UN warns hunger is expected to rise in 23 global hotspots

Ethiopian mothers and their babies from Tigray region are seen at a North African refugee camp with volunteers of the Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization helping refugees around the world. (Action Against Hunger photo)
Ethiopian mothers and their babies from Tigray region are seen at a North African refugee camp with volunteers of the Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization helping refugees around the world. (Action Against Hunger photo)
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Updated 31 July 2021

UN warns hunger is expected to rise in 23 global hotspots

UN warns hunger is expected to rise in 23 global hotspots
  • Ethiopia is at the top of the list, with  thenumber of people facing starvation and death expected to rise to 401,000 — the highest number since the 2011 famine in Somalia — if humanitarian aid isn’t provided quickly

UNITED NATIONS: Hunger is expected to rise in 23 global hotspots in the next three months with the highest alerts for “catastrophic” situations in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region, southern Madagascar, Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria, two UN agencies warned Friday.
The Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program said in a new report on “Hunger Hotspots” between August and November that “acute food insecurity is likely to further deteriorate.”
They put Ethiopia at the top of the list, saying the number of people facing starvation and death is expected to rise to 401,000 — the highest number since the 2011 famine in Somalia — if humanitarian aid isn’t provided quickly.
In southern Madagascar, which has been hit by the worst drought in the past 40 years, pests affecting staple crops, and rising food prices — 14,000 people are expected to be pushed into “catastrophic” acute food insecurity marked by starvation and death by September. And that number is expected to double by the end of the year with 28,000 people needing urgent help, the two agencies said.
In a report in May, 16 organizations including FAO and WFP said at least 155 million people faced acute hunger in 2020, including 133,000 who needed urgent food to prevent widespread death from starvation, a 20 million increase from 2019.
“Acute hunger is increasing not only in scale but also severity,” FAO and WFP said in Friday’s report. “Overall, over 41 million people worldwide are now at risk of falling into famine or famine-like conditions, unless they receive immediate life and livelihood-saving assistance.”
The two Rome-based agencies called for urgent humanitarian action to save lives in the 23 hotspots, saying help is especially critical in the five highest alert places to prevent famine and death.
“These deteriorating trends are mostly driven by conflict dynamics, as well as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said. “These include food price spikes, movement restrictions that limit market and pastoralists activities alike, rising inflation, decreased purchasing power, and an early and prolonged lean season” for crops.
FAO and WFP said South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria remain at the highest alert level, joined for the first time by Ethiopia because of Tigray and southern Madagascar.
In South Sudan, they said, “famine was most likely happening in parts of Pibor county between October and November 2020, and was expected to continue in the absence of sustained and timely humanitarian assistance” while two other areas remain at risk of famine.
“In Yemen, the risk of more people facing famine-like conditions may have been contained, but gains remain extremely fragile,” the UN agencies said. “In Nigeria, populations in conflict-affected areas in the northeast may be at risk of reaching catastrophic food insecurity levels.”
Nine other countries also have high numbers of people facing “critical food insecurity” coupled with worsening drivers of hunger — Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Colombia, Congo, Haiti, Honduras, Sudan and Syria, the report said.
Six countries have been added to the hotspot list since the agencies’ March report — Chad, Colombia, North Korea, Myanmar, Kenya and Nicaragua, it said. Three other countries also facing acute food insecurity are Somalia, Guatemala and Niger, while Venezuela wasn’t included due to lack of recent data, it said.
In Afghanistan, FAO and WFP said 3.5 million people are expected to face the second-highest level of food insecurity, characterized by acute malnutrition and deaths, from June to November. They said the withdrawal of US and NATO forces as early as August could lead to escalating violence, additional displaced people and difficulties in distributing humanitarian assistance.
In reclusive North Korea, which is under tough UN sanctions, the agencies said “concerns are mounting over the food security situation ... due to strained access and the potential impact of trade limitations, which may lead to food gaps.” While data is “extremely limited,” they said recent figures from the country’s Central Bureau o Stations and an FAO analysis “highlight a worrying cereal deficit.”


Afghan girls still barred from school: ‘Why should only boys have a future?’

Afghan girls still barred from school: ‘Why should only boys have a future?’
Updated 30 min 36 sec ago

Afghan girls still barred from school: ‘Why should only boys have a future?’

Afghan girls still barred from school: ‘Why should only boys have a future?’
  • Vast majority of girls are barred from lessons across the country, including in the capital Kabul

KABUL: Afghan teenager Amena saw dozens of classmates killed when her girls’ school was targeted by a Daesh bomb attack in May, but she was determined to continue her education.
Now, like most secondary school girls in the country, she is banned from lessons altogether after the Taliban’s hard-line government excluded them from returning to class one month ago.
“I wanted to study, see my friends and have a bright future, but now I am not allowed,” 16-year-old Amena said at her home in western Kabul.
“This situation makes me feel awful. Since the Taliban arrived, I am very sad and angry.”
On September 18, Afghanistan’s new Islamist rulers ordered male teachers and boys aged 13 and over back to secondary schools, picking up an academic year already cut short by violence and the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, there was no mention of women teachers or girl pupils.
The Taliban later said older girls can return to secondary schools, which were already mostly split by gender, but only once security and stricter segregation under their interpretation of Islamic law could be ensured.
Reports have emerged of girls going back to a few high schools — such as in Kunduz province where the Taliban promoted the return with a stage-managed rally.
The de facto Taliban education minister told the UN children’s body that a framework to allow all girls to go to secondary school will be announced soon, a senior UNICEF executive said Friday.
But for now, the vast majority are barred from lessons across the country of about 39 million people, including in the capital Kabul.
Primary schools, meanwhile, have reopened for all children and women can go to private universities, though with tough restrictions on their clothes and movement.
Amena lives just a short walk from her Sayed Al-Shuhada High School, where 85 people — mainly young girls — perished in the May bomb attack.
“Innocent girls were killed,” Amena said, her eyes welling up.
“I saw with my own eyes the dying and wounded girls.
“However, I still wanted to go to school again.”
Amena would be in Grade 10 studying her favorite subjects such as biology, but instead is stuck inside with a handful of books doing “nothing special.”
The teenager said she dreamt of becoming a journalist, but now has “no hope in Afghanistan.”
Her siblings help her at home, and occasionally she gets lessons from a psychologist who comes to see her younger sister, still traumatized by the school attack.
“They say: ‘Study if you cannot go to school — study at home so that you may become someone in the future.’“
“My brother brings home storybooks and I read them,” Amena said. “And I always watch the news.”
But she does not understand why boys are allowed to study and girls are not.
“Half of the society is made up of girls and the other half is made up of boys. There is no difference between them,” she said.
“Why can’t we study? Are we not part of society? Why should only boys have a future?“
After US-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001, progress was made in girls’ education.
The number of schools tripled and female literacy nearly doubled to 30 percent, but the change was largely limited to the cities.
“Afghan women have made great achievements in the past 20 years,” said Nasrin Hasani, a 21-year-old teacher at a Kabul secondary school who now helps out with primary pupils.
But the current situation has “lowered both our and the students’ morale,” she said, questioning the Taliban’s reasoning.
“As far as we all know, the religion of Islam has never hindered the education and work of women.”
Hasani said she has not experienced any direct threats from the Taliban.
But Amnesty International reported that one high school teacher received death threats and was summoned for prosecution because she used to teach co-educational sport.
Hasani said she was clinging to hope that the Taliban will be “a little different” from their brutal 1996-2001 regime, when women were not even allowed out of their homes unchaperoned.
Born years after 2001, Zainab has no memories of that period and loved going to school until the Taliban directive.
The 12-year-old was stuck looking out of the window with a “terrible feeling” last month when boys went back to school.
“It is quite obvious that things get worse day by day,” said Zainab, whose name has been changed to protect her identity.
Her 16-year-old sister Malalay said tearfully that she had “feelings of despair and fear.”
Malalay, whose name has also been changed, passes her time helping around the house, cleaning, washing dishes and doing laundry.
She said she tries not to cry in front of her mother “because there are a lot of pressures on her.”
The teen had dreams of promoting women’s rights and speaking out against the men depriving her of her rights.
“My rights are to go to school and university,” she said.
“All my dreams and plans are now buried.”


Volunteers in the sky watch over migrant rescues by sea

Volunteers in the sky watch over migrant rescues by sea
Updated 31 min 20 sec ago

Volunteers in the sky watch over migrant rescues by sea

Volunteers in the sky watch over migrant rescues by sea
  • Despite the risks, many migrants and refugees say they’d rather die trying to cross to Europe than be returned to Libya

ABOARD THE SEABIRD: As dozens of African migrants traversed the Mediterranean Sea on a flimsy white rubber boat, a small aircraft circling 1,000 feet above closely monitored their attempt to reach Europe.
The twin-engine Seabird, owned by the German non-governmental organization Sea-Watch, is tasked with documenting human rights violations committed against migrants at sea and relaying distress cases to nearby ships and authorities who have increasingly ignored their pleas.
On this cloudy October afternoon, an approaching thunderstorm heightened the dangers for the overcrowded boat. Nearly 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations’ migration agency.
“Nour 2, Nour 2, this is aircraft Seabird, aircraft Seabird,” the aircraft’s tactical coordinator, Eike Bretschneider, communicated via radio with the only vessel nearby. The captain of the Nour 2, agreed to change course and check up on the flimsy boat. But after seeing the boat had a Libyan flag, the people refused its assistance, the captain reported back on the crackling radio.
“They say they only have 20 liters of fuel left,” the captain, who did not identify himself by name, told the Seabird. “They want to continue on their journey.”
The small boat’s destination was the Italian island of Lampedusa, where tourists sitting in outdoor cafés sipped on Aperol Spritz, oblivious to what was unfolding some 60 nautical miles (111 km/68 miles) south of them on the Mediterranean Sea.
Bretschneider, a 30-year-old social worker, made some quick calculations and concluded the migrants must have departed Libya approximately 20 hours ago and still had some 15 hours ahead of them before they reached Lampedusa. That was if their boat did not fall apart or capsize along the way.
Despite the risks, many migrants and refugees say they’d rather die trying to cross to Europe than be returned to Libya where, upon disembarkation, they are placed in detention centers and often subjected to relentless abuse.
Bretschneider sent the rubber boat’s coordinates to the air liaison officer sitting in Berlin, who then relayed the position (inside the Maltese Search and Rescue zone) to both Malta and Italy. Unsurprisingly to them, they received no response.
Running low on fuel, the Seabird had to leave the scene.
“We can only hope the people will reach the shore at some moment or will get rescued by a European coast guard vessel,” Bretschneider told AP as they made their way back.
The activists have grown used to having their distress calls go unanswered.
For years human rights groups and international law experts have denounced that European countries are increasingly ignoring their international obligations to rescue migrants at sea. Instead, they’ve outsourced rescues to the Libyan Coast Guard, which has a track record of reckless interceptions as well as ties to human traffickers and militias.
“I’m sorry, we don’t speak with NGOs,” a man answering the phone of the Maltese Rescue and Coordination Center told a member of Sea-Watch inquiring about a boat in distress this past June. In a separate call to the Rescue and Coordination Center in Rome, another Sea-Watch member was told: “We have no information to report to you.”
Maltese and Italian authorities did not respond to questions sent by AP.
Trying to get in touch with the Libyan rescue and coordination center is an even greater challenge. On the rare occasion that someone does pick up, the person on the other side of the line often doesn’t speak English.
More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the Italian Ministry of Interior, nearly double the number of people who crossed in the same time period last year.
Although it is illegal for European vessels to take rescued migrants back to Libya themselves, information shared by the EU’s surveillance drones and planes have allowed the Libyan Coast Guard to considerably increase its ability to stop migrants from reaching Europe. So far this year, it has intercepted roughly half of those who have attempted to leave, returning more than 26,000 men, women and children to Libya.
Sea-Watch has relied on millions of euros from individual donations over several years to expand its air monitoring capabilities as well. It now has two small aircraft that, with a birds-eye view, can find boats in distress much faster than ships can.
Taking off from Lampedusa, which is closer to North Africa than Italy, the planes can reach a distress case relatively quickly if its position is known. But when there are no exact coordinates, they must fly a search pattern, sometimes for hours, and scan the sea with the help of binoculars.
Even when flying low, finding a tiny boat in the vast Mediterranean can strain the most experienced eyes. The three- to four-person crew of volunteers reports every little dot on the horizon that could potentially be people in distress.
“Target at 10 o’clock,” the Seabird’s photographer sitting in the back alerted on a recent flight.
The pilot veered left to inspect it.
“Fishing boat, disregard,” Bretschneider, the tactical coordinator, replied.
In rough seas, breaking waves can play tricks and for brief moments resemble wobbly boats in the distance. Frequently, the “targets” turn out to be nothing at all, and the Seabird returns to land hours later without any new information.
But finding boats in distress is only the first challenge. Getting them rescued is just as difficult, if not harder.
With the absence of state rescue vessels and NGO ships getting increasingly blocked from leaving port, Sea-Watch often relies on the good will of merchant vessels navigating the area. But many are also reluctant to get involved after several commercial ships found themselves stuck at sea for days as they waited for Italy’s or Malta’s permission to disembark rescued migrants. Others have taken them back to Libya in violation of maritime and refugee conventions.
This week, a court in Naples convicted the captain of an Italian commercial ship for returning 101 migrants to Libya in 2018.
Without any state authority, the Seabird can only remind captains of their duty to rescue persons in distress. In this way, Bretschneider recently got an Italian supply vessel to save 65 people from a drifting migrant boat, just moments before the Libyan Coast Guard arrived.
On another mission a few days later, the Seabird returned from its flight without knowing what would happen to the people they had seen on the white rubber boat.
Bretschneider checked his phone at dinner that night, hoping for good news. On the other side of the Mediterranean, 17 bodies had washed up in Western Libya, apparently from a different boat.
The next day the Seabird took off to look for the white rubber boat again, in vain. On their way back, they got a message from land.
The white rubber boat had reached waters near Lampedusa and was picked up by the Italian Coast Guard. The people had made it.


Tigray residents describe difficult life under siege

Tigray residents describe difficult life under siege
Updated 17 October 2021

Tigray residents describe difficult life under siege

Tigray residents describe difficult life under siege
  • In rural areas, life is even grimmer as thousands of people survive on wild cactus fruit or sell the meager aid they receive

NAIROBI: As food and the means to buy it dwindled in a city under siege, the young mother felt she could do no more. She killed herself, unable to feed her children.

In a Catholic church across town, flour and oil to make communion wafers will soon run out. And the flagship hospital in Mekele, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, wrestles with whether to give patients the expired medications that remain. Its soap and bleach are gone.

A year of war and months of government-enforced deprivation have left the city of a half-million people with rapidly shrinking stocks of food, fuel, medicine and cash. In rural areas, life is even grimmer as thousands of people survive on wild cactus fruit or sell the meager aid they receive. Man-made famine, the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade, has begun.

Despite the severing of almost all communication with the outside world, The Associated Press drew on a dozen interviews with people inside Mekele, along with internal aid documents, for the most detailed picture yet of life under the Ethiopian government’s blockade of the Tigray region’s 6 million people.

Amid sputtering electricity supplies, Mekele is often lit by candles that many people can’t afford. Shops and streets are emptying, and cooking oil and baby formula are running out. People from rural areas and civil servants who have gone unpaid for months have swelled the ranks of beggars. People are thinner. Funeral announcements on the radio have increased.

“The coming weeks will make or break the situation here,” said Mengstu Hailu, vice president for research at Mekele University, where the mother who killed herself worked.

He told the AP about his colleague’s suicide last month as well as the deaths of two acquaintances from hunger and a death from lack of medication. “Are people going to die in the hundreds and thousands?”
he asked.

Pleas from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and African nations for the warring sides to stop the fighting have failed, even as the US threatens new sanctions targeting individuals in Africa’s second-most populous nation.

Instead, a new offensive by Ethiopian and allied forces has begun in an attempt to crush the Tigray fighters who dominated the national government for nearly three decades before being sidelined by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Ethiopia is one of the top recipients of US humanitarian aid. The government in Addis Ababa, fearing the assistance will end up supporting Tigray forces, imposed the blockade in June after the fighters retook much of Tigray, then brought the war into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. Hundreds of thousands are now displaced there, widening the humanitarian crisis.

After the AP last month reported the first starvation deaths under the blockade, and the UN humanitarian chief called Ethiopia a “stain on our conscience,” the government expelled seven UN officials, accusing them of falsely inflating the scale of the crisis. The expulsions were “unprecedented and disturbing,” the US said.

Just 14% of needed aid has entered Tigray since the blockade began, according to the UN, and no medicine at all.

“There is no other way to define what is happening to the people of Tigray than by ethnic cleansing,” InterAction, an alliance of international aid groups, said this month of the conflict marked by mass detentions, expulsions and gang-rapes.

“The Tigrayan population of 6 million face mass starvation now,” former UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock wrote in a separate statement.

In response to questions, the spokesperson for the Ethiopian prime minister’s office, Billene Seyoum, again blamed Tigray forces for aid disruptions and asserted “the government has worked relentlessly to ensure humanitarian aid reaches those in need.” She did not say when basic services would be allowed to Tigray.

At Tigray’s flagship Ayder referral hospital, Dr. Sintayehu Misgina, a surgeon and the vice chief medical director, watches in horror.

Patients sometimes go without food, and haven’t had meat, eggs or milk since June. Fuel to run ambulances has run out. A diesel generator powers equipment for emergency surgeries only when fuel is available.

“God have mercy for those who come when it’s off,” he said.

No help is in sight. A World Health Organization staffer told Sintayehu there was nothing left to give, even though a warehouse in neighbouring Afar was full of life-saving aid.

Scores of badly malnourished and ill children have come to the hospital in recent weeks. Not all have survived.

“There are no drugs,” said Mizan Wolde, the mother of a 5-year-old patient. Mehari Tesfa despaired for his 4-year-old daughter, who has a brain abscess and is wasting away.

“It’s been three months since she came here,” he said. “She was doing OK, then the medication ceased. She is now taking only oxygen, nothing else.”

Across Tigray, the number of children hospitalized for severe acute malnutrition has surged, according to the UN children’s agency — 18,600 from February to August, compared to 8,900 in 2020. The UN says hospitals outside of Mekele have run out of nutrition supplies to treat them.


Afghans demand resumption of Pakistan flights at pre-Taliban fare

Afghans demand resumption of Pakistan flights at pre-Taliban fare
Updated 17 October 2021

Afghans demand resumption of Pakistan flights at pre-Taliban fare

Afghans demand resumption of Pakistan flights at pre-Taliban fare
  • Taliban order airline to adjust its ticket prices for Kabul-Islamabad flights
  • Travel to Pakistan crucial for many Afghans in need of lifesaving treatment that is unavailable in Afghanistan

KABUL: Afghan citizens and government officials said on Saturday they are hopeful Pakistan International Airlines would soon resume its Kabul operations at the cheaper fares it offered before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

PIA resumed special flights from Kabul to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, after the Taliban seized power in mid-August, serving as a lifeline for many Afghans trying to flee the new regime and economic crisis or seek treatment in Pakistan, as they used to before.

But with most airlines no longer flying to Afghanistan, tickets for PIA flights have spiraled out of the reach of most Afghans, selling for as much as $2,500, according to travel agents in Kabul, compared with $120-$150 before the Taliban takeover.

Earlier this week, the Taliban Transportation Ministry issued a statement ordering the airline to “adjust the price of tickets for Kabul-Islamabad flights to the ticket standard set before the victory of the Islamic Emirate.” Otherwise, the ministry said, “they will not be permitted to run their operations from Kabul airport.”

Following the statement, PIA said it had suspended flights to Kabul over the “unprofessional attitude” of Taliban authorities.

“We hope PIA will understand and act according to the demand of Islamic Emirate Transport and Aviation Ministry,” Bilal Karimi, spokesman and member of the Taliban cultural commission, told Arab News on Saturday.

“What we are looking for is to provide the means to ordinary Afghans who want to go to Pakistan but who do not have the budget to do so.”

Ordinary Afghans are hopeful that flights will soon be available at affordable fares. For some, travel to Pakistan is necessary for lifesaving treatment that in many cases is unavailable in Afghanistan, where healthcare infrastructure is largely fragile and inadequate for more complex medical interventions.

Abdul Ali Hussaini arrived in Kabul last week to bring his injured brother to Pakistan for urgent surgery after a deadly Daesh attack in the northern city of Kunduz on Oct. 8.

“I brought my brother to Kabul after the attack occurred. He is in an emergency hospital. The doctors told me that for further treatment he should be transferred to Pakistan,” he told Arab News. “The suspension of flights and the high rate of tickets are a problem. We hope that flights resume and that we can buy tickets at a cheaper price.”

Ataullah, 35, arrived in Kabul from Helmand province to travel with his mother, a leukemia patient, for urgent treatment in Pakistan.

“I was asked $2,500 for each ticket,” he said. “I tried very hard to get my mother to Pakistan as soon as possible. I do not know what to do. I am hoping for a miracle.”

Mohammed Rashad from Kabul said he had received a scholarship from an Italian university but had been unable to travel due to PIA’s impossibly high flight prices.

“I have 15 days to go to Islamabad and, from there, travel to Italy,” the 26-year-old told Arab News. “I will miss this opportunity.”

Sayed, who works for a foreign agency in Afghanistan, wants to leave the country with his family and is now trying to reach Islamabad. Still, the blocking of PIA flights to Kabul has posed a serious challenge to him.

“One of the embassies operating in Islamabad has sent my family and me our visas. They asked me to come to Pakistan within a week,” he said. “The delay in my trip to Pakistan has now become a major problem for us and has multiplied my security fears here in Kabul.”

While PIA has earlier said its Afghanistan operations are “not very lucrative financially” as it faces “difficult circumstances” at Kabul airport, some Afghan experts say high demand has allowed the carrier to impose skyrocketing fares.  

“Demand for travel to Islamabad has increased,” Sayed Massoud, economics professor from Kabul University, told Arab News. “Everyone is trying to get to Islamabad as soon as possible and from there to another place. PIA is trying to monopolize flights to Islamabad to make more money.”

While PIA has not announced whether and when it is going to resume its Afghanistan flights, the airline’s representative in Kabul, Ahmad Salim Rohani, said he is hopeful it will soon return to its operations with more affordable fares.

“Once the flights resume, we hope that tickets will return to lower prices,” he said.

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Gems add extra sparkle to Pakistani artist’s rare craft

Gems add extra sparkle to Pakistani artist’s rare craft
Updated 17 October 2021

Gems add extra sparkle to Pakistani artist’s rare craft

Gems add extra sparkle to Pakistani artist’s rare craft
  • Reki’s distinctive creations have attracted much attention on social media, and several pieces have already sold

QUETTA: When Barishna Reki was thinking of ideas for her senior thesis as she completed a fine arts degree in 2019, she wanted to work on a project that would one day help to transform her passion for painting into a financially viable career.

Reki, now 25, who hails from the remote town of Mashkail in southwestern Balochistan province and graduated from Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University two years ago, came up with the idea of using traditional Baloch jewelry to add an extra sparkle to her canvases.

The project that she submitted as part of her coursework has now become her life’s work. Reki’s creations, which combine painting and jewelry like a sumptuous, gilded embrace in a Gustav Klimt painting, have attracted much attention on social media.

What’s more, she has sold four pieces, one of them for 175,000 rupees ($1,000) to leading Pakistani actress Zeba Bakhtiar. Another creation is on sale for 275,000 rupees at a mall in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan.

Last year, Reki also set up her own shop, Charisma Studios, which has become a space of passion and business for other women artists from Balochistan who want to make a living out of their art.

In this impoverished province — Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province in terms of land area but its least populous and underdeveloped — this is no small achievement for a 25-year-old woman. Less than 10 percent women in the region currently own their own businesses, according to the Balochistan Women’s Business Association.

“I was creative since my childhood but I never intended to become an artist because my parents wanted me to be a doctor or an engineer,” she told Arab News.

Though Reki knew how hard the journey ahead would be and how few opportunities a career in art offered, she was not deterred.

“When I was doing my thesis, I resolved to do something different and creative for the people of Balochistan.”

Reki recently completed 15 pieces in different sizes, the largest 2.4 by 1.2 meters, using natural precious and semi-precious stones and ornamental buttons combined with watercolors and oil paints. Some pieces use old jewelry given by her mother. Others employ ornamental artificial pieces purchased from friends or local junkyards in Quetta.

“From the beginning I wanted to work on a massive scale,” Reki said. Her first mixed-media art piece was almost three meters tall and took three months to complete.

Aiman Islam, 28, a design consultant at Charisma Studio, said she saw Reki’s work on a social media website three months ago and was inspired to contact her.

“I had expertise in design consultancy and couldn’t get a proper job in Quetta, but now under Charisma Studio’s umbrella, I have been working on three projects which I hope will be beneficial for jobless artists in the province,” Islam said.

Amina Malik Mengal, 24, who trained in biochemistry, said she used to practice calligraphy at school but abandoned the idea of becoming a professional artist because of a lack of professional prospects.

“But after meeting Barishna Reki and getting to know about Charisma Studio, I am reviving my passion along with other artists,” Mengal said. “There are many versatile artists in Balochistan who are looking for assistance and appreciation.”

Muhaddisa Batool, 30, completed her graduation in fine arts in 2015 but never got an opportunity to pursue her passion. Through Charisma Studios, however, she had gotten two orders for pencil sketches, which she sold in September. “Now I am looking for more orders,” Batool said.

Reki said she was grateful and happy to be able to help struggling artists in Balochistan. In this spirit, she has published a book titled “Charismas” that she described as a self-help guide for young people in Balochistan who have lost hope due to a lack of creative opportunities.

Muhammad Asif Kasi, a painter and sculptor in Balochistan with more than 24 years’ experience, said Reki’s craft was “rare.”

“Instead of using more colors on canvas, Barishna has used jewelry, which is an exclusive idea,” Kasi said, adding that he hoped that Reki would keep pursuing her passion and inspire other women in Balochistan to do so as well.