Sri Lanka medical group warns of catastrophic shortages amid economic crisis

Anti-riot police guard a road leading to the Sri Lanka prime minister's official residence in Colombo during a rally on April 7, 2022 against the rise of prices and shortage of fuel. (AFP)
Anti-riot police guard a road leading to the Sri Lanka prime minister's official residence in Colombo during a rally on April 7, 2022 against the rise of prices and shortage of fuel. (AFP)
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Updated 08 April 2022

Sri Lanka medical group warns of catastrophic shortages amid economic crisis

Sri Lanka medical group warns of catastrophic shortages amid economic crisis
  • Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in decades and has endured months of shortages of fuel and other essentials
  • Thousands of people have been demonstrating demanding a solution to the crisis

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s national medical association warned Thursday that hospitals will be unable to provide even emergency services in coming weeks because of critical shortages of drugs and medical equipment caused by the country’s economic crisis, leading to a catastrophic number of deaths if supplies aren’t replenished.
Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in decades and has endured months of shortages of fuel and other essentials. Protests over the economic troubles have spread nationwide and expanded to criticism of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his politically powerful family.
The Sri Lanka Medical Association sent a letter to Rajapaksa on Thursday saying that hospitals have already decided to curtail services such as routine surgeries and limit the use of available medical materials to treatment of life-threatening illnesses.
Unless supplies are urgently replenished, “within a matter of weeks, if not days, emergency treatment will also not be possible. This will result in a catastrophic number of deaths,” the letter said.
Thousands of people, including health workers, have been demonstrating this week demanding a solution to the crisis and Rajapaksa’s resignation for economic mismanagement.
Rajapaksa has resisted the demands to step down, even after members of his own coalition joined them this week, with governing party lawmakers calling for the appointment of an interim government to avoid possible violence.
Rajapaksa earlier proposed the creation of a unity government, but the main opposition party rejected the idea. His Cabinet resigned Sunday night, and on Tuesday, nearly 40 governing coalition lawmakers said they would no longer vote according to coalition instructions, significantly weakening the government.
This has turned the economic crisis into a political one, with no functioning Cabinet including crucial finance and health ministers. Parliament has failed to reach a consensus in three days of debate on how to deal with the crisis.
The president and his older brother, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, continue to hold power, despite their politically powerful family being the focus of public ire. Five other family members are lawmakers, including Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Irrigation Minister Chamal Rajapaksa and a nephew, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa.
The government estimates the COVID-19 pandemic has cost Sri Lanka’s tourism-dependent economy $14 billion in the last two years. Protesters also allege fiscal mismanagement. The country has immense foreign debts after borrowing heavily for infrastructure and other projects. Its foreign debt repayment obligations are around $7 billion this year alone.
The debts and dwindling foreign reserves leave it unable to pay for imported goods.
Rajapaksa last month said his government was in talks with the International Monetary Fund and had turned to China and India for loans, and appealed to people to limit the use of fuel and electricity.


Daesh claims attack on Pakistani envoy in Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
Updated 04 December 2022

Daesh claims attack on Pakistani envoy in Kabul

Taliban fighters stand guard near to the site of attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
  • “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will not allow any malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul,” it said in a statement, vowing to find and punish those responsible

KABUL: The Daesh group claimed responsibility Saturday for an attack on Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul, which Islamabad decried as an “assassination attempt.”
A security guard was wounded in the attack Friday in the Afghan capital.
In a statement cited by jihadist monitor SITE, Daesh’s regional chapter said it had “attacked the apostate Pakistani ambassador and his guards.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has called it “an assassination attempt” on the head of the mission, and demanded an investigation.
A Kabul police spokesman said one suspect had been arrested and two light weapons seized after security forces swept a nearby building.
Although Pakistan does not officially recognize Afghanistan’s Taliban government, it kept its embassy open even as the hard-line group took over in August last year, and maintains a full diplomatic mission.
An embassy official told AFP a lone attacker “came behind the cover of houses and started firing,” but that the ambassador and other staff were safe.
A spokesman for Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said they strongly condemned the “failed attack.”
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will not allow any malicious actors to pose a threat to the security of diplomatic missions in Kabul,” it said in a statement, vowing to find and punish those responsible.
Pakistan has complicated relations with the Taliban, with Islamabad long accused of supporting the hard-line group even while backing the US-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled them following the 9/11 attacks.
Pakistan is home to more than a million Afghan refugees, and the porous border they share is frequently the scene of clashes.
Since returning to power, the Afghan Taliban have insisted they would not allow foreign militant groups to operate from home soil.
 

 


Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing
Updated 04 December 2022

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing

Concern as English local authority admits 39 Albanian child migrants missing
  • FOI request shows 20 percent of 2022 intake ‘disappeared’ while in Kent County Council care

LONDON: Up to 20 percent of Albanian child migrants relocated to an English council in 2022 have been classified as disappeared after going missing, the BBC reported.

Kent County Council admitted 197 unaccompanied Albanian child migrants up to Oct. 31, but figures show that 39 have gone missing.

Officials said that the council is working closely with the UK Home Office to protect and safeguard vulnerable migrant children.

It comes as figures revealed that almost 12,000 Albanians crossed into the UK this year.

The number is an almost 4,000 percent increase on last year’s figure.

Ecpat UK, a campaign group that aims to protect vulnerable children, described the figures obtained by the BBC through a Freedom of Information request as “concerning.”

Head of policy, advocacy and research Laura Duran said that the 20 percent figure represented a “really high” number of missing children.

“We’re really concerned they are at risk of exploitation or have effectively been trafficked,” she said.

“They could be facing labor exploitation in different industries such as construction or car washes. They could be criminally exploited in drug distribution or in cannabis farms, or they could be sexually exploited.”

In a statement, Kent County Council said: “While all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are vulnerable to exploitation, research and experience evidences that some nationalities are particularly vulnerable and can go missing from local authority care very quickly.

“Kent County Council has used both established safeguarding protocols, including the National Referral Mechanism, and initiated multi-agency strategies to minimize the risks for these children as much as possible.

“The council continues to take a proactive role in safeguarding all unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in its care.”


UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths

UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths
Updated 04 December 2022

UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths

UK officials warn over Strep infections after child deaths
  • Six children in England and Wales died after being diagnosed with the rare invasive Group A strep (iGAS) illness

LONDON: UK health officials warned on Friday that parents have to be alert for scarlet fever symptoms in their children, following the death of six youngsters from a more serious Group A strep-related illness.

British youngster Muhammad Ibrahim Ali, 4, started showing signs of a red rash across his lower back, and was prescribed antibiotics and Calpol.

Two weeks later, his condition worsened and he developed stomach pains, before dying in an ambulance en route to hospital.

Britain’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said five other children in England and Wales had died after being diagnosed with the rare invasive Group A strep (iGAS) illness.

UKHSA Deputy Director Colin Brown said the UK was “seeing a higher number of cases of Group A strep this year than usual” but resulting serious illnesses were “still uncommon.”

“The bacteria usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics,” he added.

“However, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated and we can stop the infection becoming serious.”

Brown urged parents to talk to a health professional if their child showed “signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

The UKHSA said there were 851 scarlet fever cases reported in England in the most recent week with statistics available, compared to an average of 186 for the preceding years.

Investigations are also underway following reports of an increase in lower respiratory tract Group A strep infections in children over the past few weeks, which have caused severe illness.

* With AFP


US condemns shooting at Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan

Islamabad  claims that  anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan. (AP)
Islamabad claims that anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2022

US condemns shooting at Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan

Islamabad  claims that  anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan. (AP)
  • In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday said the US condemned the Embassy attack, telling reporters “we offer our sympathies and wish a quick recovery to those affected by the violence”

ISLAMABAD: The US on Saturday condemned an attack a day earlier on the Pakistani Embassy in Afghanistan’s capital, in which a senior Pakistani diplomat escaped unhurt but one of his Pakistani guards was wounded, sending a wave of anger in this Islamic nation.
Friday’s assault comes amid rising tensions between the South Asian neighbors over Islamabad’s claims that anti-Pakistan forces are organizing terrorist attacks from hideouts in Afghanistan.
Shots were fired at the embassy from a nearby building by an as-yet known assailant or assailants. Shortly after the shooting, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif took to Twitter on Friday, calling the attack an “assassination attempt” against Pakistan’s head of mission in Afghanistan, Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani.
Pakistan repatriated the wounded guard Israr Mohammad by helicopter and he was being treated at a hospital on Saturday.
The embassy attack came days after Pakistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar flew to Kabul to hold talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on a range of issues, including the latest threat from Pakistani Taliban who recently ended a monthslong ceasefire with Pakistan and asked fighters to resume attacks across the country.
In Washington, US State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday said the US condemned the Embassy attack, telling reporters “we offer our sympathies and wish a quick recovery to those affected by the violence.”
The US is “deeply concerned by the attack on a foreign diplomat and we call for a full and transparent investigation,” Price said.
The US chargé d’affaires for Afghanistan, Karen Decker also condemned the attack on Nizamani in a tweet Saturday.
“Outraged at attack on my diplomatic counterpart @PakinAfg, Ubaid Nizamani; I am grateful he is safe & wish a quick recovery to the brave security guard who was injured. I join the call for a swift, thorough and transparent investigation,” Decker wrote.
Muttaqi on Friday evening called Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to condemn the “terrorist attack” targeting Nizamani, according to a Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement.
Muttaqi assured Bhutto-Zardari that “the Afghan government will bring the perpetrators of this heinous attack to justice swiftly,” the statement said.
Bhutto-Zardari thanked Muttaqi and said the “Taliban government must prevent the terrorists from undermining relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the statement said. It said Pakistan on its part reiterated its unwavering commitment to fight terrorism, saying “Pakistan will be undeterred by such cowardly attacks.”
Friday’s shooting comes a day after Pakistan demanded Afghanistan’s Taliban government prevent terrorist attacks being organized from their soil by Pakistani Taliban, who are hiding in Afghanistan.
Pakistan made the request after a suicide bomber dispatched by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group, or TTP blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers near Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. A police officer and three civilians were killed in Wednesday’s attack.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in their country last year as the US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from Afghanistan.
On Friday, Kabul’s police chief spokesman Khalid Zadran said police had detained a suspect at the building from where the shots were fired Friday. Also Friday, a prominent politician and warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, escaped unhurt in a separate attack in Kabul, his office said.

 

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Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim
Updated 03 December 2022

Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim
  • PM Anwar Ibrahim will also hold finance ministry portfolio
  • New government to focus on good governance, economy

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s new Cabinet led by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in on Saturday, after divisive polls last month.
Anwar became Malaysia’s 10th premier on Nov. 24 after a general election that produced no outright winner ended in a hung parliament.
With his reformist alliance Pakatan Harapan failing to secure a simple majority, he eventually formed a coalition government with the help of other political blocs.
Anwar unveiled his Cabinet lineup in a televised speech on Friday night, taking himself the Finance Ministry portfolio — a Cabinet role he first held 30 years ago — and appointing two deputy prime ministers: Ahmad Zahid Hamidi from the Barisan Nasional alliance, which had long dominated Malaysia’s political scene, and Fadillah Yusof, another key coalition partner from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, a regional Borneo-based bloc.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (right), Deputy Prime Ministers Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Fadillah Yusof during the swearing-in ceremony. (AFP)

“The strength of the unity government has exceeded the two-thirds support in the parliament.  This mandate has given us the confidence to form a stronger cabinet line-up and we will work as a team,” Anwar said as he announced the lineup.

SPEEDREAD

Anwar unveiled his Cabinet lineup in a televised speech on Friday night, taking himself the Finance Ministry portfolio — a Cabinet role he first held 30 years ago — and appointing two deputy prime ministers: Ahmad Zahid Hamidi from the Barisan Nasional alliance, which had long dominated Malaysia’s political scene, and Fadillah Yusof, another key coalition partner from Gabungan Parti Sarawak, a regional Borneo-based bloc.

The new ministers, some clad in traditional Malay attire, took their oath on Saturday before King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur.
The government with many new faces was expected to bring stability following a spate of political uncertainty in the Southeast Asian country, which saw three prime ministers in as many years. Anwar said good governance, spurring the economy, and reducing the burden of living costs will be their top priorities.
“This is the most stable lineup we can expect from the new administration,” BowerAsiaGroup director Adib Zalkapli told Arab News. “He has to balance the demands of all political parties in the coalition.”
The appointment of Hamidi as one of Anwar’s deputies had raised eyebrows as it appeared to contradict his anti-corruption platform. Hamidi, president of the Barisan Nasional coalition and the United Malays National Organization, has been charged with graft and was a key ally of jailed ex-leader Najib Razak.
Dr. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said the move was necessary.
“Anwar needs Zahid to keep the Malay nationalist party UMNO with him,” he told Arab News.
Ethnic Malays make up a majority of Malaysia’s 33 million population, which also has a significant population of ethnic Chinese and Indians.
Dr. James Chin, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, said Anwar represented “a moderate Malaysia.”
“Most Malaysians will welcome this cabinet,” Chin told Arab News. “This cabinet has a better reflection of the multiracial society in Malaysia.”