As floodwaters recede, rising tide of disease hits southwest Pakistan

A Pakistani paramedic treats a sick child at a makeshift medical camp set for people displaced by floods in Dadu district, Sindh province. (AFP)
A Pakistani paramedic treats a sick child at a makeshift medical camp set for people displaced by floods in Dadu district, Sindh province. (AFP)
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Updated 30 September 2022

As floodwaters recede, rising tide of disease hits southwest Pakistan

As floodwaters recede, rising tide of disease hits southwest Pakistan
  • Tens of thousands of new malaria, cholera, skin, eye disease cases reported in Balochistan
  • ‘Full-scale operation’ needed in Pakistan’s poorest province to stem disease outbreak: World Health Organization

BALOCHISTAN: As Yar Khan stood outside the outpatient ward at the District Headquarter Hospital in a small town in southwestern Pakistan, it was not his own stomach pain that worried him but the high fever that had for days gripped his one-year-old nephew.

Khan’s family feared the infant had contracted one of the many infectious and water-borne diseases that have spread in the aftermath of devastating monsoon rains and floods in Pakistan.

Record rains in the south and southwest of Pakistan that began in mid-June, and glacial melt in northern areas, triggered flooding that has killed more than 1,600 people and affected nearly 33 million people in the South Asian nation of 220 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads, and livestock and causing an estimated $30 billion of damage.

Weeks after the rains stopped, large swathes of the country’s southwestern Balochistan and southern Sindh provinces remain flooded, and millions of survivors, many living in tents, makeshift shelters, or under the open sky on roadsides, face a host of other problems, including diseases such as diarrhea, skin infections, and coughs and colds, government and relief officials said.

The presence of mosquitoes and the spread of the diseases they carry, including dengue fever and malaria, have become particularly concerning.

Data from the Balochistan health department showed 38,476 cases of malaria, skin diseases, acute respiratory infection, cholera, and eye infections having been reported in Balochistan since Sept. 17. The World Health Organization on Thursday warned that a “full-scale operation” was needed in Balochistan to stem the tide of disease.

The influx of new patients daily has overwhelmed Pakistan’s already weak health system, particularly in Balochistan, the country’s poorest and least-developed province.

“I have taken him to all the doctors in my village, but my nephew didn’t get well,” Khan, 21, told Arab News from Dera Allah Yar city in Balochistan’s Jaffarabad division, where he had traveled from his village of Chatan, still “neck deep” in water, six kilometers away.

“Now I have brought him to the DHQ Hospital and traveled through floodwater to reach Dera Allah Yar,” the daily wage laborer added.

“For too many days I have been feeling pain in my stomach,” Khan said. “I visited all doctors in my village, but they were unable to diagnose what is causing my pain and why my nephew is sick.

“In the three or four houses of my relatives, everyone is ill.”

Tania Bibi, 20, a resident of Goth Karam Shah in Dera Allah Yar, was diagnosed with a skin disease 10 days ago. But her illness is the least of her worries, she said, as her four children are all ill.

“It’s been a month, we have been living on the Dera Allah Yar highway which is surrounded by contaminated flood water,” Bibi told Arab News. “There are too many mosquitoes and insects.

“The pimples (on her face) popped up after the flood. It used to hurt a lot, it still hurts, it’s still the same.”

Bibi said her daughters and one son had been diagnosed with malaria and anemia respectively and now another son had a high fever.

Doctors at DHQ Dera Allah Yar had prescribed medicines for the whole family but Bibi, whose husband is an out-of-work daily wage laborer, said she did not have the money to buy them.

The hospital itself is struggling to deal with the influx of patients from surrounding areas.

“We have a shortage of medicines and staff to deal with the overburden of patients at the DHQ Hospital,” Dr. Ishma Khoso, a senior medical officer at the DHQ Dera Allah Yar, said. “It is because people from Sohbat Pur district and other far-flung areas are now coming here for treatment.

“The same water, animals are standing in it and using it, and now people are using it to wash clothes and dishes and perhaps drinking it as well,” Khoso said, adding that the hospital was facing a “200 percent increase in the number of patients suffering from water-borne diseases.”

Dr. Imran Baloch, a medical superintendent at the hospital, said at least 12 newborn babies were being regularly treated for ARI at the facility, and the number was steadily rising, creating challenges for doctors.

“There used to be 400 patients regularly coming to the hospital, but now 900-plus patients are coming daily, so we are having a lot of difficulty in managing them,” Baloch added.

Umar Khan Jamali, a legislator from Jaffarabad district, described the flood as “one of the most severe natural disasters in the history of Pakistan,” and pointed out that no government would have been capable of coping with a natural catastrophe on such a large scale.

“The government of Pakistan and Balochistan have made international calls for assistance but unfortunately we didn’t receive any positive response, particularly in the health crisis that surfaced after the flood,” Jamali told Arab News.

“The provincial health department has been utilizing all its available resources to ensure quality health services to the flood-affected people.”

Meanwhile, people such as Khan and his family wait for help.

“I want my nephew to be treated by senior doctors here, but due to a large number of patients in the hospital, we are facing delays in medical treatment. Despite sitting outside the OPD for five hours, I am still waiting for my turn to see a doctor,” he said.


Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysia swears in new cabinet led by Anwar Ibrahim
Updated 9 sec ago

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.
“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.
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.”


Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft

Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft
Updated 03 December 2022

Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft

Ukraine detains 8 over Banksy mural theft
  • The stencil image of a person in a nightgown and gas mask holding a fire extinguisher next to the charred remains of a window in the town of Gostomel went missing on Friday
  • The image is in good condition and in the hands of the authorities
KYIV: Ukraine has detained eight people over the theft from a wall in the Kyiv suburbs of a mural painted by elusive British street artist Banksy, the authorities said.
The stencil image of a person in a nightgown and gas mask holding a fire extinguisher next to the charred remains of a window in the town of Gostomel went missing on Friday, they said.
“A group of people tried to steal a Banksy mural. They cut out the work from the wall of a house destroyed by the Russians,” Kyiv governor Oleksiy Kuleba said in a post on Telegram late Friday.
He attached the image of a gaping hole in the wall where the image once stood.
“Several people were detained on the spot,” he said. “The image is in good condition and in the hands of the authorities.”
Other works in the area thought also to be the work of Banksy are under police protection, he said.
Kyiv police chief Andriy Nebitov said “eight people had been identified” as possibly involved, and a preliminary inquiry had been opened into the matter.
“All were aged between 27 and 60 years old. They are residents of Kyiv and Cherkasy” some 200 km (120 miles) southeast of the capital, he said.
Last month, Banksy posted an image of the stencil of a gymnast performing a handstand on the wall of a wrecked building in Borodyanka, another suburb of the capital.
He then posted a video of several more of his artworks, including the person in a gas mask holding the fire extinguisher.
Others included the portraits of a bearded man scrubbing up in a bathtub, and a young boy in a karate outfit slamming his adult opponent to the ground.
Together with towns such as Bucha and Irpin, Borodyanka and Gostomel were severely hit by Russian bombardment after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US
Updated 03 December 2022

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US

Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers from US
  • Estonia, which neighbors Russia, has increased defense spending since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine
  • The HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine are widely seen as one of the most effective tools in its arsenal

Tallinn, Estonia: Estonia has agreed to buy six HIMARS rocket systems from the United States worth over $200 million, the state defense investment agency said on Saturday.
It is the largest arms purchase in the country’s history.
Estonia, which neighbors Russia, has increased defense spending since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, as has its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Lithuania.
The HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine are widely seen as one of the most effective tools in its arsenal, as the pro-Western country fights back against Russian troops.
Magnus-Valdemar Saar, director general of the Estonian Center for Defense Investments (ECDI), signed a contract on Friday with the United States’ Defense Security Cooperation Agency to boost the country’s indirect fire capability, the ECDI said in a statement.
Estonia will also “procure ammunition, communications solutions, as well as training, logistics, and life-cycle solutions,” said armament category manager Ramil Lipp.
The ECDI did not provide details on how many rockets were ordered but said the purchase included those which can strike targets at a distance of 300 kilometers (186 miles), and rockets of shorter range.
The first deliveries will arrive in 2024.
Lithuania last month said it would buy eight HIMARS rocket systems from the United States for $495 million.


UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan
Updated 03 December 2022

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan

UK could fast-track asylum claims from Syria, Afghanistan
  • New 2-tier system being considered to reduce country’s 150,000-person backlog
  • Syrian, Afghan applications have 98% success rate in UK: Home Office

LONDON: The UK is to establish a two-tier asylum system to speed up claims from people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and Afghanistan, in plans set to be announced next week.

The country faces a significant backlog of 150,000 applications driven in part by mass migration of people from places such as Albania, which is considered a safe country. 

A huge number of people have taken to crossing the English Channel illegally in small boats to reach the UK, which has placed enormous burden on the state’s ability to house and support asylum-seekers.

The UK Home Office says by the end of the year it expects at least 50,000 people to have arrived in the country to claim asylum. 

Its figures also show that around 98 percent of applications from people fleeing Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea, 87 percent from people from Sudan and 82 percent of Iranians — who make up around a third of the backlogged asylum claims in total — end up being approved.

Under the proposals, those from the likes of Afghanistan and Syria will now be prioritized and their processes streamlined, removing things such as follow-up interviews after initial approval, and security and identity checks. 

It is thought that this will allow more deserving refugees to start their lives in the UK, as it will allow them to find work and their own accommodation.

Applications from Albanians, meanwhile, will also be dealt with quicker, with a deal to be struck between London and Tirana to expedite the process of deporting those whose applications are denied.

One source told The Times that the new scheme is being overseen directly by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has “completely taken control of the policy” from Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who had previously gone on record to say speeding up application processes based on nationality “wouldn’t be the right way to go.”

The source said: “He’s got teams of Home Office officials working directly to him, and Suella has been sidelined.”

A Home Office source told The Times that the department is looking at “focusing resources on very high grant rate cases.”


Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
Updated 03 December 2022

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth

Albanian who entered UK in back of truck recalls serving lunch to Queen Elizabeth
  • Catering course gave Ismet Shehu chance to serve late monarch during Diamond Jubilee celebrations
  • ‘Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?’

LONDON: An Albanian who traveled to Britain hidden in a truck has told the Daily Mail that he served lunch to the late Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Ismet Shehu, now 32, made the dangerous journey aged 17 after traveling to Italy and then France, where in Lille he entered the back of a truck heading for Britain.

Shehu entered the construction and hospitality industries after arriving in the UK, working low-wage jobs before signing up to a university course teaching high-end catering in London.

That course, as part of its training program, offered a small group of students — including Shehu — the opportunity to serve lunch to Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Now back in Tirana, the Albanian capital, Shehu has used his experience in hospitality to open a range of successful restaurants.

He told the Mail: “Can you imagine that? A poor boy from the countryside serving lunch to the queen of England?

“It was such an honor for me to do that and all just a couple of years after getting into the country hiding in the back of a lorry. It was the most frightening experience of my life.”