IMF lauds UAE’s COVID-19 response, benefits to economy

People wear face masks amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Global Village in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters/File Photo)
People wear face masks amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Global Village in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 18 February 2022

IMF lauds UAE’s COVID-19 response, benefits to economy

People wear face masks amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Global Village in Dubai, UAE. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • International Monetary Fund predicts 3.5 percent growth in UAE for 2022
  • Expo 2020, transition from oil and healthy banking sector all aiding country’s recovery

LONDON: The International Monetary Fund has praised the UAE’s COVID-19 response and vaccine rollout and the positive effects those efforts have had on the country’s economy.

The IMF said Thursday: “The UAE moved quickly to address the health and economic effects of the pandemic. Widespread testing and containment measures helped limit the initial spread of the virus, while early vaccination efforts have resulted in vaccination rates among the highest globally.”

These efforts, the IMF continued, have given rise to a healthy recovery from the economic shock of the pandemic.

“The economic recovery is gaining momentum, supported by the UAE’s early and strong health response, continued supportive macroeconomic policies, and rebound in tourism and domestic activity related to the delayed Expo 2020.”

By December last year, Expo 2020 had received over 8 million visitors.

“Strong reform efforts are underway with the ambitious UAE 2050 Strategy. Recent reforms to promote private sector growth and development are important to strengthen non-oil growth, boost productivity, and attract foreign investment.

The IMF predicted an overall gross domestic product growth rate of 3.5 percent in 2022.

Over the medium-term, growth is expected to accelerate with the benefit of structural reform efforts, increased foreign investment and rising oil production.

The growing non-oil sector, pushed forward by the Emirates’ Energy Strategy 2050, is key to the country’s positive outlook. The strategy aims to diversify the country’s energy usage, with the goal of 50 percent renewable sources by 2050.

The IMF added that some risks to the country and world economy do remain as a result of the pandemic but encouraged the UAE to mitigate these by pursuing “further efforts to maintain macro-financial stability, strengthen fiscal policy frameworks, foster economic diversification, and improve inter-generational equity and climate sustainability.”

It added: “Ensuring public health and supporting the most vulnerable remain top priorities.”


WHO: Turkiye, Syria quake could affect up to 23 million people

WHO: Turkiye, Syria quake could affect up to 23 million people
Updated 48 sec ago

WHO: Turkiye, Syria quake could affect up to 23 million people

WHO: Turkiye, Syria quake could affect up to 23 million people
GENEVA: Up to 23 million people could be affected by the massive earthquake that has killed thousands in Turkiye and Syria, the WHO warned on Tuesday, promising long-term assistance.
“Event overview maps show that potentially 23 million people are exposed, including around five million vulnerable populations,” the World Health Organization’s senior emergencies officer Adelheid Marschang said.
“Civilian infrastructure and potentially health infrastructure have been damaged across the affected region, mainly in Turkiye and northwest Syria,” she said.
The WHO “considers that the main unmet needs may be in Syria in the immediate and mid-term,” Marschang told the WHO’s executive committee in Geneva.
She spoke as rescuers in Turkiye and Syria braved freezing cold, aftershocks and collapsing buildings, as they dug for survivors buried by a string of earthquakes that killed more than 5,000 people.
“It is now a race against time,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, explaining that the UN health agency was urgently sending aid to the area.
“We’re mobilizing emergency supplies and we have activated the WHO network of emergency medical teams to provide essential health care for the injured and most vulnerable.”
Disaster agencies said several thousand buildings were flattened in cities across a vast Turkiye-Syria border region — pouring misery on an area already plagued by war, insurgency, refugee crises and a recent cholera outbreak.
Through the night, survivors used their bare hands to pick over the twisted ruins of multi-story apartment blocks — trying to save family, friends and anyone else sleeping inside when the first massive 7.8-magnitude quake struck early Monday.
The situation is particularly dire in northern Syria, which has already been decimated by years of war.
“The movement of aid through the border into northwest Syria is likely to be or is already disrupted due to the damage caused by the earthquake,” Marschang said.
“This in itself would be a huge crisis already.”
She addressed a special meeting on the tragedy, which held a minute’s silence for the victims.
The WHO chief vowed that the agency would “work closely with all partners to support authorities in both countries in the critical hours and days ahead, and in the months and years to come as both countries recover and rebuild.”

In Turkiye’s worst-hit province, residents cry for help amid weak quake response

In Turkiye’s worst-hit province, residents cry for help amid weak quake response
Updated 11 min 30 sec ago

In Turkiye’s worst-hit province, residents cry for help amid weak quake response

In Turkiye’s worst-hit province, residents cry for help amid weak quake response
  • Rescue workers struggle to cope with the scale of destruction across southern Turkiye and northwest Syria
  • the total death toll rising above 5,000 on Tuesday morning

ANTAKYA: “They’re making noises but nobody is coming,” Deniz cried out, holding his hands to his head as he railed against the lack of efforts to rescue those trapped under rubble after a powerful earthquake killed thousands in Turkiye and Syria.
Desperate screams for help could be heard from those trapped in collapsed buildings in the Mediterranean coastal province of Hatay where people tried to keep warm around bonfires in cold rainy weather.
Hatay, which borders northwest Syria, is the worst-hit province in Turkiye with at least 872 people killed. Residents complained of inadequate emergency response and rescue workers said they have struggled to get equipment.
Deniz cried as he pointed to a destroyed building in which his mother and father were stuck, awaiting emergency workers.
“We’re devastated, we’re devastated. My God!” he said. “They’re calling out. They’re saying, ‘Save us,’ but we can’t save them. How are we going to save them? There has been nobody since the morning.”
Rescue workers have struggled to cope with the scale of destruction across southern Turkiye and northwest Syria, with the total death toll rising above 5,000 on Tuesday morning.

Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has said 13,740 search and rescue personnel have been deployed to the quake region, but the level of damage is huge with nearly 6,000 buildings destroyed in southern Turkiye.
In Hatay alone, more than 1,200 buildings have been destroyed, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.
Rescue teams in the province complained about a lack of equipment, while people on the road stopped cars and asked for any tools to help remove the rubble.
The government declared a “level 4 alarm” after the quake struck, calling for international assistance, but has not declared a state of emergency that would lead to mass mobilization of the military.
In Hatay’s provincial capital of Antakya, where 10-story buildings had crumbled on to the streets, Reuters journalists saw rescue work being carried out at one of the dozens of mounds of rubble.
“There are no emergency workers, no soldiers. Nobody. This is a neglected place,” said one man, who had traveled to Hatay from Ankara after managing to pull out a woman from the wreckage of a building on his own.
“This is a human life. What can you do when you hear a sound of life?” said the man, who declined to be named, as the woman received medical attention in a car.
The southern province of Hatay hosts more than 400,000 Syrians, mostly refugees from the country’s nearly 12-year civil war, according to the Turkish Interior Ministry.


Palestinians: Teen killed in Israeli army raid in West Bank

Palestinians: Teen killed in Israeli army raid in West Bank
Updated 07 February 2023

Palestinians: Teen killed in Israeli army raid in West Bank

Palestinians: Teen killed in Israeli army raid in West Bank
  • 17-year-old Hamza Al-Ashqar died of a gunshot wound to the head
  • Since the start of this year, 42 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: The Palestinian Health Ministry said Tuesday that Israeli troops killed a Palestinian teenager in an army raid in the occupied West Bank.
He was the latest casualty in what is already one of the most violent periods in the West Bank in recent years.
The ministry said 17-year-old Hamza Al-Ashqar died of a gunshot wound to the head but provided no additional details about the incident. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
The incident came a day after Israeli forces killed five Palestinian gunmen linked to the Islamic militant Hamas group in a raid on refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli army has staged almost nightly raids across Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank since a series of deadly attacks in Israel last spring. The Palestinian Authority declared it would cease security coordination with Israel after 10 Palestinians were killed in a raid last month.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Since the start of this year, 42 Palestinians have been killed in those territories. Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed some 30 people in 2022.
The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.


Earthquake death toll surpasses 5,000 in Turkiye, Syria

Earthquake death toll surpasses 5,000 in Turkiye, Syria
Updated 07 February 2023

Earthquake death toll surpasses 5,000 in Turkiye, Syria

Earthquake death toll surpasses 5,000 in Turkiye, Syria
  • At least 3,419 people died in Turkiye, with 1,602 in Syria
  • More than 5,600 buildings flattened across several cities

HATAY, Turkiye: The death toll from a massive earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria rose above 5,000 on Tuesday, official data showed, with rescue workers still searching for trapped survivors.
At least 3,419 people have died in Turkiye and 1,602 in government- and rebel-controlled parts of Syria, bringing the total to at least 5,021, officials and medical sources said.
Disaster agencies said several thousand buildings were flattened in cities across a vast border region — pouring misery on an area already plagued by war, insurgency, refugee crises and a recent cholera outbreak.
Through the night, survivors used their bare hands to pick over the twisted ruins of multi-story apartment blocks — trying to save family, friends and anyone else sleeping inside when the first massive 7.8-magnitude quake struck early Monday.
“Where is my mum?” asked a distraught seven-year-old girl who was pulled — her face, hair and pyjamas covered in dust — from a collapsed building in Hatay, on the Turkish side of the border.
The sense of disbelief was widespread, as residents struggled to comprehend the scale of the disaster.
“We thought it was the apocalypse,” said Melisa Salman, a 23-year-old reporter in the southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras.
Some of the heaviest devastation occurred near the quake’s epicenter between Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, a city of two million where entire blocks now lie in ruins under gathering snow.
As residents tried to clear a mountain of masonry, plasterboard and furniture that had been a multi-story building, another collapsed nearby — sending crowds screaming and clamouring for safety.
With aftershocks continuously rattling the area, many terrified and exhausted survivors spent the night outdoors, too afraid to go home.
Some huddled under bus shelters, some wrapped themselves in plastic to repel the freezing rain and others burned debris to keep warm.
Mustafa Koyuncu packed his wife and their five children into their parked car.
“We can’t go home,” the 55-year-old told AFP. “Everyone is afraid.”

 

Turkiye’s relief agency AFAD put the latest death toll at 3,419 in that country alone — bringing the confirmed tally in both Turkiye and Syria to more than 5,000.
There are fears that the toll will rise inexorably, with World Health Organization officials estimating up to 20,000 may have died.
“There is a family I know under the rubble,” said 20-year-old student Omer El Cuneyd in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa.
“Until 11:00 am or noon, my friend was still answering the phone. But she no longer answers. She is down there.”
Overwhelmed medics struggled to treat the estimated 20,000 injured.
The US Geological Survey said Monday’s first earthquake struck at 4:17 am (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 18 kilometers (11 miles).
The initial earthquake was so powerful it was felt as far away as Greenland and was followed by a series of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude tremor that struck in the middle of search and rescue work on Monday.
The impact was devastating and sparked a global response, with dozens of nations from Ukraine to New Zealand vowing to send help.
But a winter blizzard has covered major roads into the area in ice and snow and officials said three major airports have been rendered inoperable, complicating deliveries of vital aid.
Much of the quake-hit area of northern Syria has already been decimated by years of war and aerial bombardment by Syrian and Russia forces that destroyed homes, hospitals and clinics.
The conflict is already shaping the emergency response, with Syria’s envoy to the United Nations Bassam Sabbagh seemingly ruling out reopening border crossings that would allow aid to reach areas controlled by rebel groups.

 

 

The Syrian health ministry reported damage across the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartus, where Russia is leasing a naval facility.
Even before the tragedy, buildings in Aleppo — Syria’s pre-war commercial hub — often collapsed due to the dilapidated infrastructure.
Officials cut off natural gas and power supplies across the region as a precaution, and also closed schools for two weeks.
The UN cultural agency UNESCO expressed fears over heavy damage in two cities on its heritage list — Aleppo in Syria and Diyarbakir in Turkiye.
At a jail holding mostly Daesh group members in northwestern Syria, prisoners mutinied after the quakes, with at least 20 escaping, a source at the facility told AFP.
The United States, the European Union and Russia all immediately sent condolences and offers of help.
President Joe Biden promised his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the United States will send “any and all” aid needed to help recover from a devastating earthquake.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also offered to provide “the necessary assistance” to Turkiye, whose combat drones are helping Kyiv fight the Russian invasion.
Chinese state media said on Tuesday that Beijing was sending rescuers, medical teams and other supplies.
Turkiye is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.
The country’s last 7.8-magnitude tremor was in 1939, when 33,000 died in the eastern Erzincan province.
The Turkish region of Duzce suffered a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999, when more than 17,000 people died.
Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, a megalopolis of 16 million people filled with rickety homes.


Earthquake piles misery on war-ravaged Syrians in wintry north

Earthquake piles misery on war-ravaged Syrians in wintry north
Updated 07 February 2023

Earthquake piles misery on war-ravaged Syrians in wintry north

Earthquake piles misery on war-ravaged Syrians in wintry north
  • Millions of people in northwest Syria have been left vulnerable by the conflict, with 2.9 million people in the region have been displaced
  • Young men could be seen clawing through debris and heaving hammers onto slabs of concrete to look for survivors

JANDARIS: Wailing children, flattened buildings and hospitals full of bodies — a devastating earthquake on Monday looked painfully familiar for Syrian families and rescuers worn down by nearly 12 years of bombardment and displacement.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake sent people rushing into the streets in the country’s north, where air strikes and shelling have already traumatized the population and weakened the foundations of many buildings.
In the rebel-held town of Jandaris in Aleppo province, a mound of concrete, steel rods and bundles of clothes lay where a multi-story building once stood.
“There were 12 families under there. Not a single one came out. Not one,” said a thin young man, his eyes wide open in shock and his hand bandaged.
“We were pulling people out ourselves at three in the morning,” he said, his breath visible in the cold winter air as he spoke.
Young men could be seen clawing through debris and heaving hammers onto slabs of concrete to look for survivors. Dented water tanks and solar panels had flown off roofs and landed on the damp ground.


The White Helmets, a rescue service founded in rebel-held territory to treat people hurt in bombardment, said at least 147 people were killed in opposition-held northwest Syria. In government-held territory, officials put the death toll at more than 300 with more than 1,000 injured.
In Turkiye, President Tayyip Erdogan said more than 900 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured.
“We are in a race against time to save the lives of those under the rubble. Even if our teams are exhausted, we don’t have time to rest,” White Helmets head Raed Fares told Reuters by phone.
He said air strikes over the years had left buildings structurally fragile so they “immediately collapsed,” ultimately leading to more deaths.
FREEZING TEMPERATURES
Millions of people in northwest Syria have been left vulnerable by the conflict, according to the United Nations, which says 2.9 million people in the region have been displaced and 1.8 million are living in camps.
The rescue teams have worked for years rescuing people from shelling and aerial raids by Syrian government or Russian forces which often hit the same location multiple times, risking paramedics’ lives.
“At least now, no one is going to bomb us as we work,” Fares said.
But the cold winter weather added another challenge for the rescue workers, who said families have been left exposed in near-freezing temperatures and heavy rains.

In the countryside of Idlib province, the earthquake damaged the modest structures set up in displacement camps hosting Syrians who had fled the war over the years, said Ahmad Al-Sheikh, a resident of a nearby border town.
Further west, the main hospital in the rebel-held town of Afrin was teeming with wounded residents writhing on the ground and women struggling to reach loved ones by phone as the lines were down.
Medics zipped up black body bags on a bloodstained floor as toddlers screamed in the background.
“Ambulance sirens are heard everywhere. People are shocked,” said Afrin resident Ibrahim Obaid. “The situation is so tragic. There’s so much fear and we still feel the tremors.”