Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
Firas Abiad, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, said there are several other suspected cases in the impoverished northern province of Akkar. (EPA)
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Updated 07 October 2022

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
  • News comes almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria
  • A cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s health minister said on Friday that authorities are inspecting suspected cases of cholera, less than a day after the cash-strapped country confirmed its first case of the illness since 1993.
The news came almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria.
Firas Abiad, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, said in a press conference that the first case was a middle-aged Syrian refugee man living in the impoverished northern province of Akkar, and confirmed a second case in the area.
“There are several other suspected cases,” Abiad said. “Cholera is an illness that is easily transmissible.”
The developments take place as Lebanon's economy continues to spiral, plunging three-quarters of its population into poverty. Rampant power cuts, water shortages, and skyrocketing inflation have deteriorated living conditions for millions.
The Lebanese health minister added that the authorities have been working with the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization for weeks to ensure the cash-strapped country can respond to a possible outbreak, and expand testing capacities at hospitals and labs.
“We're making sure that there is safe water and a good sewage system,” Abiad said.
According to the WHO, a cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, and while most cases are mild to moderate, not treating the illness could lead to death.
About 1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war reside in neighboring Lebanon. Most live in extreme poverty in tented settlements or in overcrowded apartments.
Poverty has also deepened for many Lebanese, with many families often rationing water, unable to afford private water tanks for drinking and domestic use.
The health minister said Lebanon has secured the necessary equipment and medicines to treat patients.
Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region told The Associated Press Thursday that the organization has also been coordinating with other countries neighboring Syria to help respond to a possible outbreak.
However, he said vaccines are in short supply due to global demand.
The UN and Syria’s Health Ministry have said the source of the outbreak is likely linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination.
Syria’s health services have suffered heavily from its years-long war, while much of the country is short on supplies to sanitize water.
Syrian health officials as of Wednesday documented at least 594 cases of cholera and 39 deaths. Meanwhile, in the rebel-held northwest of the country, health authorities documented 605 suspected cases, dozens of confirmed cases, and at least one death.


MEPCO factory working to restore full capacity after Jeddah floods hit operation

MEPCO factory working to restore full capacity after Jeddah floods hit operation
Updated 1 min 22 sec ago

MEPCO factory working to restore full capacity after Jeddah floods hit operation

MEPCO factory working to restore full capacity after Jeddah floods hit operation

RIYADH: Jeddah-based Middle East Paper Co. is still working to get a factory fully operational after the fatal floods that hit the city last week prompted a production shutdown.

The company revealed the record rainfall — which left two people dead in the city — caused work to stop in its Al Khumrah plant on Nov. 24.

According to a disclosure with the Saudi stock exchange — known as Tadawul — about 40 percent of production was back online within 48 hours, but the firm estimates it could take until Dec. 5 for the factory to be working at full capacity.

The statement said that while there was an “impact on some logistical activities”, there were “no human injuries.”

“The financial impact will be determined after the restoration of production capacity and operation,” the company added.

Earlier this month, the paper company, known as MEPCO, revealed its plants were operating at above 92 percent production despite declining commodities demand.

The paper manufacturer reported net earnings valued at SR245 million ($65 million) for the first nine months of 2022 — an annual increase of 95 percent. 

The firm’s CEO Sami Safran said at the time that MEPCO was riding out a global weaking for commodity demand — including paper products — thanks to consistent domestic demand.

He added that MEPCO, on average, exported 40 percent of its output, boosting its growth plans, and although shipping costs rose in the first half of the year, they slightly declined in the third and fourth quarters.  

At the end of October, MEPCO invited its shareholders to vote on increasing its capital to SR666 million to support the company’s financial position and growth plans. 

According to a bourse filing, the Saudi-listed paper manufacturer’s board proposed a 33 percent capital hike from the current capital of SR500 million. 

Rainfall in the southern area of Jeddah on Nov. 24 was the highest amount ever recorded, according to Saudi Arabia’s National Center for Meteorology, with 179mm of water falling between 8am and 2pm.

As well as causing disruption to roads — with footage posted online showing cars being swept away — there was also an impact on air travel.

King Abdulaziz International Airport, based to the north of Jeddah, urged passengers to contact airlines for schedules as “due to weather conditions, the departure of some flights has been delayed”.


WHO: Monkeypox to be renamed mpox

WHO: Monkeypox to be renamed mpox
Updated 9 min 9 sec ago

WHO: Monkeypox to be renamed mpox

WHO: Monkeypox to be renamed mpox
  • Bid to avoid stigmatization stemming from the existing name
  • Some 81,107 cases and 55 deaths have been reported to the WHO this year
GENEVA: Monkeypox is to be renamed mpox in English, the World Health Organization announced Monday, in a bid to avoid stigmatization stemming from the existing name.
Monkeypox received its name because the virus was originally identified in monkeys kept for research in Denmark in 1958, but the disease is found in a number of animals, and most frequently in rodents.
“Following a series of consultations with global experts, WHO will begin using a new preferred term ‘mpox’ as a synonym for monkeypox. Both names will be used simultaneously for one year while ‘monkeypox’ is phased out,” the UN health agency said in a statement.
“WHO will adopt the term mpox in its communications, and encourages others to follow these recommendations, to minimize any ongoing negative impact of the current name and from adoption of the new name.”
The disease was first discovered in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the spread among humans since then mainly limited to certain West and Central African countries where it is endemic.
But in May, cases of the disease, which causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions, began spreading rapidly around the world, mainly among men who have sex with men.
Some 81,107 cases and 55 deaths have been reported to the WHO this year, from 110 countries.

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels
Updated 14 min 37 sec ago

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels

FIFA World Cup frenzy puts strain on Qatar’s camels
  • As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong FIFA World Cup, even its camels are working overtime

MESAIEED, Qatar: Shaheen stretched out on the sand and closed his eyes, but there was little time to rest for the camel. World Cup fans coming in droves to the desert outside Doha were ready for their perfect Instagram moment: riding a camel on the rolling dunes.
As Qatar welcomes more than a million fans for the monthlong World Cup, even its camels are working overtime. Visitors in numbers the tiny emirate has never before seen are rushing to finish a bucket list of Gulf tourist experiences between games: ride on a camel’s back, take pictures with falcons and wander through the alleyways of traditional markets.
On a recent Friday afternoon, hundreds of visitors in football uniforms or draped in flags waited for their turn to mount the humpbacked animals. Camels that did not rise were forced up by their handlers. When one camel let out a loud grunt, a woman from Australia shrieked, “it sounds like they’re being violated!” Nearby, a group of men from Mexico dressed in white Qatari thobes and headdresses took selfies.
“It’s really an amazing feeling because you feel so tall,” 28-year-old Juan Gaul said after his ride. The Argentine fan was visiting Qatar for a week from Australia.
Cashing in on the opportunity are the animals’ handlers who, thanks to the World Cup, are making several times more than they normally would.
“There’s a lot of money coming in,” said Ali Jaber Al-Ali, a 49-year-old Bedouin camel herder from Sudan. “Thank god, but it’s a lot of pressure.”
Al-Ali came to Qatar 15 years ago but has worked with camels since he was a child. On an average weekday before the World Cup, Al-Ali said his company would offer around 20 rides per day and 50 on weekends. Since the World Cup started, Al-Ali and the men he works with are providing 500 rides in the morning and another 500 in the evening. The company went from having 15 camels to 60, he said.
“Tour guides want to move things fast,” Al-Ali said, “so they add pressure on us.”
As crowds formed around them, many camels sat statue-like with cloth muzzles covering their mouths and bright saddles on their bodies. The smell of dung filled the air.
Like other Gulf cultures, camels once provided Qataris a vital form of transport and helped in the exploration and development of trade routes. Today, the ungulates figure into cultural pastimes: camel racing is a popular sport that takes place on old-school tracks outside the city.
Al-Ali said he knows when an animal is tired — usually if it refuses to get up or sits back down after rising to its feet. He can identify each camel by its facial features.
“I am a Bedouin. I come from a family of Bedouins who care for camels. I grew up loving them,” Al-Ali said.
But the sudden rise in tourists means there’s less time to rest between rides, he said. A short ride lasts just 10 minutes while longer ones run 20 to 30 minutes long.
Normally, Al-Ali said a camel can rest after five rides. “Now, people are saying we can’t wait ... because they have other plans they need to go to in the middle of the desert,” he said.
Since the World Cup started, the animals are taken for 15 to 20 — sometimes even 40 rides — without a break.
His day starts around 4:30 a.m., when he feeds the animals and gets them ready for customers. Some tourists have been arriving at dawn, Al-Ali said, hoping to get the perfect sunrise shot, “so we have to work with them and take photos for them.”
From midday until 2 p.m., both handlers and camels rest, he said. “Then we start getting ready for the afternoon battle.”
But not every visitor has been taken by the experience.
Pablo Corigliano, a 47-year-old real estate agent from Buenos Aires, said he was hoping for something more authentic. The excursions start on a stretch of desert by the side of a highway, not far from the industrial city of Mesaieed and its vast oil refineries.
“I was expecting something more wild,” said Corigliano. “I thought I would be crossing the desert, but when I arrived, I saw a typical tourist point.”
Soon after, Corigliano and a group of friends looked for a dune buggy to race into the desert.


Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
Updated 41 min ago

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials

Turkish forces nearly ready for a Syria ground operation – officials
  • Eescalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia

ONCUPINAR, Turkiye: Turkiye’s army needs just a few days to be ready for a ground incursion into northern Syria and such a decision may come at a cabinet meeting on Monday, Turkish officials said, as Turkish forces bombarded a Kurdish militia across the border.
Howitzers fired daily from Turkiye have struck Kurdish YPG targets for a week, while warplanes have carried out airstrikes.
The escalation comes after a deadly bomb attack in Istanbul two weeks ago that Ankara blamed on the YPG militia. The YPG has denied involvement in the bombing and has responded at times to the cross-border attacks with mortar shelling.
“The Turkish Armed Forces needs just a few days to become almost fully ready,” one senior official said, adding that Turkiye-allied Syrian rebel fighters were ready for such an operation just a few days after the Nov. 13 Istanbul bomb.
“It won’t take long for the operation to begin,” he said. “It depends only on the president giving the word.”
Turkiye has previously launched military incursions in Syria against the YPG, regarding it as a wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkiye, the United States and European Union designate a terrorist group.
The PKK has also denied carrying out the Istanbul attack, in which six people were killed on a busy pedestrian avenue.
President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkiye would launch a land operation when convenient to secure its southern border. He will chair a cabinet meeting at 3:30 p.m. (1230 GMT).
“All the preparations are complete. It’s now a political decision,” another Turkish official told Reuters, also requesting anonymity ahead of the meeting.
Erdogan said back in May that Turkiye would soon launch a military operation against the YPG in Syria, but such an operation did not materialize at that time.
The first Turkish official said a ground operation, targeting the areas of Manbij, Kobani and Tel Rifat, was inevitable to link up the areas brought under the control of Turkiye and its Syrian allies with incursions since 2016.
Ankara had been in contact with Moscow and Washington about its military activities, the person added.
The United States has told NATO member Turkiye it has serious concerns that an escalation would affect the goal of fighting Daesh militants in Syria.
Russia asked Turkiye to refrain from a full-scale ground offensive. It has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s 11-year war, while Ankara has backed rebels fighting to topple him.
On Monday, the defense ministry said Turkiye’s army had “neutralized” 14 YPG militants preparing to carry out attacks in Syrian areas under Turkiye’s control. It typically uses the term to describe casualties.
The defense ministry said on Saturday three Turkish soldiers had been killed in northern Iraq, where the military has been conducting an operation against the PKK since April.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, having traveled to the Iraqi border area, was quoted as telling military commanders on Sunday that Turkiye will “complete the tasks” of the mission.


Umm Al-Qura partners with Midwam to develop ‘Masar Experience Center’

Umm Al-Qura partners with Midwam to develop ‘Masar Experience Center’
Updated 44 min 55 sec ago

Umm Al-Qura partners with Midwam to develop ‘Masar Experience Center’

Umm Al-Qura partners with Midwam to develop ‘Masar Experience Center’

Umm Al-Qura for Development and Construction, the owner and developer of the upcoming multibillion megaproject “Masar Destination” in Makkah, has partnered with Saudi company Midwam, a pioneer in designing immersive experiences using the latest advanced technologies, to design and implement the Masar Experience Center as a cutting-edge visitor destination.

The latest visual, light and sound technologies will be used in Makkah for the first time to showcase the features of Masar Destination. This experience will also include a virtual theater with the latest 3D projection technology that will be updated with new visual content as the work on the project continues to progress.

The partnership will be supported by the expertise of Icaria Atelier, a cutting-edge company based in Seville that integrates design, storytelling, media, and technology to transform spaces into experiences and that has won several awards during Dubai Expo 2020.

Yasser AbuAteek, CEO of Umm Al-Qura for Development and Construction, said: “I am delighted to sign this agreement with Midwam to design and implement this Experience Center, which combines innovative technology with the essential investment and business information in order to engage existing and prospective stakeholders and to demonstrate how the Masar Destination is a unique and distinguished project.”

Khalid Al-Muawad, CEO and co-founder of Midwam, said: “The Experience Center will play an essential role in promoting and showcasing the destination to its potential stakeholders, investors and customers. We are also looking forward to working with our award-winning partner, Icaria Atelier, and using our expertise and know-how in the latest immersive technologies to achieve a world-class Experience Center for Masar Destination.”

Masar is being developed as an urban destination in Makkah that will offer unparalleled experiences to inspire each visitor while enhancing the quality of life of the city’s residents through a diverse range of hospitality, mobility, retail, entertainment, and other offerings. It aims to simultaneously preserve the spiritual and cultural heritage of Makkah while providing opportunities to boost the region’s economic potential.