One year on, S. Sudan faces worst health crisis

One year on, S. Sudan faces worst health crisis
Updated 07 July 2012

One year on, S. Sudan faces worst health crisis

One year on, S. Sudan faces worst health crisis

GENEVA: South Sudan declared independence almost a year ago but its problems are getting worse, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday.
“Many humanitarian needs remain unmet. Communities lack access to basic health-care services,” the ICRC said in a statement ahead of the country’s first birthday on Monday July 9. 
With an escalation in fighting on the northern border regions between the two Sudans and rising food prices, children are in an increasingly malnourished state when they came to be treated at the few medical centers available, the ICRC added.
“In Malakal Teaching Hospital, there has been a dramatic rise in child malnutrition admissions over the past three months, since fighting escalated. Children are also arriving in a much worse condition,” said Melker Mabeck, ICRC head of delegation in South Sudan.
South Sudan has an estimated 120 doctors and 100 nurses to treat a population close to nine million people, according to the country’s ministry of health. This is 10 times lower than the patient to doctor ratio in neighboring Kenya, according to the ICRC statement.
The country is also prone to diseases such as meningitis, measles, yellow fever, and whooping cough, all of which are endemic in many areas. 
Preventable diseases such as malaria and acute respiratory infections are the leading causes of ill health. River blindness, sleeping sickness, and cholera are also common.
An estimated 50,000 people also suffer from long-term injuries linked to the armed conflict. Landmines, already common in the pre-independence armed conflict between the north and the south, are still used today, said the ICRC.


Yemen's Houthi militia reject US call to stop Marib offensive

Yemen's Houthi militia reject US call to stop Marib offensive
Updated 3 min 22 sec ago

Yemen's Houthi militia reject US call to stop Marib offensive

Yemen's Houthi militia reject US call to stop Marib offensive
  • Yemeni government complying with peace efforts while resisting militia’s attempts to seize control of new areas

ALEXANDRIA: The Iran-backed Houthis have rebuffed the latest US call to stop their deadly military offensive on the central Yemeni city of Marib, accusing the Americans of supporting their opponents.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam lashed out at the US on Wednesday for calling for the offensive to cease, and for renewing support for the internationally recognized government, accusing Washington of fueling the war in Yemen and imposing a “blockade.”

The latest Houthi statement was part of a series of criticisms of other countries and rights groups for rebuking them for refusing to stop military operations in the area, which have claimed the lives of thousands of combatants and civilians.

On Wednesday, the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, slammed the Houthis for attacking the city, warning that their offensive in the province would aggravate the already miserable humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

In a tweet sent by the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairds branch, Lenderking and Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik “condemned the Houthi offensive on Marib for exacerbating humanitarian suffering and sacrificing Yemen’s young men, and agreed on the need to restore political stability in southern Yemen.”

The US envoy also echoed his concerns about the impact of the Houthi attacks on Marib during a meeting with the Acting UN Special Envoy for Yemen Muin Shreim.

The Yemeni government said on Thursday that it would keep resisting Houthi attempts to seize control of new areas whilst complying with peace efforts to end the war.

Speaking to a gathering of government officials in Yemen’s Seiyun city on Thursday, Yemen’s Parliament Speaker Sultan Al-Barkani stated that tens of thousands of Yemenis who fled Houthi repression and sought refuge in Marib would not allow the militia to capture the city.

“We will continue to seek peace, but at the same time, we will not abandon fighting,” Al-Barkani said.

“The Houthis will not reach Marib. This is impossible for the Yemenis since Marib hosts hundreds of thousands (of people) who escaped from Houthi oppression and tyranny,” said Al-Barkani.

The government’s renewed pledges to defend Marib against Houthi incursions came as fighting raged on Thursday between government troops and the Houthis in several locations outside the city, near a military base in the west of the province and in mountainous areas and valleys in Rahabah to the south.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that 11 Houthis were killed in the southern city of Taiz after an attack on government-controlled areas in the northwest were foiled.

In the western province of Hodeidah, a landmine planted by the Houthis killed three civilians and wounded 11 on Thursday in Al-Durihimi district, the Yemeni Landmine Monitor said.

Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Thursday returned to the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh from Cleveland, Ohio after a medical checkup, official news agency SABA said.

For almost a decade, Hadi has traveled frequently to the US to receive medical treatment for heart problems.


Turkey accelerates security wall construction along Iranian border amid migrants’ flow

So far, 149 km of walls and barriers have been completed, spanning several border cities, including Agri, Hakkari, Igdir and Van. (AFP/File Photo)
So far, 149 km of walls and barriers have been completed, spanning several border cities, including Agri, Hakkari, Igdir and Van. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 5 min 53 sec ago

Turkey accelerates security wall construction along Iranian border amid migrants’ flow

So far, 149 km of walls and barriers have been completed, spanning several border cities, including Agri, Hakkari, Igdir and Van. (AFP/File Photo)
  • More safety measures, like watchtowers, wireless sensors and trenches, planned across border

ANKARA: In a bid to stop the flow of migrants, Ankara has decided to expand the construction of a security wall along its border with Iran to cover the entirety of the 295-km frontier amid rising public discontent after an increased number of Afghan migrants entered the country from Iran.

The Turkish government has reportedly been pursuing its wall project since 2017.

So far, 149 km have been completed, spanning several border cities, including Agri, Hakkari, Igdir and Van.

Over the recent weeks, thousands of Afghan migrants, as well as smugglers, have been increasingly using Turkey’s eastern border province of Van to reach Europe, and authorities have now focused their attention on constructing the wall along this city.

“So far, only a 3.5-km section of the structure has been completed,” said Van Gov. Mehmet Emin Bilmez.

More security measures, like watchtowers, wireless sensors and trenches, will also be installed across the length of the Iranian border after the rise in Afghan asylum-seekers fleeing the Taliban amid instability following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. More soldiers have also been deployed for border checks.

Sixty-four km of the wall between Van and Iran are set to be completed by the end of the year.

In the past, Turkey has accused Iran of providing a safe harbor for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members inside its territory and for turning a blind eye to their illegal crossing and smuggling attempts from the land border.

The hi-tech security wall is also related to Turkey’s cooperation with the EU to stifle immigration flows into EU countries under the 2016 EU-Turkey refugee deal.  Brussels agreed last month to allocate €3.5 billion ($4.2 billion) to help refugees in Turkey until 2023.

In a bid to halt new migration flows from Syria, Turkey has already built a land wall along its border with Syria, considered the world’s third-longest wall after the Great Wall of China and the US-Mexico border wall.

Turkey hosts more than 4 million refugees, mostly Syrians, but Afghans comprise the second-largest refugee population.

The new wave of migration from Afghanistan via Iran has triggered reactions from Turkish society’s anti-refugee segments and sparked debate on the effectiveness of border security policies.

Ankara-based Research Center on Asylum and Migration President Metin Corabatir believes that building walls will not solve the problem of illegal immigration.

“It is a disincentive to a certain extent, but it is impossible to cover the entire 295-km border with Iran with walls, considering the physical characteristics of the region. People take all sorts of risks to reach Greece despite the border control mechanisms of the EU,” he told Arab News.

From a humanitarian perspective and considering international refugee rights, Corabatir noted that it is not possible to deny people fleeing repressive regimes a sanctuary, although the international community asserts that they are mainly economic migrants seeking decent living standards.

“In addition to Afghans, Iranians fleeing from their regime, as well as Iraqis, are also attempting to cross the border from Van. We cannot push them back if they have a reasonable asylum request,” he said.

“There is a need for controlled management and identification of those who are escaping security risks. We cannot close our doors to them,” said Corabatir.

Although there are no official statistics regarding Afghan migrants in Turkey, the number is believed to be more than 500,000 with the recent flows, with hundreds more crossing the border each day.

Unlike Syrian refugees, most Afghans are mainly trying to reach European shores rather than settling in Turkey, a fact that concerns the EU. 

“The Turkish government committed to improving conditions in the removal centers for refugees in its latest human rights action plan,” Corabatir said.

“There are also plans to encourage the voluntary return of Afghan refugees by providing them with a certain amount of money to help them establish a life back in their home country,” he added.

Turkish authorities caught over 25,000 Afghan migrants in the first half of this year. The situation is becoming more and more polarized, however, with leaders of the opposition parties urging the government to send them back to their country and blaming the government for “turning Turkey into an open prison for refugees.”

Experts also note that ensuring the security of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is of key importance in order to be able to deliver humanitarian aid to the country and to prevent Taliban insurgents from expanding their zones of influence as US troops pull out.

Negotiations over Turkey’s proposal to operate and secure the key international airport in Afghanistan continue.


Greece arrests Moroccan Daesh suspect

Greece arrests Moroccan Daesh suspect
Updated 29 July 2021

Greece arrests Moroccan Daesh suspect

Greece arrests Moroccan Daesh suspect
  • Greek police sources told AFP the 28-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki
  • Morocco's MAP news agency said he was detained on Tuesday for alleged involvement in terror actions

RABAT: Greek security services have arrested a Moroccan suspected of belonging to Daesh in Syria who had appeared in one of their propaganda videos, police and security sources said Thursday.
Greek police sources told AFP the 28-year-old man was arrested in Thessaloniki on the basis of an international warrant issued in 2017 by Rabat, and that a decision would be taken on his possible extradition to Morocco.
Morocco’s MAP news agency, quoting a security source, said he was detained on Tuesday for alleged involvement in the planning of “terrorist” actions in Morocco.
The suspect, known as Abu Mohamed Al-Fateh, had joined the extremist group in Syria in 2014 and held “positions of responsibility,” it said.
He had appeared in a video showing the body of a Syrian fighter being mutilated.
About 1,600 Moroccans joined extremist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya, of whom 137 were killed, according to official figures in Morocco.


Forest fires rage near Turkish resorts, killing three

Forest fires rage near Turkish resorts, killing three
Updated 29 July 2021

Forest fires rage near Turkish resorts, killing three

Forest fires rage near Turkish resorts, killing three
  • At least 122 people have also been injured in the fires
  • President Erdogan announced that an arson investigation has already been initiated

ANKARA: Three people were reported dead Thursday and more than 100 injured as thousands of firefighters battled huge blazes spreading across the Mediterranean resort regions of Turkey’s southern coast.
Officials also launched an investigation into suspicions the fires that broke out Wednesday in four locations to the east of the tourist hotspot Antalya were the result of arson.
Turkey’s disaster and emergencies office said three people were killed — including an 82-year-old who lived alone — and 122 injured by the fires.
“Treatment of 58 of our citizens continues,” it was quoted as saying by the Anadolu state news agency.
The fires first emerged across a sparsely populated region about 75 kilometers (45 miles) east of Antalya — a resort especially popular with Russian and other eastern European tourists.
But they were creeping closer Thursday to sandy beaches dotted with hotels and resorts.
Images on social media and Turkish TV showed residents jumping out of their cars and running for their lives through smoke-filled streets lit up by orange flames.
The heavy clouds of smoke turned the sky dark orange over a beachfront hotel complex in the town of Manavgat.
Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said a hotel was also being evacuated near the tourist city of Bodrum — some 300 kilometers west of Antalya — as new fires broke out across the southern coast.
Pakdemirli said 150 cows and thousands of sheep and goats had perished in the flames.

The fires were raging with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and wind gusts of 50 kilometers (30 miles) an hour.
But Antalya mayor Muhittin Bocek said he suspected foul play because the fires started in four locations at once.
“This suggests an arson attack, but we do not have clear information about that at this stage,” Bocek said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said an investigation had already been launched.
The Russian embassy said Moscow had sent three giant firefighting aircraft to dump fire retardant on the burning forests to contain the flames.
More than 4,000 Turkish firefighters had been dispatched across the region to help contain the damage and search for people needing help.
They rescued 10 people on Thursday who were stranded on a boat in a lake that was surrounded by burning forest.
“All of the state’s means have been mobilized,” Environment Minister Murat Kurum said. “All our teams are in the field.”


Syrian rebels attack army outposts in southern Syria

Syrian rebels attack army outposts in southern Syria
Updated 29 July 2021

Syrian rebels attack army outposts in southern Syria

Syrian rebels attack army outposts in southern Syria
  • This is the biggest flare-up of violence since government forces retook the restive region three years ago
  • The widespread attacks at army outposts near the border crossing of Nassib with Jordan also disrupted passenger and commercial traffic

AMMAN: Syrian rebels waged a spate of mortar attacks on Syrian army checkpoints in the southern province of Daraa, rebels, residents and the army said on Thursday.
This is the biggest flare-up of violence since government forces retook the restive region three years ago.
The widespread attacks at army outposts near the Damascus-Daraa highway leading to the border crossing of Nassib with Jordan also disrupted passenger and commercial traffic at the main gateway for goods from Lebanon and Syria to the Gulf.
Multiple army checkpoints around key towns and villages from the town of Nawa north of the province to Muzarib near the border with Jordan were also seized, they said.
The army has sent reinforcements from its elite Fourth Division, run by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother Maher, senior military defectors said, confirming army leaks.
The attacks came after the army launched a dawn operation against the rebel-held old quarter of the city of Daraa, where peaceful protests against decades of autocratic Assad family rule began in 2011 and were met by deadly force before spreading across the country.
The army has sought to reassert its control after the collapse of talks earlier this week to get local elders and former rebels to allow the army to extend its control inside the old quarter, known as Daraa al Balad.
The Syrian army, aided by Russian air power and Iranian militias, retook control of the strategic province that borders Jordan and Israel’s Golan Heights to the west in the summer of 2018.
Russian-brokered deals at the time forced rebels to hand over heavy weapons and return state institutions in the enclave but kept away the army from entering their neighborhoods.
“The rebels have waged a counter offensive after the army operation against Daraa whose intensity has taken the regime by surprise,” said Zaid al Rayes, a political opposition figure in touch with local groups in Daraa.
State media said terrorists had fired at the main hospital in Daraa and the army had evacuated hundreds of fleeing families from rebel held neighborhoods.
Thousands of former rebels had chosen to stay with their families rather than head to remaining rebel-held areas in northern Syria, where tens of thousands of others displaced from recaptured areas had gathered.
The province saw a widespread boycott of last May’s polls that extended Assad’s presidency in what officials saw as a defiance of state authority.
Western intelligence sources say growing dissent is aggravated by the presence of Iranian-backed local militias who now hold sway and act with impunity since the central government is too weak to impose its authority on the area.