In Pakistan, fears of waterborne diseases as floods recede

In Pakistan, fears of waterborne diseases as floods recede
Displaced people are transported through floodwaters by boat, in Multan, Pakistan, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. (AP Photo)
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Updated 31 August 2022

In Pakistan, fears of waterborne diseases as floods recede

In Pakistan, fears of waterborne diseases as floods recede
  • Doctors are now treating people suffering from diarrhea, skin infections and other waterborne ailments in the country’s flood-hit areas
  • Pakistani government forced to deploy additional medical teams, dispatch medicine and provide clean drinking water to survivors

ISLAMABAD: Officials in Pakistan raised concern Wednesday over the spread of waterborne diseases among thousands of flood victims as waters from powerful monsoon rains began to recede in many parts of the country.
Some doctors said initially they were seeing mostly patients traumatized by the flooding, but are now treating people suffering from diarrhea, skin infections and other waterborne ailments in the country’s flood-hit areas.
The development has forced the government to deploy additional medical teams, dispatch medicine and provide clean drinking water to survivors, many of whom are living in tents and makeshift homes.
The warning came a day after record-breaking floods prompted the United Nations to formally issue an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to the impoverished Islamic nation, where about a million homes have been damaged or destroyed.
Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, health minister in the country’s worst-affected province of Sindh, said officials have set up 4,210 medical camps in the province’s flood-hit areas to treat victims now suffering from skin and waterborne diseases, which are common during floods.
The World Health Organization began aiding Pakistani authorities in their efforts to treat people injured in the rains and flooding. The agency said in a statement it was working to increase surveillance for acute diarrhea, cholera and other communicable diseases to avoid their spreading further, and is also providing medicine and medical supplies to health facilities.
“WHO is working with health authorities to respond quickly and effectively on the ground,” said Dr. Palitha Mahipala, the WHO representative in Pakistan. “Our key priorities now are to ensure rapid access to essential health services to the flood-affected population, (to) strengthen and expand disease surveillance, outbreak prevention and control, and ensure robust health cluster coordination.”
Authorities said waterborne diseases among flood victims are now common across the country.
“Initially we received injured people, but now diarrhea is common,” said Farhad Khan, a physician in charge of a medical camp set up in the northwestern town of Charsadda. It is one of the worst flood-hit districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, where floods killed 257 people since mid-June.
Pakistani authorities backed by the military, rescuers and volunteers, have struggled to evacuate marooned people to safer places. On Wednesday, military helicopters continued evacuating flood victims and delivering food to remote regions, according to a statement released by the military. It said it has deployed at least 6,500 troops to assist in rescue and relief operations.
Rescuers were also using boats to evacuate stranded people in southern Sindh province and in remote villages in eastern Punjab province. Floods in the past 24 hours damaged about 70,000 more homes in the country’s northwest and southern Sindh province, according to National Disaster Management Authority.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif in a visit to the flood-hit Swat Valley promised the rehabilitation of every person displaced by the flood. In his televised comments, Shahbaz thanked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for responding to Pakistan’s request and issuing an appeal for $160 million in emergency funding to help flood victims. Guterres on Tuesday urged the world: “Let’s stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change.”
Sharif’s visit comes days after a raging Swat River destroyed the iconic New Honeymoon Hotel in the northwestern tourist resort of Kalam. There were no casualties as tourists and staff left the hotel following government evacuation instructions, and residents in Kalam said many streets there were still flooded.
Pakistan says it has received aid from some countries and others were dispatching aid, too. According to initial government estimates, the devastation caused $10 billion in damage to the economy.
Kamran Bangash, a government spokesman in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said with evacuations wrapping up, officials are now focused on providing food and clean drinking water to flood victims.
“We fear the outbreak of the waterborne disease in flood-hit areas,” he told The Associated Press. He said hundreds of people have contracted such illnesses in various parts of the province.
“In recent weeks floodwater badly affected hundreds of thousands of people. We don’t want them to again suffer; this time due to non-availability of clean water and it can be avoided,” Bangash said.
Although the rains stopped three days ago, large swaths of the country remain under water, and the main rivers, the Indus and the Swat, are still swollen. The National Disaster Management Authority has warned emergency services to be on maximum alert, saying flood waters over the next 24 hours could cause further damage.


EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies
Updated 58 min 29 sec ago

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies

EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies
  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that treatments containing pholcodine should be withdrawn from sale
  • "Use of pholcodine in the 12 months before general anaesthesia... is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction"

THE HAGUE: Cough medicines containing the chemical pholcodine should be banned due to the risk of potentially deadly allergic reactions in people under general anaesthetic, the European Union’s drug regulator said Friday.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that treatments containing pholcodine, which is used in adults and children to treat dry coughs, should be withdrawn from sale.
“Use of pholcodine in the 12 months before general anaesthesia... is a risk factor for developing an anaphylactic reaction” to muscle relaxants in the anaesthetic, the Amsterdam-based watchdog said.
Anaphylactic shock is a “sudden, severe and life-threatening allergic reaction,” it added.
Medicines with the chemical were “being withdrawn from the EU market and will therefore no longer be available by prescription or over the counter.”
Opioid-based pholcodine has been used as a cough medicine since the 1950s.
Medicines containing the chemical are currently authorized in the EU countries of Belgium, Croatia, France, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Slovenia, under brand names including Dimetane, Biocalyptol and Broncalene.
France had said in September that pholcodine could be banned due to the risk of allergies.
In April 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when a dry cough was one of the main symptoms of the disease, French authorities had recommended against the use of syrups with pholcodine.
The EMA in January had recommended updating packaging to warn of the risk of allergies, based on new data.


UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows
Updated 02 December 2022

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows

UK refugee scheme resettled just 4 Afghans since Taliban takeover, data shows
  • Program aimed to resettle 5,000 vulnerable people during first year of operation
  • Second policy for Afghans who supported the UK military has helped 6,500 people

LONDON: One of the UK’s programs to house Afghan refugees has resettled just four people since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August last year, The Independent reported.
The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, one of two UK government programs for the urgent relocation of vulnerable Afghan refugees, aimed to resettle 5,000 people in Britain within its first year of operation.
However, Home Office data shows that while about 6,500 Afghans had been welcomed as part of a second scheme — the Afghan Relocation Assistance Policy — only four had been resettled as part of ACRS.
The more successful ARAP targeted Afghans who worked with and supported British military operations during the country’s near two-decade civil war.
ACRS, which launched in January, aims to help Afghans who “assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, freedom of speech, and rule of law,” the government said.
Unlike ARAP, the scheme receives referrals for vulnerable Afghans directly from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Due to safety issues within Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, many of the potential targets of the scheme have already fled to neighboring countries, including Pakistan and Iran.
They have since been left in limbo, however, awaiting responses from the UK government amid warning calls from the UNHCR.
A former high-ranking Afghan prosecutor who has resided in Pakistan since the fall of Kabul has been unable to relocate to the UK despite having family members there.
He said: “I am constantly terrified; I am worried that I will go to jail. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
His lawyer, Deena Patel, said that the prosecutor’s case had been referred to the UNHCR but that progress has been slow.
She added: “The number of four Afghans (relocated through ACRS) is highly believable. The prosecutor’s case was a strong case on merit.
“He should have been relocated under pathway two, but he’s been waiting months on end.
“This is just taking way too long. The UNHCR have to do a refugee assessment in each case, if they are not even speeding up this process then they are not going to make a referral to the Home Office.
“We know the crisis that this is causing — a large proportion of those arriving (in the UK) illegally are Afghans. What can you do if there is no legal route?”
The opposition Labour Party’s shadow immigration minister, Stephen Kinnock, said: “Britain owes a debt of gratitude to courageous Afghans who served British interests in Afghanistan, and it is a debt that must be honored.
“UN figures show that since last summer at least 160 Afghans have been killed through reprisal attacks.”
The government “must urgently clear the asylum backlog at home, while working more effectively with the UNHCR to keep the promise they made last autumn to bring vulnerable Afghans to safety,” he added.
Mary Atkinson, campaigns officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, described the latest Home Office ACRS figures as “disgraceful.”
She added: “We shouldn’t allow this government to get away with its shameful abandonment of the Afghan people — we need a fully functioning Afghan resettlement scheme now.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has made one of the largest commitments to support Afghanistan of any country and, so far, we have brought more than 22,800 vulnerable Afghans to safety.
“However, the situation is complex and presents us with significant challenges, including safe passage out of the country for those who want to leave and who are eligible for resettlement in the UK.”


Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies
Updated 02 December 2022

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies
  • The “bloody parcels” were received by the Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy and Czech
  • Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said that “we are studying the meaning of this message”

KYIV: Ukrainian embassies and consulates in six European countries have received packages containing animals’ eyes in recent days, a Ukrainian official said Friday.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko wrote on Facebook that the “bloody parcels” were received by the Ukrainian embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia and Italy, as well as by consulates in Naples, Italy; Krakow, Poland and the Czech city of Brno. He said that “we are studying the meaning of this message.”
Nikolenko said they arrived after a package containing an explosive device that was sent to the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid ignited upon opening on Wednesday and injured an employee. That was one of multiple explosive parcels found in Spain this week.
In addition, the entrance to the residence of the Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican was vandalized and the embassy in Kazakhstan was warned of a mine attack, though that wasn’t confirmed, Nikolenko said.
All Ukrainian embassies and consulates have stepped up security measures. Nikolenko quoted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as saying that “we have reason to believe that a well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation of Ukrainian embassies and consulates is taking place.”


Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police
Updated 02 December 2022

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police

Bombs target Italian embassy cars in Athens: police
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility and officers are still investigating

ATHENS: Two explosive devices targeted cars belonging to the Italian embassy in Greece on Friday, one of which went off causing no injuries, Greek police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility and officers said they were investigating.
A homemade bomb exploded at around 4:00 am (0200 GMT), damaging a vehicle parked at the home of an embassy officer in an Athens suburb, police said.
The other device, placed near a second diplomatic vehicle, did not go off.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed “deep concern” at what she called an “attack... probably of anarchist origin.”
The far-right leader sent her “personal thoughts and those of the Italian government to the first counsellor of the Italian embassy in Athens, Susanna Schlein.”
Meloni added she was following the case “with the utmost attention” and through Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani who was in Athens for talks on Friday.
The Greek foreign ministry “strongly condemned the attack” and said such “unacceptable” acts “would not disrupt... the excellent relations and ties of long-standing friendship between Greece and its partner and ally Italy.”
Crude, homemade devices, which cause damage but rarely injuries, are commonly used against political or diplomatic targets, banks or foreign companies in Greece.
Police often blame groups on the extreme left or anarchists.


Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine

Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine
Updated 02 December 2022

Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine

Kremlin: Vladimir Putin is open to talks on Ukraine
  • ‘The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests’
  • Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation

MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin is open to talks on a possible settlement to the conflict in Ukraine and believes in a diplomatic solution, the Kremlin said on Friday after Joe Biden suggested he was prepared to speak to the Russian leader.
Biden, speaking beside French President Emmanuel Macron, said the only way to end the war in Ukraine was for Putin to pull troops out and that if Putin was looking to end the conflict then Biden would be prepared to speak to the Kremlin chief.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov struck a dovish tone when asked about Biden’s remarks, saying that Putin remained open to negotiations but that Russia would not pull out of Ukraine.
“The president of the Russian Federation has always been, is and remains open to negotiations in order to ensure our interests,” Peskov told reporters.
Putin has said he has no regrets about launching what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, casting it as a watershed moment when Russia finally stood up to arrogant Western hegemony after decades of humiliation in the years since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is ejected from its territory.
Russia has claimed around a fifth of Ukraine’s post-Soviet territory, annexations the West and Ukraine say they will never accept.
Peskov said that the refusal of the United States to recognize “the new territories” as Russian was hindering a search for any potential compromise.
Asked if the way Biden was framing potential contacts meant that negotiations were impossible from a Russian perspective, Peskov said: “In essence, that’s what Biden said. He said that negotiations are possible only after Putin leaves Ukraine.”
The Kremlin, Peskov said, could not accept that — and the Russian military operation would continue in Ukraine.
“But at the same time — it is very important to give this in conjunction – President Putin has been, is and remains open for contacts, for negotiations. Of course, the most preferable way to achieve our interests is through peaceful, diplomatic means.”
The conflict has left tens of thousands of soldiers dead on both sides and triggered the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.