‘Life-saving’ peanut paste unlikely victim of Ukraine war

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Internally displaced people seat in a tent in the makeshift camp where they are sheltered in the village of Erebti, Ethiopia, on June 09, 2022. (AFP)
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A mother washes the face of a child in the makeshift camp where they are sheltered in the village of Erebti, Ethiopia, on June 09, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 03 August 2022

‘Life-saving’ peanut paste unlikely victim of Ukraine war

  • As 1.7 million children face starvation in drought-stricken Horn of Africa, the cost of these life-saving supplements is skyrocketing 
  • UNICEF says the conflict in Ukraine is making ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) more expensive to manufacture and procure

MARSABIT, Kenya: Under an acacia tree in Kenya’s drought-ravaged north, malnourished infants feed on sticky mouthfuls of a nutrient-dense peanut paste long used to prevent child starvation in disasters across the globe.
This wonder food can mean the difference between life and death for a child in hard-hit Marsabit, where aid workers say young children are perishing in conditions that border on famine.
“If we ran out of these, more deaths would be recorded very soon,” James Jarso of aid group World Vision said of the sachets being distributed by charity workers in the parched and isolated village of Purapul.
But just as 1.7 million children face starvation in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, the cost of these life-saving supplements is skyrocketing because of another crisis unfolding thousands of miles away.
The conflict in Ukraine is making ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) more expensive to manufacture and procure, says UNICEF, which buys almost 80 percent of the world’s supply.
Ukraine is a major exporter of sunflower oil, wheat and other grains. The war has affected the price and availability of staple foods, driven up fuel prices, and disrupted supply chains already off-kilter because of the pandemic.
A knock-on effect has been higher prices for powdered milk, vegetable oils and peanuts — all key ingredients in RUTF, said Christiane Rudert, a nutrition adviser for UNICEF for southern and eastern Africa.
Even the materials used to make RUTF packaging have become scarcer and costlier, she said.




A child eats a ready-to-use therapeutic food bag (RUTF) at a clinic in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. (AFP file)

UNICEF, which purchases around 49,000 tons of RUTF every year, is starting to feel the pinch.
“The cost has definitely gone up already, which affects our orders,” Rudert told AFP.
French company Nutriset told AFP it raised the cost of its leading RUTF product “Plumpy’Nut” twice in the past year, including a 13-percent hike in May.
It could not attribute this directly to Ukraine but a confluence of factors, including the war but also the pandemic, higher shipping costs, and environmental disasters, Nutriset said in a statement.
Overall the price of “Plumpy’Nut” — which reached 9.7 million children last year — had risen 23 percent since May 2021, it said.
UNICEF forecasts that by November, prices for RUTF will have risen 16 percent from pre-war levels.
Russia’s invasion has also raised fuel prices, making it costlier to deliver RUTF to where it’s needed.
The timing could not be worse.
More than 1.7 million children in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are suffering the most lethal form of malnutrition as the Horn of Africa experiences its worst drought in generations.
The rising cost of RUTF means treating those children “will cost $12 million more than it would have cost before Ukraine,” Rudert said.
It is money that is sorely lacking, she said, with donations to address the hunger crisis in the Horn falling well short of need.
“This product... is literally what saves children’s lives when they have already reached that really severe form of malnutrition.
“It’s not just peanuts and milk and sugar and oil... it’s therapeutic,” Rudert said.

Revolutionary treatment
Invented a quarter of a century ago, RUTF proved revolutionary in treating severe wasting, a deadly condition where underfed children are too thin for their height.
A single sachet of RUTF delivers 500 calories and essential vitamins and minerals.
Eaten directly from the packet, RUTF helps malnourished children quickly regain weight and energy, and requires no refrigeration or preparation by a health care worker.
This is essential in remote and impoverished regions like northern Kenya, where clean water and health workers are in short supply.
On a twice-monthly visit to Purapul, government doctor Mohamed Amin said most women and children were surviving on little else than the packs of paste he prescribed.
“It has really been a challenge,” he told AFP at a mobile health clinic, where mothers were handed two weeks’ worth of supplements to feed their children between screenings.
“At least it boosts them.”
UNICEF buys enough RUTF to feed at least 3.5 million children a year. But at current funding levels, a 16-percent price rise could mean 600,000 miss out on this life-saving treatment, Rudert said.
This would have disastrous consequences not just for the Horn but elsewhere in Africa such as South Sudan, where 300,000 children are expected to require RUTF treatment this year.
Jarso, from World Vision, said the impact of RUTF in a place like Purapul could not be overstated.
“There is no milk. There is no meat... there is no food for them. Therefore, it is life-saving.”


US whistleblower Snowden gets a Russian passport -TASS

Updated 03 December 2022

US whistleblower Snowden gets a Russian passport -TASS

MOSCOW: Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed the scale of secret surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), has sworn an oath of allegiance to Russia and received a Russian passport, TASS reported on Friday.
“Yes, he got [a passport], he took the oath,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s lawyer, told the state news agency TASS.
“This is still a criminal investigative matter,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday, referring any questions about the report on Snowden to the US Department of Justice, which declined to comment.
US authorities have for years wanted Snowden returned to the United States to face a criminal trial on espionage charges.
President Vladimir Putin in September granted Russian citizenship to Snowden, who fled the United States after leaking secret files that revealed the extensive eavesdropping activities of the United States and its allies.
“I’m in Russia because the White House intentionally canceled my passport to trap me here. They downed the President of Bolivia’s diplomatic aircraft to prevent me from leaving, and continue to interfere with my freedom of movement to this day,” Snowden, 39, said on Twitter on Friday, referring to events from 2013.
Snowden was referring an incident in July 2013, when Bolivia complained that its presidential jet carrying Evo Morales from Russia to Bolivia had been rerouted and forced to land in Austria over suspicion that Snowden was on board.
Defenders of Snowden hail him as a modern-day dissident for exposing the extent of US spying and alleged violation of privacy. Opponents say he is a traitor who endangered lives by exposing the secret methods that Western spies use to listen in on hostile states and militants.


As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3 bln from friendly country

Updated 02 December 2022

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3 bln from friendly country

  • An IMF review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September
  • Pakistan's finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said all targets for the IMF's ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects to secure $3 billion in external financing from a friendly country in two weeks, its finance minister said on Friday as the South Asian country awaits IMF funding.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September, leaving Pakistan in dire need of external financing.
Pakistan’s finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said on Friday in an interview with Geo News TV that all targets for the IMF’s ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense.
Pakistan secured a $6 billion bailout in 2019 under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), that was topped up with another $1 billion earlier this year.
“We continue to engage in discussions with the government over policies to address the humanitarian and rehabilitation needs of the floods while promoting macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability,” the IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said in a statement.
Dar said Pakistan’s foreign reserves, which have dropped to $7.5 billion, will be shored up with a $3 billion financing from a friendly country in the next two weeks.
That is hardly enough for a month of imports for Pakistan, which has been facing a widening current account deficit and a balance of payments crisis.
“All the requirements for the ninth (IMF) review are completed,” Dar said, adding that the international lender was “behaving abnormal” by not completing the review.
Pakistan will make alternate arrangements in case of any delay from the IMF, he said.
“If the money doesn’t come, we will manage, no problem,” he added.


EU bans cough syrup chemical over severe allergies

Updated 02 December 2022

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.


Parcels with animals’ eyes sent to Ukrainian embassies

Updated 02 December 2022

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

Updated 02 December 2022

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.

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