Desk Writer

Number of active COVID19 cases decline as Pakistan reports 4,198 new patients
Middle East & Africa

Number of active COVID19 cases decline as Pakistan reports 4,198 new patients

Pakistan reported more than 4,000 coronavirus cases in a single day but as per the data given out by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the number of active cases in the country has fallen by seven percent.

The data issued on Wednesday showed 4,113 cases and 119 deaths that were reported in a single day as the nationwide positivity ratio stood at 9.17pc. The number of active cases surpassed the figure of 90,000 last week but as of May 5, they reduced to 84,480.

As per the details given out, 676 ventilators were in use by Covid-19 patients across Pakistan. In Multan, about 77pc of ventilators allocated to coronavirus patients were in use, Mardan’s 59pc, Lahore’s 69pc, and Bahawalpur’s 58pc ventilators were occupied.

Similarly, in Swabi and Peshawar, over 60pc of oxygenated beds assigned to Covid-19 patients were occupied.

The total count of admitted patients was 5,741 on Wednesday. So far, 18,429 deaths have been documented since the beginning of the pandemic.

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An official of the Ministry of National Health Services said that the concentrate of a corona vaccine had reached the NIH for production.

The official said that the concentrate is to be prepared by CanSino that has been imported from China and will be enough to produce 125,000 doses of vaccine. With the staff and machinery ready, within a few days, the manufacturing will start.

The official said that as per the protocols, a stability test of the first batch of the vaccine was mandatory.

The stability test will be started after the first batch of the coronavirus antidote is prepared. A stability test includes various chemical tests that are a must before administering a vaccine. Ministry of National Health Services hopes that by the end of the current month the vaccine would be administered.

Six months into Tigray crisis: ground reality & the sufferings endured
Middle East & Africa

Six months into Tigray crisis: ground reality & the sufferings endured

It has been approximately six months since the Tigray crisis began involving conflict between the Ethiopian government security forces and regional forces of TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front). Ever since the friction began and escalated since early November last year, majority of rural areas in the Tigray region have remained cut off from electricity and communication. This has greatly impacted health services access to the people along with water supply and essential assistance delivery to the needful.

United Nations and humanitarian partners in Ethiopia meanwhile “continue to scale up their response, including identification and support to gender-based violence survivors”.

Horrific lengths of violent activities and conflict in Tigray has continued ever since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered military offensive after TPLF rebel attack was carried out on a federal army base. The fighting was joined by militias from neighbouring Amhara region, escalating the crisis thereafter.

James Elder, spokesperson for UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), visited the zone in northern Ethiopia last week. He shared that over a million people have been displaced as a direct result of Tigray conflict. More than 62,000 people have fled to neighbouring Sudan to escape the bloodshed. Amid this various humanitarian agencies have continued to provide all aspects of assistance to the people as their needs grow while being internally displaced. But the groups are met with logistical hinderances with lack of communication and denial of reaching out to deeper areas of conflict zone by the security forces.

It is to be noted that food insecurity remains the No. 1 crisis for people as an estimated 4.5 million people require food assistance across Tigray. Since March, 2021 World Food Programme (WFP) has provided about 9000 metric tonnes of food to people in region, reaching out to 529,000 people at least in Northern Western and Southern Zones. United Nations partners supported more than 285,000 people displaced with shelter and non-food essential items. But this is only 10% of the targeted population in need in Tigray’s conflict zone.

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An analysis by International Rescue Committee (IRC) has revealed a staggering data. There is widespread gender-based violence and exploitation against backdrop of Tigray crisis with women and girls at the receiving end. IRC’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor, Victor Odero said, “The gender analysis shows widespread abuse including mass rape and exploitation. Women are having to engage in sexually exploitative relationships, receiving small amounts of money, food and/or shelter to survive and feed their children – this has been not given much attention by the global media or stakeholders involved in the response. With nowhere to report abuse, no protection to seek, growing economic uncertainty and instability, violence against women is on the rise.”

Odero adds that rape is largely being used as a weapon across the conflict. With mass rapes, abuses and violations arise the vulnerability of these women who are in dire need of support including emergency contraceptives, drugs to prevent HIV and psychological support. Medical supplies across the region are in extreme shortage with over 71% of healthcare facilities having been vandalized and destroyed.

The people stuck in the crisis are currently in high need of support panning across specialties. The damage is too vast and deep to be mended in a timeframe, it needs immense time, resources and dedication from global organizations to bring support to people for their survival. This includes access to clean water, food, sanitation, healthcare needs, education and protection.

UAE leads in extending aid to nations under duress amid Covid-19 testing times
Middle East & Africa

UAE leads in extending aid to nations under duress amid Covid-19 testing times

United Arab Emirates (UAE) has proved to be the leading example of humanity and global co-operation during testing times of Coronavirus pandemic. Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has underlined that UAE has maintained its lead in global assistance. The humanitarian efforts are in line with the legacy of UAE’s founding father, H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and country’s constant efforts to provide maximum humanitarian aid to other countries to ease their suffering and support their fight to curb the Covid-19 infections.

UAE has extended support to many nations including medical and humanitarian aid. The aid has supported thousands of healthcare professionals at the frontline in these nations to curb the spread and control Coronavirus pandemic.

Various nations supported through UAE aid:

Italy: Approximately 10 tonnes of medical supplies were sent to Italy by UAE in an aid plane. The help has supported more than 10,000 healthcare professionals in the region to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Colombia: Aid plane carrying 10 tonnes of medical supplies was dispatched to Colombia by the UAE. The aid is expected to support some 10,000 healthcare workers in region to tackle the pandemic. The aid plane also successfully repatriated 63 Colombian citizens from UAE. This was a result of exceptional co-ordination between authorities in UAE and Colombia that made the safe return of citizens possible.

Kazakhstan: 13 tonnes of medical supplies were sent to Kazakhstan by the UAE through an aid plane. UAE Ambassador to the Republic of Kazakhstan underlined that supply would help healthcare professionals in the country in their fight against pandemic at frontlines.

Iran: Two urgent relief planes were dispatched to Iran by UAE that carried 32 tonnes of medical aid, supplies and equipment to help Iran contain the infection. Before that UAE had facilitated a mission initiated by the WHO (World Health Organization). In this mission 7.5 tonnes of medical supplies and equipment were delivered to Iran to contain the coronavirus infection.

Ukraine: Aid plane carrying 11 tonnes of medical supplies was sent to Ukraine by UAE to help over 10,000 healthcare professionals. The plane also repatriated 113 Ukrainian citizens successfully from UAE through collaboration between relevant authorities in both nations.

Setting up 4000 bed hospital in UK: UAE went across borders to help United Kingdom in its critical fight against the Covid-19 while it was facing pressure on healthcare infrastructure with public health emergency. UAE converted an exhibition space that it owns in London to 4000 bed hospital.

Sudan: On 27th April, UAE sent 50 metric tonnes of food in aid plane to Sudan. It is a part of humanitarian work done by country during Holy Month of Ramadan. Hamad Mohammed Humaid Al Junaibi, UAE Ambassador to Sudan, said, “The UAE and Sudan share close historical and fraternal ties in all fields, and Sudan was one of the first countries to receive assistance sent by the UAE as part of its efforts to combat Covid-19. The first shipment of medical assistance was sent in April last year, and many medical shipments were sent in recent months, amounting to 100 metric tons.”

“The UAE established the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Field Hospital in Darfur, which has 208 beds to treat Covid-19 patients in Sudan. The hospital contains all the necessary medical equipment and supplies. This reflects the strong and distinguished relations between the two countries, as well as the UAE’s keenness to continue to support Sudan’s health sector and provide direct assistance to frontline healthcare workers as they work to contain the pandemic,” he added.

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 Comoros: Also on 27th April, UAE sent 43 tonnes of food to Union of Comoros in an aid plane. It was also part of humanitarian efforts by UAE during Holy Month of Ramadan to support those in need and limited resources or lack of resources. Saeed Al Maqbali, UAE Ambassador to Union of the Comoros, said, “Relations between the UAE and Union of the Comoros are witnessing steady growth in many areas. The leadership of both countries is keen to develop and strengthen these ties in a way that serves common interests.”

“Over the past year, the UAE sent urgent medical aid to Union of the Comoros to support the government’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. This aid included testing kits and ventilators, which assisted the medical sector and contributed to protecting frontline healthcare workers,” he continued.

India: As India is facing one of the worst wave of Covid-19 with catastrophic tolls of new daily cases and casualties. UAE sent a special cargo with medical aid to India carrying 157 ventilators, 480 Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAPs) and other medical equipment on 29th April. Since April 26th, Indian Air Force (IAF) has airlifted 18 cryogenic oxygen containers from Dubai in three sorties.

Covid-19 pandemic is not a regional, but a global problem. And the war with this virus can only be won through global cooperation, empathy and humanitarian efforts beyond borders, which has been well shown by the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman seeks ‘good’ relations with arch rival Iran
Middle East & Africa

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman seeks ‘good’ relations with arch rival Iran

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the nation wants “good relations” with Iran, its arch-rival. During an interview with Al Arabiya TV the Prince hoped and that Iran would take Middle East towards opulence and success.

Statements by Crown Prince came after recent reports that disclosed Iranian and Saudi officials to have attended a secret meeting in Iraq. The whole agenda being around attempts to bring relations to more virtuous grounds. And the same is expressed by comments by Crown Prince Salman. He underlined that Iran’s negative image is a big issue in Middle East owing to its adverse behaviour, nuclear programmes, missile launches and supporting “outlawed militias”. He further said that Saudi Arabia is working with regional and global partners to find solutions to these problems.

The said “secret” meeting in Iraq was denied by sources in Saudi Arabia. But foreign ministry in Iran neither denied nor confirmed the whereabouts of meeting. Iran’s foreign ministry said it “always welcomed dialogue”.

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Saudi Arabia is a leading Sunni Muslim power in the region. Iran on the other hand is largest Shia Muslim country. Both the countries have been arch rivals since ever and have constantly locked horns citing dominance in regional power. But in recent years, large number of proxy wars in region have exacerbated the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Since 2015, Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arab countries has been supporting pro-government forces in Yemen against Iran backed rebel Houthi group. Houthis have been attacking Saudi cities and its oil infrastructures with missiles and drones. Iran has denied having smuggled the rebel group with weaponries, but the link can’t be overlooked. Furthermore, Saudi has also accused Iran of interfering in Lebanon and Iraq. Iran supported Shia militia have amassed huge political and military influence in the said countries.

The interview of Crown Prince was broadcasted on Tuesday night. Crown Prince Salman said, “At the end of the day, Iran is a neighbouring country and all that we hope for is to have good relations. Our problem is with Iran’s negative behaviour, from its nuclear programme, to its support for outlaw militias in the region, or its firing of ballistic missiles.”

Israel accused of committing ultimate persecution against Palestinians
Middle East & Africa

Israel accused of committing ultimate persecution against Palestinians

Global human rights body, Human Rights Watch has accused Israel and its officials of committing acts of ultimate persecution and apartheid against Palestinians in the Israel controlled regions.

The New York based human rights advocacy group released report on Tuesday in which it accused Israel of these actions. By this, the group has become the first international rights body to have made such allegations. The watchdog claimed that Israeli government selectively opts for policy in order to “maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”. Group said that after decades of red flags and warnings to Israel of its suffocating hold over Palestinians that could later transcribe to apartheid, HRW has found that ‘threshold’ has now been crossed.

Omar Shakir, the group’s Israel and Palestine director said, “This is the starkest finding Human Rights Watch has reached on Israeli conduct in the 30 years we’ve been documenting abuses on the ground there.”

In its response, Israel’s foreign ministry said that Human Rights Watch has always had an “agenda” against Israel. It accused the report of being nothing more than a “propaganda pamphlet” which had “no connection to facts or reality on the ground”. “The fictional claims that HRW concocted are both preposterous and false,” Israeli foreign ministry said.

The report is based on human rights issues, incidents and observations documented over years, analysis of laws in Israel, review of planning documents by government and statements given by officials. Human Rights Watch made a comparison of policies and practices against around 7 million Palestinians that live in areas under Israeli occupation with the same number of Jewish Israelis based in same areas. Report made a conclusion that there was a “present-day reality of a single authority, the Israeli government … methodologically privileging Jewish Israelis while repressing Palestinians, most severely in the occupied territory.”

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Human Rights Watch said, “The authorities have adopted policies to mitigate what they have openly described as a demographic ‘threat’ from Palestinians. In Jerusalem, for example, the government’s plan for the municipality … sets the goal of ‘maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the city’ and even specifies the demographic ratios it hopes to maintain.”

The watchdog accuses Israeli authorities of carrying out systematic discrimination against Palestinians. HRW’s executive director, Kenneth Roth has called the acts by Israeli officials not just abusive occupation but something much deeper on humanitarian ground. He said, “These policies, which grant Jewish Israelis the same rights and privileges wherever they live and discriminate against Palestinians to varying degrees wherever they live, reflect a policy to privilege one people at the expense of another.”

Though Israel had signed an agreement in 1990 under which it had granted limited self rule in Israel occupied West Bank, the Israeli government still retains primary control over largely all the decisions around people of the region.

UAE Shows Impressive Success Rate In Covid Vaccination
Middle East & Africa

UAE Shows Impressive Success Rate In Covid Vaccination

There seems to be a global interest building up in the success rate that the UAE has exhibited in running a massive vaccination drive across its varied population.  


There have been reportedly exceptional procedures for UAE nationals in some European countries. Many European countries are also studying ways and means to allow tourists of the UAE to enter their lands by the summer. It seems the impression is so favorable that many countries are even considering cancelling the quarantine for those coming to the Emirates, such as Greece.


It is good news for UAE has Britain is also thinking of removing it from a list of red countries, those showing a huge spike in the growth of Covid-19 mutants. 


Western interest is pronounced in an increase in the UAE’s vaccination rate for the population. Both citizens and expatriates seem to have been left impressed with the flexibility to receive the vaccine in the UAE that has set a high example in doing that. 

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Since April 23, UAE has crossed the 10 million mark in administering vaccines.  On April 23, the UAE had successfully administered 105,443 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in 24 hours. According to the country’s Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP), total doses administered at 10.1 million, takes the rate of doses per 100 people to 102.19.

Additionally, the UAE is specifically supporting the full school teachers’ vaccination drive too.  Confirmed reports are coming in that UAE is reporting a 100 percent success rate in administering vaccines to its teaching staff. Overall in Dubai, 70 per cent of teachers have taken their first or both the doses, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has confirmed this. 

In Sharjah too, more than 82.2 per cent of teachers and administration staff at schools have taken their first dose, and more than 70.3 per cent have taken their second dose as well, Sharjah Private Education Authority said on April 22.

Hopes in rarity: Palestinians brace for first elections in over a decade
Middle East & Africa

Hopes in rarity: Palestinians brace for first elections in over a decade

First ever general elections in a decade and a half in Palestine bring hopes alive for a democratic revival. Palestinians who have battled stagnation for years are prepared for the rare elections, but the anxieties around the rare event are also surfacing.

The 1967 war of Middle East had led to annexation of territories predominantly occupied by Palestinians by Israel, a move not recognized internationally and condemned. East Jerusalem still remains under control of Israel and is viewed largely as undivided capital by Palestinians. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their ‘future state’ including the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which too have been occupied by Israel since 1967.

East Jerusalem has been allowed to go for general elections, first one in over a decade in contrast to Israel that has went for election four times in past two years. Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been granted right to vote by Israel for their parliament based in West Bank, but they can’t operate in the city. Najwa Odeh, a survivor of 1967 war and now a running MP for President Mahmoud Abbas’s party in the first Palestinian general election in 15 years said, “We need new blood, a new generation to come and solve the problems. We need… to renew our legitimacy.”

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The Palestinians are all set and excited to vote. According to Central Elections Commission, over 93% of 4.5 million Palestinians are eligible to vote. 36 political parties are slated to run in the election. “This is overwhelming in a way that reflects the interest in the Palestinian [political] scene”, says Sabri Saidam, a senior official in Fatah, which dominates the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority (PA).

The first poll amounts to first hint towards democracy for many living in West Bank – a territory of limited self-governance under Palestinian leadership under Israel’s military occupation. Many view the election towards a fairer system for all, a democracy that they have been denied for long.

Elections are dominated by tough rules for the candidates, but despite that young political groups and activists are coming forward to compete, the ones that reject political dominance of both Hamas and Fatah. Officials say that of around 1,400 candidates, nearly a third are women and 39% are aged under 40. 

Iran reports some progress in Vienna nuclear talks
Middle East & Africa

Iran reports some progress in Vienna nuclear talks

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has said that their talks with the global powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal are headed “on a right track”.

Officials from Iran and Russia reported that any solution is still very far as experts are working on drafting proposals this week. 

Two expert groups have so far been discussing solutions to the two major issues: Iran’s return to compliance on one hand, and the rollback of American sanctions on the other.

High-octane talks are underway in Vienna to bring the U.S. back into the deal with Iran.

U.S. President Joe Biden wants Washington to return to the deal, and Iran has been in negotiations with the five remaining powers — France, Germany, China, Britain, and Russia  

Global powers and Tehran have been meeting since early April in Vienna to work on finding a midway solution to the prevalent rift. A solution that touches on U.S. sanctions, addresses Iran’s breaches of the deal, and somehow brings Tehran and Washington to abide by the accord. 

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U.S. President Joe Biden’s incumbent administration has shown its will to pull out “all sanctions that are inconsistent” with the accord but hasn’t substantiated the measures it means. 

Iran’s clerical establishment has made it clear that it will not return to strict abidance of the 2015 agreement unless all sanctions added or reimposed by former President Donald Trump, after he moved out of the accord in 2018, are rescinded first. 

The U.S. unilaterally removed itself from the agreement, which assures Iran economic benefits in return for controls on its nuclear program. 

In response to the U.S pull-out, Iran has continuously been violating the restrictions imposed by the deal, increasing uranium far past the allowed purity and accumulating vastly larger quantities.

Decades into war Syria to hold elections: will it bring a change or tighten Assad’s grip
Middle East & Africa

Decades into war Syria to hold elections: will it bring a change or tighten Assad’s grip

Syria is facing gory and ravaging civil war for a decade now. Assad dynasty has been in power for decades now but May is bringing in ‘possible’ hopes of thousands of Syrian people who each day are living under despair and uncertainty for tomorrow. Syria’s Parliament has announced that country would hold its presidential election in May. But this move can also maintain, and in high probability tighten President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power and Syria.

Coming presidential election, Assad is not expected to have any fierce or serious opposition amid growing economic crisis and internal conflict in Syria. Assad has already survived with his tyranny at the cost of over 400,000 Syrians who have been killed, with more than half displaced or fled the country.

The presidential election that is scheduled to take place on May 26 will elect the Syrian president for seven year term. Candidates for election can register from Monday with Syrians living overseas would be able to vote at their respective embassies on May 20, said Speaker Hamouda Sammagh. This election would be the second in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. The previous election that was held in 2014, was dismissed to be illegitimate by opponents in Syria, US and EU after Assad registered a win with 92% votes. The 2014 election was the first time in decades that a member other than from Assad dynasty was allowed to compete in election.

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Assad has proved to be a survivor since 2014 vote despite opposition from West and growing discontent in the country. Through Russian intervention in 2015 and unwavering support, Assad is now in a much stronger and secure position than he was back then. He has a better control in several regions across Syria, but he is largely dependent on support from Russia and Iran. On the flip side, the inner circle of Assad is showing signs of fine fracture lines amid growing financial crisis and unrest across country hinting a plausible fading Assad’s influence. But in absence of strong opposition what good this election would bring for Syrians is uncertain. Under such circumstances it is also possible that Assad’s grip over country would tighten even more, bringing in more despair for the people.  

Yemen boat capsized off Djibouti coast, 42 migrants onboard dead
Middle East & Africa

Yemen boat capsized off Djibouti coast, 42 migrants onboard dead

Early Monday morning saw unfortunate turn of events as a migrants boat from Yemen capsized off the Djibouti coast, east Africa. The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday confirmed that 42 migrants onboard had died.

The IOM’s Regional Director for East and the Horn of Africa, Mohammed Abdiker, shared on Tuesday in a tweet that grim pictures of children’s bodies ashore have now emerged. Abdiker had earlier tweeted that at least 16 children – 8 boys and 8 girls – were among the dead people.

There were 60 people on board the boat that started off from Yemen. They were being transported by the ‘people smugglers’ to Djibouti. This incident marks second such in just over a month, taking the lives of migrants and refugee. Last month in a dreadful and heart wrenching incident, the people smugglers had ‘thrown’ 80 people into the waters due to overcrowding. At least 20 people had died due to drowning.

A press release by IOM mentioned, “Every year, tens of thousands of young African migrants from the region make the dangerous journey from countries like Somalia and Ethiopia through Djibouti and Yemen in search for work in the Gulf.”

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The main reason of boat being capsized is still unclear, but sources say that currently many such journeys are “being undertaken aboard unseaworthy vessels by migrants desperate to return home on a near daily basis.”

IOM said, “In March, over 2,343 migrants arrived from Yemen, compared to 1,900 in February. Most were trying to head home to Ethiopia and Somalia.” The conflict has left “tens of thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa trapped in Yemen with many living in dangerous conditions, usually without access to food, shelter, medical care and security,” the IOM added.

In Yemen alone more than 6,000 people have registered for Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) assistance to return to their home with the IOM launching appeal of $99 million in March to support migrants in the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

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