Red Cross, volunteer associations, and directly to hospitals on the frontline, mainly in the north of Italy.

But the generosity extends beyond cash donations.

“UCOII has given more than 100,000 face masks to local hospitals. We also carried out a massive blood donation campaign, which received a highly positive response,” Lafram said.

“All these gestures have been appreciated by municipal administrations as well as by the wider community. In this moment of crisis, a truly beautiful sense of solidarity has emerged from Italy’s Islamic communities. And we are proud of it.”

Even small gestures are acknowledged. In Bergamo, the Islamic Center of Via Cenisio raised funds for the Papa Giovanni hospital, one of the most important treatment facilities in northern Italy.

The center collected €4,500 in only a few days, while 10 Islamic communities around Lombardy raised €29,500 for hospitals in the region, a local newspaper reported.

“Each community decided to help the health facility they feel closest to,” said Mohammed Saleh, president of the Via Cenisio Center.

The center also distributes food packages to those in need.

“At the beginning of the crisis, 17 families asked us for help; now we help 43, and not all of them are Muslim. We will distribute packages until the end of Ramadan. We feel a duty to help hospitals and those facing economic hardship since this emergency has affected us, too,” Saleh said.

He said the Moroccan community has suffered one of the highest death tolls in the region, followed by Senegalese and Pakistani residents.
Muslims will join an inter-religious prayer and fast day in Bologna on Thursday following a call by Pope Francis earlier this month.

“The keywords of this event are prayer, fasting and charity. That suits us perfectly since we are in the month of Ramadan when we fast and pray in the name of charity,” Lafram said.

“This is part of a shared dialogue between Muslims and Christians around the world. In Italy, there are shining examples of good practice at every level based on peaceful coexistence and action for the common good. This makes us think of a better future for everyone, because only through dialogue and mutual knowledge can we cope with prejudices, stereotypes and crises,” he added.

Duterte to skip Philippine trial of Russia virus vaccine

Updated 13 August 2020

Duterte to skip Philippine trial of Russia virus vaccine

  • Duterte had offered himself up as a guinea pig for the very first jab, expressing “huge trust” in the vaccine
  • The Philippines has logged the highest number of confirmed infections in Southeast Asia

MANILA: The Philippines will begin large-scale human testing of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine in October, but President Rodrigo Duterte will not receive the inoculation until regulators guarantee its safety, his spokesman said Thursday.
Duterte had offered himself up as a guinea pig for the very first jab, expressing “huge trust” in the vaccine, despite growing skepticism about its effectiveness.
But his spokesman Harry Roque said the president was scheduled to receive the vaccine no earlier than May 1 — weeks after the Russian-funded Phase 3 clinical trial in the archipelago is due to end in March.
The country’s Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the vaccine — developed by the Gamaleya research institute and the Russian defense ministry — in April.
“May 1 is when the PSG (presidential security group) may allow him, once all requisite tests have been finished,” Roque told reporters.
Moscow says it has developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus and is in the final stage of tests involving 2,000 people.
Roque said Philippine experts will review next month the results of Russia’s Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials before the Southeast Asian country starts its Phase 3 testing.
“We will do it simultaneously with Russia,” Roque said.
Philippine officials from the science and technology department met with Gamaleya on Wednesday to discuss the protocols for the trial of the vaccine, which is dubbed “Sputnik V” after the pioneering Soviet satellite of the 1950s.
The Philippines, which is struggling to contain the virus, has accepted Russia’s offer to participate in production of the vaccine.
Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, an infectious disease professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said the government’s timeline to have a vaccine available by May was “very optimistic.”
The country is also set to start on August 17 clinical trials for the Japanese antiviral drug Avigan to treat coronavirus patients.
The Philippines has logged the highest number of confirmed infections in Southeast Asia with more than 147,500 cases and over 2,400 deaths.