Inspired by Disney princess Elsa, Pakistani girl gets ‘magical’ blue prosthetic arm

Inspired by Disney princess Elsa, Pakistani girl gets ‘magical’ blue prosthetic arm
Three-year-old Momina Aamir plays with a rabbit after getting her bionic arm in Karachi on Dec. 4. (AN photo)
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Updated 09 December 2021

Inspired by Disney princess Elsa, Pakistani girl gets ‘magical’ blue prosthetic arm

Inspired by Disney princess Elsa, Pakistani girl gets ‘magical’ blue prosthetic arm
  • Born without a right arm, Momina Aamir became the youngest person in the world to receive a prosthetic limb

KARACHI: Three-year-old Momina Aamir’s father was overwhelmed with emotion in August when his daughter, who was born without a right arm, asked her father if she could borrow his hand so she could prostrate properly while performing the Muslim ritual of prayer.

After that moment, Aamir Abbas said he was more determined than ever to find a solution, which turned out to be a blue multigrip bionic arm customized to the exact wishes of Momina, a huge fan of Princess Elsa in the Walt Disney animated film, “Frozen.”

“I had just finished praying when Momina came to me and said: ‘Baba, give me your hand so I may pray like you as well’,” Abbas told Arab News. “It is hard for me to put my feelings in words. I had never felt or made her feel that she was missing something. But this pushed me to think hard and look for solutions.”

According to the World Health Organization, about 30 million people around the world require prosthetic limbs, but fewer than 20 percent have them and these tend to be costly and heavy, with limited to no movement. According to Karachi’s Aga Khan University Hospital, one in every 20 children in Pakistan is born with some kind of a hand deformity.

But with the help of the Karachi-based startup BIONIKS, which provides orthotics and prosthetics services, Abbas has been able to make his daughter’s dream come true.

Earlier this year, the firm achieved a world record when they fitted four-year-old Muhammad Sideeq with a multigrip bionic arm. The story was covered by Arab News, and Abbas said that the media coverage was instrumental in connecting the family to BIONIKS.

“That story gave me hope and made me visit BIONIKS,” said Saadia Aamir, Momina’s mother.

After receiving her new arm last week, Momina, at three years and four months of age, is the youngest recipient to have an advanced prosthetic limb.

Among treatment options for children born with hand or arm deformities — based on the nature and severity of the problem — are limb manipulation and stretching, tendon transfer, attaching a splint to stretch the finger to its original position or repairing the constrictions in muscles, ligaments and skin.

In some cases, skin grafts can be used to address the deformity. Surgery is also sometimes performed to cure the condition.

Unfortunately, not all children are able to get the right treatment in Pakistan due to a lack of expertise as well as the high cost of procedures.

And even though Momina is among a handful of fortunate children, it was not easy to design the required limb for her due to her age and congenital situation, as the design is fitted with sensors that enable users to move the prosthetic limbs by thinking about making the movements.

“It was far more difficult to integrate all the things in her case since she never had a hand,” Ovais Hussain Qureshi, co-founder of BIONIKS, told Arab News. “She had not experienced those senses in her mind that allow us to use our right hand.”

For example, he said, when Momina was first asked to close the fingers of her right hand, she would move the entire artificial arm.

But the girl was intelligent and the team did not find it difficult to communicate with her and quickly teach her how to use the limb.

“She is very friendly and talkative,” Qureshi said with a smile. “She used to freely roam around in our office, visit the research and development room, sit with our designers and talk to them: ‘I don’t like this or that part. Can you make the shade of blue a little light? How about adding diamonds or crystals to the arm?’“

“It will not be wrong to say,” Qureshi said, “that she got a truly customized arm. In fact, she almost made it herself!”

Momina’s mother said that her daughter decided she wanted a blue arm because of Princess Elsa in “Frozen.”

“The day she got her arm, we left our home late at night and she slept in the car,” she said. “While I was removing her arm, she woke up and asked me not to. When she went into deep sleep, I took it off and was surprised to see her restlessness in the morning. She looked impatiently for the arm but was happy when I brought it back.”

Momina’s mother said that her daughter was so deeply attached to her “magical” arm that she was upset when it was taken back to the firm for minor changes and adjustments.

Her parents said that most people wanted their children to get skin-colored prosthetic limbs, but they decided to let their daughter have the arm she truly wanted.

“She is happy with the color,” her mother said. “Sometimes she even makes fun of our ordinary arms and says she has a more beautiful one! We want her to grow with it.”

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Teen gunman kills 15 at Texas elementary school

A woman reacts outside the Ssgt Willie de Leon Civic Center in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
A woman reacts outside the Ssgt Willie de Leon Civic Center in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 sec ago

Teen gunman kills 15 at Texas elementary school

A woman reacts outside the Ssgt Willie de Leon Civic Center in Uvalde, Texas, U.S. May 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Footage showed small groups of children weaving through parked cars and buses, some holding hands as they fled under police escort from the school, which teaches students aged around seven to 10 years old

UVALDE, United States: An 18-year-old gunman killed 14 young children and a teacher at an elementary school in Texas on Tuesday, in the deadliest US school shooting in years.
The attack in Uvalde, Texas — a small community about an hour from the Mexican border — is the latest in a spree of deadly shootings in America, where horror at the cycle of gun violence has failed to spur enough action to end it.
Governor Greg Abbott, addressing a news conference, said the gunman was believed to have shot his grandmother before heading to Robb Elementary School at around noon, abandoning his vehicle and entering with a handgun, and possibly also a rifle.
“He shot and killed, horrifically and incomprehensibly, 14 students and killed a teacher,” Abbott said.
The governor said the suspect, who he described as a local teenager and a US citizen, was also “deceased,” adding that “it is believed that responding officers killed him.”
Footage showed small groups of children weaving through parked cars and buses, some holding hands as they fled under police escort from the school, which teaches students aged around seven to 10 years old.
It was the deadliest such incident since 14 high school students and three adult staff were killed in Parkland, Florida in 2018 — and the worst at an elementary school since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six staff were killed.
The White House ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in mourning for the victims — whose deaths sent a wave of shock through a country still scarred by the horror of Sandy Hook.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting, and was to address the nation later on Tuesday.
Robb Elementary — which teaches more than 500, mostly Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students from second through fourth grade — called on parents not to pick up their children until all were accounted for.
“Please do not pick up students at this time. Students need to be accounted for before they are released to your care. You will be notified to pick up students once all are accounted for,” the school said on its website.

Ted Cruz, a Republican US senator from Texas, tweeted that he and his wife are “lifting up in prayer the children and families in the horrific shooting in Uvalde.”
But Senator Chris Murphy, a Democratic from Connecticut, where the Sandy Hook shooting took place, made an impassioned appeal for concrete action to prevent further violence.
“This isn’t inevitable, these kids weren’t unlucky. This only happens in this country and nowhere else. Nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day,” Murphy said on the Senate floor.
“I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues: Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely,” he added.
The deadly violence in Texas follows a series of mass shootings in the United States this month.
On May 14, an 18-year-old white man shot 10 people dead at a Buffalo, New York grocery store.
Wearing heavy body armor and wielding an AR-15 rifle, the self-declared white supremacist allegedly livestreamed his attack, having reportedly targeted the store because of the large surrounding African American population.
The following day, a man blocked the door of a church in Laguna Woods, California and opened fire on its Taiwanese-American congregation, killing one person and injuring five.
Despite recurring mass-casualty shootings, multiple initiatives to reform gun regulations have failed in the US Congress, leaving states and local councils to enact their own restrictions.
The National Rifle Association has been instrumental in fighting against stricter US gun laws. Abbott and Cruz are listed as speakers at a forum that is being held by the powerful lobby in Houston, Texas later this week.
The United States suffered 19,350 firearm homicides in 2020, up nearly 35 percent compared to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its latest data.
 


‘Appalled’ US suspects Uyghur abuse approved at Beijing ‘highest levels’

‘Appalled’ US suspects Uyghur abuse approved at Beijing ‘highest levels’
Updated 25 May 2022

‘Appalled’ US suspects Uyghur abuse approved at Beijing ‘highest levels’

‘Appalled’ US suspects Uyghur abuse approved at Beijing ‘highest levels’
  • "We are appalled by the reports and the jarring images," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters
  • The United States accuses Beijing of carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs

WASHINGTON: The United States voiced horror Tuesday at new files on the incarceration of China’s Uyghur minority and said they showed that abuse was likely approved at the highest levels in Beijing.
“We are appalled by the reports and the jarring images,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
“It would be very difficult to imagine that a systemic effort to suppress, to detain, to conduct a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity would not have the blessing — would not have the approval — of the highest levels of the PRC government,” he said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
The United States accuses Beijing of carrying out genocide against the Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people in the western region of Xinjiang, where rights groups say more than one million people have been rounded up.
“We have and we continue to call on the PRC to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained people, to abolish the internment camps, to end mass detention, torture, forced sterilization, and the use of forced labor,” Price said.
Adrian Zenz, an academic who has probed the treatment of the Uyghurs, published a leak of thousands of photos and official documents that shed new light on violent methods to enforce mass internment.
The files, parts of which have been verified by multiple news organizations including the BBC and Le Monde, also provide a window into life in detention facilities.
Photos appear to show officers restraining hooded and shackled inmates with batons, while other guards wearing camouflage stand by with firearms.
The release comes just as UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet started a visit to China that was criticized by the United States, which says that she had not secured sufficient access.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said in a tweet that Bachelet “must take a hard look at these faces and press Chinese officials for full, unfettered access — and answers.”


Boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsizes, killing 16

Boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsizes, killing 16
Updated 24 May 2022

Boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsizes, killing 16

Boat carrying Rohingya fleeing Myanmar capsizes, killing 16
  • There were 35 survivors of Saturday's accident that took place Saturday off Myanmar’s southwestern coast
  • UNHCR said at least 17 Rohingya, including children, had died

BANGKOK: At least 16 people from Myanmar’s Rohingya minority have died after a storm capsized the boat they were traveling on to seek refuge in another country, officials and a recovery team member said Tuesday.
There were 35 survivors of Saturday’s accident that took place Saturday off Myanmar’s southwestern coast and four people were missing, the officials said.
UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, expressed shock and sadness about the accident in a statement and said at least 17 Rohingya, including children, had died.
The boat left the western state of Rakhine last Thursday and encountered bad weather two days later off Ayeyarwaddy Region on Myanmar’s southwestern coast, causing it to capsize, the statement said.
The Rohingya, a Muslim minority, have long been persecuted in Myanmar. More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled the country to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape the brutal counterinsurgency campaign of Myanmar’s military following an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group in Rakhine State.
Myanmar’s government has denied accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes, but the US government recently labeled actions by the country’s military as genocide.
There are more than 100,000 Rohingya left in Myanmar, confined in squalid displacement camps, along with those living in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Groups of Rohingya from camps in both countries embark on hazardous voyages to the Muslim-majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia to seek a better living.
“Some 630 Rohingya have attempted sea journeys across the Bay of Bengal from January to May 2022,” the UNHCR statement said, with women and children making up 60 percent of those trying to flee.
The statement added: “The risk of abuse at the hands of smugglers and the peril of the sea journey itself are both exacerbated during prolonged journeys, when a safe harbor for disembarkation cannot be found.”
An Ayeyarwaddy Region resident said the 16 bodies, including those of two young boys, were recovered near Pathein township, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) west of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. He spoke on condition of anonymity because Myanmar’s military government seeks to tightly control the flow of information.
A local official, who also requested anonymity for the same reason, said most of the 50 people on board the boat were men under 30 years old. He said the bodies were buried and that the 35 survivors were taken away by the security forces.
Maung Maung Than, a spokesperson for the Ayeyarwaddy Region government, confirmed that the accident happened but did not give further details.
“The latest tragedy shows once again the sense of desperation being felt by Rohingya in Myanmar and in the region,” Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s director for Asia and the Pacific said in the agency’s statement. “It is shocking to see increasing numbers of children, women and men embarking on these dangerous journeys and eventually losing their lives.”


Avoid Iraq reconstruction mistakes, Maryam co-founder warns

Avoid Iraq reconstruction mistakes, Maryam co-founder warns
Updated 24 May 2022

Avoid Iraq reconstruction mistakes, Maryam co-founder warns

Avoid Iraq reconstruction mistakes, Maryam co-founder warns
  • The Ukraine4All: Constructing an Inclusive Future event invited business and political figures, as well as young Ukrainian global leaders, to discuss the future of Ukraine

DAVOS: Public- as well as private-sector funding is vital for the reconstruction of Ukraine in a post-war scenario, but ensuring corruption does not stall rebuilding efforts is also essential, a Maryam Forum Foundation panel said at the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Ukraine4All: Constructing an Inclusive Future event invited business and political figures, as well as young Ukrainian global leaders, to discuss the future of Ukraine after the end of hostilities in its war with Russia.

Panelist and Maryam co-founder Khaled Janahi said that failures in previous Western reconstruction efforts in countries such as Iraq cannot be repeated.

“The issue is, (Ukraine needs) 1 trillion dollars and it’s how to make sure that out of that trillion dollars, $980 billion is really used properly, spent by the Ukrainians, with the help of outside, to build up Ukraine, whether it is hard infrastructure or soft infrastructure and to have the institutions around it,” he said.

“And only 20 billion of it going to corruption, instead of 400 billion going to corruption and 600 (to rebuilding).”

He said that the mistakes of the US reconstruction project in Iraq, which he said was still “effectively a failed state,” were a good lesson to learn from.

“The Americans invaded, they left, and in the Arab world we have the story ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ — they left forty thieves in the country,” Janahi said.

“In that country, they are still paying the price for these forty thieves.

“It is not only Ukrainians that have to fight their own corruption from the inside, we also have to make sure about the outside,” he added.

Janahi said that compared to refugees from the MENA region, those fleeing Ukraine would have better opportunities.

“We have all these refugees — Syrian, Palestinians, Yemenis — and the good news is that Ukrainians won’t be the same," he said.

“Ukranians will be looked after and they will come out of this because the world is going that way, and that’s the way the world is.

“And one reason is we, as the Arabs, are not pushing for those guys from our part of the world to be looked after.

“We live in a world today that is run by rulers, not by leaders. Even if they are elected, a lot of them are rulers not leaders. Unfortunately what’s happened, whether it’s Syria or now in Ukraine, it proves the point,” he added.

Panellists discussing the post-war future of Ukraine during the Maryam Forum Foundation panel 'The Ukraine4All: Constructing an Inclusive Future.' (AN Photo/Daniel Fountain)

His fellow panellist, businessman Martin Sorrell, said it will require a collaborative effort from both the private and public sectors if the Ukrainian reconstruction project is to prove successful.

“The fundamental issue is that Putin will remain in power, and Putin will continue to pursue (this war). The only way you are going to be able to reconstruct Ukraine is by not relying on the private sector on its own —there must be an effort from government institutions,” he added.

“I don’t think the private sector on its own will do the business. It will take concerted, coordinated public sector and government intervention on a significant scale.”

Eric Cantor, former US congressman and house majority leader, agreed, and also warned of the potential for corrupt officials to derail the rebuilding project.

“The private sector won’t be first — government has to be the catalyst,” he said. “But I also think there has to be transparency. You’ve got to see where the corruption is.

“How do we keep the taxpayer dollars out of the hands of the oligarchs? How do you make sure the procurement process in the cities and towns of Ukraine, that you don’t see government officials taking some of that money?

“That image has to now grow into how the world can believe that Ukraine can build a new Ukraine, and not the way it was,” he added.


Malaysia welcomes back Middle Eastern tourists after pandemic lull

Malaysia welcomes back Middle Eastern tourists after pandemic lull
Updated 24 May 2022

Malaysia welcomes back Middle Eastern tourists after pandemic lull

Malaysia welcomes back Middle Eastern tourists after pandemic lull
  • Southeast Asian nation ranked as a top destination in the Global Muslim Travel Index since 2015
  • Influx of tourists expected from June when school holidays start in many Mideast countries

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is welcoming back visitors from the Middle East after two years of pandemic closures, with businesses in the tourism sector expecting to attract especially those who arrive for family holidays.

Malaysia’s tourism ministry has been ramping up its promotional activities in a bid to attract 2 million international visitors this year following the reopening of the country’s borders in April to allow quarantine-free travel.

“We’ve just participated in Arabian Travel Market, and we’ve seen how keen they are to travel,” Mohmed Razip Hajji Hasan, director-general of the Islamic Tourism Center, an entity under the Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News.

“People are looking to experience travel again, and our industry players can take advantage of the reopening of borders to attract this niche market known for their longer stays and higher spending habits.”

The coronavirus pandemic brought the Malaysian tourism industry to a standstill and this year’s target is over 10 times lower than the 26.1 million arrivals it saw in 2019.

Malaysia is popular with visitors from the Middle East and has been ranking as a top destination in the Global Muslim Travel Index since 2015.

To further develop a welcoming environment for Mideast travelers, Hasan said that the ministry is working with airlines, tour operators and hoteliers to offer privacy and safe spaces for families.

Omar Hameed, manager at the Al-Diuf Al-Arabia Tourism and Travel agency, said that he is positive Malaysian tourism will start picking up by next month, the end of the school season in many Middle Eastern countries. Many visitors from the region do not need visas to enter the country.

“It will be peak tourism season for Malaysia by then as most Middle Eastern families will want to have their vacation here,” he told Arab News. “It is not as crowded as in Indonesia.”

But some in the hospitality business say that the country still has issues to address in order to be a comfortable destination.

“Many people love Malaysia, but unfortunately some of the small things need to be corrected,” said Alaa A., owner of Hadramot House, a restaurant that serves Yemeni food in Bukit Bintang — an upscale shopping district in Kuala Lumpur, which is popular among visitors from the Middle East.

He cited the problems tourists face with taxi drivers, who often refuse to use meters and seek to charge much higher fixed fares.

Before the global pandemic, Malaysia received about 400,000 visitors from the Middle East in 2019. Travelers from Saudi Arabia topped the arrivals, accounting for a quarter of the visits.

Even though the tourism industry is still picking up the pace, Arab News was able to meet Saudi tourists in the Malaysian capital.

Wisam and her husband Basil said that they have been traveling across Malaysia for the past two weeks and found it easy to explore the country.

“We have been to Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi Island, Penang Island and Genting Highlands. We enjoyed it,” Wisam said. “It is my first trip to Malaysia and it is beautiful.”