‘Life-saving’ peanut paste unlikely victim of Ukraine war

‘Life-saving’ peanut paste unlikely victim of Ukraine war
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Internally displaced people seat in a tent in the makeshift camp where they are sheltered in the village of Erebti, Ethiopia, on June 09, 2022. (AFP)
‘Life-saving’ peanut paste unlikely victim of Ukraine war
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A mother washes the face of a child in the makeshift camp where they are sheltered in the village of Erebti, Ethiopia, on June 09, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 03 August 2022

‘Life-saving’ peanut paste unlikely victim of Ukraine war

‘Life-saving’ peanut paste unlikely victim of Ukraine war
  • As 1.7 million children face starvation in drought-stricken Horn of Africa, the cost of these life-saving supplements is skyrocketing 
  • UNICEF says the conflict in Ukraine is making ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) more expensive to manufacture and procure

MARSABIT, Kenya: Under an acacia tree in Kenya’s drought-ravaged north, malnourished infants feed on sticky mouthfuls of a nutrient-dense peanut paste long used to prevent child starvation in disasters across the globe.
This wonder food can mean the difference between life and death for a child in hard-hit Marsabit, where aid workers say young children are perishing in conditions that border on famine.
“If we ran out of these, more deaths would be recorded very soon,” James Jarso of aid group World Vision said of the sachets being distributed by charity workers in the parched and isolated village of Purapul.
But just as 1.7 million children face starvation in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, the cost of these life-saving supplements is skyrocketing because of another crisis unfolding thousands of miles away.
The conflict in Ukraine is making ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) more expensive to manufacture and procure, says UNICEF, which buys almost 80 percent of the world’s supply.
Ukraine is a major exporter of sunflower oil, wheat and other grains. The war has affected the price and availability of staple foods, driven up fuel prices, and disrupted supply chains already off-kilter because of the pandemic.
A knock-on effect has been higher prices for powdered milk, vegetable oils and peanuts — all key ingredients in RUTF, said Christiane Rudert, a nutrition adviser for UNICEF for southern and eastern Africa.
Even the materials used to make RUTF packaging have become scarcer and costlier, she said.




A child eats a ready-to-use therapeutic food bag (RUTF) at a clinic in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. (AFP file)

UNICEF, which purchases around 49,000 tons of RUTF every year, is starting to feel the pinch.
“The cost has definitely gone up already, which affects our orders,” Rudert told AFP.
French company Nutriset told AFP it raised the cost of its leading RUTF product “Plumpy’Nut” twice in the past year, including a 13-percent hike in May.
It could not attribute this directly to Ukraine but a confluence of factors, including the war but also the pandemic, higher shipping costs, and environmental disasters, Nutriset said in a statement.
Overall the price of “Plumpy’Nut” — which reached 9.7 million children last year — had risen 23 percent since May 2021, it said.
UNICEF forecasts that by November, prices for RUTF will have risen 16 percent from pre-war levels.
Russia’s invasion has also raised fuel prices, making it costlier to deliver RUTF to where it’s needed.
The timing could not be worse.
More than 1.7 million children in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are suffering the most lethal form of malnutrition as the Horn of Africa experiences its worst drought in generations.
The rising cost of RUTF means treating those children “will cost $12 million more than it would have cost before Ukraine,” Rudert said.
It is money that is sorely lacking, she said, with donations to address the hunger crisis in the Horn falling well short of need.
“This product... is literally what saves children’s lives when they have already reached that really severe form of malnutrition.
“It’s not just peanuts and milk and sugar and oil... it’s therapeutic,” Rudert said.

Revolutionary treatment
Invented a quarter of a century ago, RUTF proved revolutionary in treating severe wasting, a deadly condition where underfed children are too thin for their height.
A single sachet of RUTF delivers 500 calories and essential vitamins and minerals.
Eaten directly from the packet, RUTF helps malnourished children quickly regain weight and energy, and requires no refrigeration or preparation by a health care worker.
This is essential in remote and impoverished regions like northern Kenya, where clean water and health workers are in short supply.
On a twice-monthly visit to Purapul, government doctor Mohamed Amin said most women and children were surviving on little else than the packs of paste he prescribed.
“It has really been a challenge,” he told AFP at a mobile health clinic, where mothers were handed two weeks’ worth of supplements to feed their children between screenings.
“At least it boosts them.”
UNICEF buys enough RUTF to feed at least 3.5 million children a year. But at current funding levels, a 16-percent price rise could mean 600,000 miss out on this life-saving treatment, Rudert said.
This would have disastrous consequences not just for the Horn but elsewhere in Africa such as South Sudan, where 300,000 children are expected to require RUTF treatment this year.
Jarso, from World Vision, said the impact of RUTF in a place like Purapul could not be overstated.
“There is no milk. There is no meat... there is no food for them. Therefore, it is life-saving.”


Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says

Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says
Updated 58 min 34 sec ago

Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says

Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader says
  • The 45-year-old recorded a monologue in English, Spanish and French that rails at "the left" and defends her fight for "stability, freedom and prosperity for Italy"
  • Meloni has agreed an alliance to form a government with Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini's anti-immigration League

ROME: Fascism is history, Italy’s far-right leader Giorgia Meloni declared Wednesday in a video message aimed at international critics alarmed by her predicted victory in September 25 elections.
The 45-year-old, whose Brothers of Italy party is topping opinion polls, recorded a monologue in English, Spanish and French that rails at “the left” and defends her fight for “stability, freedom and prosperity for Italy.”
“I have been reading that the victory of Fratelli d’Italia in the September elections would mean a disaster, leading to an authoritarian turn, Italy’s departure from the euro and other nonsense of this sort. None of this is true,” she said in the video sent to international journalists.
She also condemned as “absurd” the notion she would put at risk far-reaching structural reforms agreed with the European Union in return for billions of euros in post-pandemic recovery funds.
Brothers of Italy, which Meloni founded in 2012, is a political descendant of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), formed by supporters of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after World War II.
But she insisted in her video: “The Italian right has handed fascism over to history for decades now, unambiguously condemning the suppression of democracy and the ignominious anti-Jewish laws.”
Brothers of Italy was the only main party not to join the national unity government formed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi in February 2021 — and has since seen its poll ratings soar.
Since the coalition collapsed and Draghi resigned last month, it has remained in pole position with around 23 percent of support.
Meloni has agreed an alliance to form a government with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League, but reiterated this week she plans to be prime minister if her party comes out on top.
Her rise has prompted a slew of negative headlines at home and abroad, to which her team is starting to respond, including with an interview to Fox News in English last month.
Meloni emphasises her Christian and family values, backs more defense spending, lower taxes and an end to mass immigration.
In her video, she says the “Italian conservatives” she leads are “a bastion of freedom and defense of Western values.”
While backing the EU’s tough response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she is highly critical of the bloc and has ties to Spain’s Vox and Poland’s Law and Justice parties.
In her video, she emphasised the “shared values” with Britain’s Conservatives, the US Republicans and Israel’s Likud.


Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers

Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers
Updated 10 August 2022

Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers

Sri Lanka introduces bill to clip presidential powers
  • If passed into law, the amendments would reinstate democratic reforms made in 2015

COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan government minister on Wednesday submitted to Parliament a constitutional amendment bill that would clip the powers of the president, a key demand of protesters calling for political reforms and solutions to the country’s worst economic crisis.
Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapakshe presented the bill, which would transfer some presidential powers — including those to appoint independent election commission members, police and public service officials, and bribery and corruption investigators — into the hands of a constitutional council comprising lawmakers and respected non-political persons. The council would then recommend candidates for these appointments that the president could choose from.
Under the proposed amendments, the president also would only be able to appoint a chief justice, other senior judges, an attorney general and a central bank governor on the recommendation of the council. The prime minister would recommend appointments to the Cabinet and the president would not be allowed to hold any ministry positions except defense.
The bill, which will undergo debate, must be approved by two-thirds of Sri Lanka’s 225-member Parliament to become law.
If passed into law, the amendments would reinstate democratic reforms made in 2015. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was ousted as president by angry protests last month, reversed those reforms and concentrated power in himself after being elected to office in 2019.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who succeeded Rajapaksa, has promised to limit the powers of the presidency and strengthen Parliament in response to the protesters’ demands.
Sri Lankans have staged massive street protests for the past four months demanding democratic reforms and solutions to the country’s economic collapse.
Protesters blame the Rajapaksa family’s alleged mismanagement and corruption for the economic crisis that has led to serious shortages of essentials like medicines, food and fuel.
The island nation is negotiating with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout program.
The protests have largely dismantled the Rajapaksa political dynasty that ruled Sri Lanka for most of the past two decades.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled to Singapore last month after angry protesters stormed his official residence and occupied several key state buildings. His older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister in May and three other close family members resigned from their Cabinet positions before him.


Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat

Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat
Updated 10 August 2022

Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat

Dozens missing after Greece rescues 29 migrants from capsized boat

ATHENS: Dozens of migrants are reported missing from a sunken boat after Greece’s coast guard rescued 29 in the Aegean Sea on Wednesday.
The rescued migrants said their boat had set out from Antalya, Turkey, heading toward Italy with 60 to 80 people aboard, according to a coast guard spokesperson.
It had capsized and sunk off the island of Karpathos in the southern Aegean, spokesperson Nikos Kokkalas told state television. The search and rescue operation had begun in the early morning hours amid strong winds, he added.
The rescued migrants were Afghans, Iranians and Iraqis, another coast guard official said on condition of anonymity.
Greece was at the front line of a European migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, when a million refugees fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan arrived in the country, mainly via Turkey.
The number of migrant arrivals has fallen sharply since then. But Greek authorities say they have recently seen a sharp increase in attempted entries through the country’s islands and land border with Turkey.


Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions

Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions
Updated 10 August 2022

Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions

Philippines cancels Russia helicopter deal over US sanctions
  • Manila, a longtime Washington ally, agreed in November to pay $228 million for the Mi-17 helicopters

MANILA: The Philippines has scrapped an order for 16 Russian military helicopters, an official confirmed Wednesday, following reports former president Rodrigo Duterte decided to cancel it due to US sanctions on Moscow.
Manila — a longtime Washington ally — agreed in November to pay $228 million (12.7 billion pesos) for the Mi-17 helicopters, as it seeks to modernize its military hardware.
The United States and its allies imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Moscow in the wake of its assault on Ukraine in February.
They are aimed at cutting off Russia from the global financial system and choking off funds available to Moscow to finance the war.
The Philippine defense department was “formalizing the termination” of the contract, spokesman Arsenio Andolong said Wednesday.
Without mentioning US sanctions on Moscow, Andolong said “changes in priorities necessitated by global political developments resulted in the cancelation of the project by the previous administration.”
Delfin Lorenzana, who served as defense secretary under Duterte, said in March that the Philippines had paid a deposit for the transport helicopters before war erupted in Ukraine and the deal was “on track.”
But last week Lorenzana, who now heads a different government agency, told local media that Duterte himself decided to cancel the deal in the waning days of his administration over the sanctions threat.
“I don’t know if we can still get back the money since we were the ones who terminated the contract,” Lorenzana told reporters.
Russian embassy officials in Manila could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Philippine ambassador to Washington Jose Romualdez recently told AFP the decision to cancel was triggered by “the Ukrainian war.”
Romualdez said Manila was also wary of falling foul of a US law passed in 2017 that sanctions anyone doing business with Russia’s intelligence or defense sectors.
The United States was offering “alternative helicopters to meet our needs,” he added.
Manila began a modest military modernization program in 2012. Until recently, its equipment featured Vietnam War-era helicopters and World War II naval vessels used by the United States.
After President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took power on June 30, the new government reviewed the Russian deal, arriving at the same decision as Duterte.


Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport

Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport
Updated 10 August 2022

Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport

Police kill knife-wielding man at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport
  • Initially the man left while yelling curses but he soon returned and brought out a knife

BOBIGNY, Fra.: Police officers shot and killed a man who brandished a knife at the Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris on Wednesday, police and airport sources said.
“Officers neutralized a threatening individual in possession of a knife at the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport,” the Paris police department said on its Twitter account.
An airport source said the incident occurred at the busy Terminal 2F at around 8:20 am (0620 GMT), when “a homeless man started bothering security agents and border police were called in to remove him.”
Initially the man left while yelling curses but he soon returned and brought out a knife, when one of the officers fired his weapon.
An AFP photographer who witnessed the scene said “a large person of color brandished something that looked like a knife at the police.”
“He was ordered to stop but kept advancing toward them, and an officer fired a single shot.”
The man was quickly put on a stretcher and evacuated, the photographer said.
Security forces have been on high alert for terrorist attacks since a wave of jihadist killings that have killed more than 250 people since 2015, often by so-called “lone wolves” who often target police.