After surviving floods, pregnant women in southern Pakistan labor for survival

Nazia, who last week gave birth to a baby girl, speaks to Arab News at a temporary shelter in Mehar, Sindh, on September 28, 2022. (AN Photo)
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Updated 03 October 2022

After surviving floods, pregnant women in southern Pakistan labor for survival

  • Around 97,49 pregnant and 2,008 lactating mothers are living at camps in Sindh
  • Nationwide 138,000 women in need of humanitarian assistance due to floods are pregnant

DADU: Writhing in pain, a feeble 20-year-old Farzana Bibi could not even muster the strength to swat away the flies that buzzed around her face as she lay inside a small tent along a highway in southern Pakistan, where hundreds like her have sought refuge after devastating floods swept away their homes last month.

It is hard to say if the worst has passed or is yet to come for Bibi.

As floods ravaged her village last month, the pregnant woman’s family was unable to get her to a doctor in time and she lost her baby. Now, she is one among nearly 15 million people affected by recent floods in the southern Sindh province, either living in tent-cities and makeshift shelters on roadsides or staying back in flooded villages, surrounded from all sides with water and struggling to live another day.

Among the survivors, the most vulnerable, doctors and officials say, are pregnant women, lactating mothers and newborns.

“It was raining there [at our village] … we could not reach here [the city] in time due to the rains… her son died in her womb” Bibi’s brother, Aijaz Ali, said as she lay next to him on a plastic mat on the dusty ground. “She is ill and complains that there is pain in her leg and body still.”




Aijaz Ali speaks to Arab News as his sister Farzana Bibi lies on a plastic mat inside a tent in Dadu, Sindh, on September 28, 2022. (AN Photo)

According to the Sindh health department, 9,749 pregnant women are living in camps across the province where 3,803 have given birth and 2,008 are lactating mothers.

According to the latest assessment by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), around 138,000 women nationwide in need of humanitarian assistance due to the floods are pregnant and 40,000 are expected to deliver their babies in September or early October.

Medics are particularly concerned about women who cannot access medical care in time, who have complications requiring delivery via cesarean sections or those who develop postpartum haemorrhaging, both of which can be deadly or result in disability without access to specialized health care. Even before the flooding, nationally 186 women died per 100,000 live births, according to official figures.

That rises to 224 per 100,000 births in Sindh province, and 298 maternal deaths per 100,000 births in Balochistan, another province hard hit by floods.




A mother swats flies away from her newborn baby at a temporary shelter in Mehar, Sindh on September 28, 2022. (AN Photo)

At the Kakkar tent-city camp in Sindh, more than 60 women are expecting while two have recently given birth. Doctors fear for their health.

“This is a vulnerable situation because they are not getting proper treatment,” Flight Lt. (R) Musarrat Shah, a social activist who runs the tent-city, told Arab News. “For two months, to live in this tent city is not very easy for newborn babies or for pregnant ladies.”

Dr. Muhammad Ali Chandio, a doctor at the Dadu tent-city, said he feared the spread of diseases among women and newborns without proper treatment.

“If the mothers have deficiencies due to [lack of] folic acid, abnormal children are born. If there emerges a case of birth asphyxia, it can be dangerous for the kid and the mother,” Dr. Chandio told Arab News. 




A newborn baby at a temporary shelter cries in Mehar, Sindh on September 28, 2022. (AN Photo)

Health authorities, however, said the government was making arrangements for women.

“Nutritional supplements for pregnant women and children are being provided to ensure that there is some resistance to malnutrition,” Mehar Khursheed, a spokesperson at the Sindh health department said, adding that UNFPA had collaborated with the Health Department, Aga Khan University Hospital, Pathfinder and Pakistan National Forum for Women Health to provide relief to pregnant women. 

She said a record was being maintained for pregnant women, their gestation periods, delivery dates and medical histories. Ambulances were also on standby to shift pregnant women to tertiary hospitals and arrangement were in for makeshift operation theaters and women doctors.

But three government-run and private shelters in the cities of Dadu and Mehar had no female doctors when Arab News visited them last week. Women there complained they hardly had access to proper food. 

“We are starving,” said Nazia, 27, who recently gave birth to a baby girl at the Mahar tent-city. “We get a plate of rice for the entire family.”


Pakistan Test to commence today on schedule after England stomach bug scare

Updated 12 sec ago

Pakistan Test to commence today on schedule after England stomach bug scare

  • England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug
  • Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef

 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board said the first Test against England in Rawalpindi would go on as per schedule today, Thursday, after England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug.

There were fears on Wednesday the virus outbreak could force England to change the team for the Test which had been announced on Tuesday.

England are on their first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years, following their Twenty20 side playing seven matches in the country two months ago, taking the series 4-3.

“The ECB has informed the PCB that they are in a position to field an XI, and, as such, the first #PAKvENG Test will commence as per schedule today (Thursday, 1 December) at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium,” PCB said on Twitter.

Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef, Omar Meziane, who also worked with the England men's football team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and at Euro 2020.

England and Pakistan will contest a three-Test series with the second in Multan beginning December 9 and the third in Karachi from December 17-21.


Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

  • Federal Shariat Court gave a five-year deadline to the government to Islamize the country’s financial system
  • Religious scholars call for practical steps to transform Pakistan’s banking system under the court’s verdict

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday a dedicated wing would soon be established at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to ensure the country’s transformation into an interest-free economy to comply with a ruling of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) earlier this year.

The FSC directed the government in April to eliminate riba, or interest, within five years while pointing out its prohibition was absolute in all forms and manifestations in Islam.

The finance minister said his government was committed to transforming Pakistan’s banking system by December 2027, adding it would up the special wing at the SBP to expedite the process.

“A wing would be formed at the SBP and I will notify the formation of wing within a week,” Dar said while addressing at a seminar on the prohibition of riba in Karachi.

“We can’t establish a ministry [to oversee the economic transformation] which is also not needed,” he continued while emphasizing that the role of the central bank was “pivotal” in Islamizing the banking system of the country.

Referring to the deadline set by the court, the finance minister said the conversion of the banking system was doable within five years.

“This is not the work that can’t be done in five years,” he said while asking the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) along with the central bank to diligently work on the project.

“A base has already been established as the share of Islamic banking in terms of the overall assets and deposits has surged by 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the overall banking sector,” he added.

The finance minister noted that significant progress had been made in relation to the Islamization of Pakistan’s banking system during his government’s previous tenure, adding that things came to a halt due to political instability in the country.

“Today the financial share of the Islamic banks would have been 40 percent instead of 20 percent,” he said.

Earlier, the SBP governor, Jameel Ahmad, noted the demand for Islamic banking services was far greater than the conventional ones. He added the central bank was therefore taking more “measures to meet the growing demand.”

“We have already commenced work on a transformation plan to shift to Islamic banking,” Ahmed said.

He informed a high-level working group of officials from the SBP, SECP and finance ministry had been formed and activated which was responsible for developing Sukuk structures.

Ahmed said that Pakistan currently had five full-fledged Islamic banks offering a wide range of products and their annual growth rate over the last five years in terms of their assets and deposits had been 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

This, he noted, was far higher than most conventional banks.

Speaking at the seminar, Mufti Taqi Usmani, a prominent Islamic scholar, appreciated the government’s decision to withdraw appeals against the FSC decision which had earlier been filed in the Supreme Court.

Usmani asked the finance ministry to take practical steps to move toward an interest-free system in the country while pointing out that some private banks had yet not withdrawn their petitions against the FSC ruling.

Political and religious leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and Siraj-ul-Haq, emir of Jamaat-e-Islami party, also participated in the seminar.


Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tells General Asim Munir it is a huge honor to lead the Pakistan Army
  • The PM hopes the armed forces will protect the country’s security better under its new leadership

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif praised the military’s professional abilities while holding a meeting with the new army chief Syed Asim Munir on Wednesday, saying it was a huge honor for anyone to lead the armed forces of Pakistan which were tirelessly working for the country’s security.

This was Munir’s first meeting with the prime minister after taking over the army’s command in a ceremony held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. He replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa who retired from the post after leading the army for six years.

“We have full confidence in the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Army,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office after the meeting.

“It is a great honor to lead the Pakistan Army,” he said while addressing the top general. “It is hoped that the armed forces under your leadership will deal with the challenges facing the country’s security in a better way.”

Sharif congratulated Munir on taking charge of his new position.

He maintained the whole nation was proud of the army’s role in protecting the frontiers of the country and fighting violent extremism and militancy.

The army has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 75-year history, either through coups or as an invisible guiding hand in politics.

Munir’s appointment coincides with a dispute between the army and former premier Imran Khan, who blames top military generals for playing a part in his ouster in a parliamentary no-trust vote earlier this year.

Khan also expressed hope earlier in the day the new military leadership would end the “prevailing trust deficit” between the army and the public.

The PM Office said in its statement Sharif’s meeting with the army chief focused on professional issues related to the country’s defense and security.

Munir also met President Arif Alvi during the day.

In a separate meeting, Alvi discussed defense related matters with the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza.

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi (right) meets army chief Syed Asim Munir in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (PID)

 


Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

Updated 30 November 2022

Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

  • Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border
  • Mine workers say lack of safety gear, poor working conditions are key causes of accidents

PESHAWAR: A gas blast at a coal mine killed nine workers in a northwestern Pakistani district on Wednesday, a government official said, and a team investigating the incident said gas sparks had caused the explosion.

There were 13 workers in the mine at the time and nine bodies were recovered, said Adnan Farid, the area deputy commissioner.

The remaining four miners were rescued from the rubble and have suffered critical injuries, he said.

A government team from the mineral development department inspected the site of the incident and said the explosion took place "due to gas sparks inside the mine," Orakzai district police chief Nazeer Khan told Reuters.

A government report seen by Reuters said the blast caused the collapse of the mine, and that gas build-up had triggered the blast. It didn't specify what type of gas it was.

Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border and mine accidents are common, mainly due to gas build-ups.

Mine workers have complained that a lack of safety gear and poor working conditions are the key causes of frequent accidents, labor union officials have said in the past.


At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

Updated 30 November 2022

At exhibition celebrating UAE National Day, envoy says Pakistan ties ‘unique in region’

  • The photo exhibition highlighted 51 years of friendship between the UAE and Pakistan
  • Al-Zaabi expressed optimism about the trajectory of relations between the two countries

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan are destined to take their relations to new heights, said the envoy of the Arab country, Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi, while visiting a photo exhibition in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The exhibition that highlighted 51 years of friendship between the two states is part of a string of events organized to celebrate the UAE national day that falls on December 2.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy, Islamabad, sang the national anthem of the Arab country and performed traditional dance to celebrate the occasion.

“We are always optimistic about the future of bilateral relations with Pakistan and see this relation jump to a different level,” Al-Zaabi said while addressing the ceremony.

UAE Ambassador to Pakistan Hamad Obaid Al-Zaabi (3rd from left) inaugurates a photo exhibition in connection with the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

He maintained the UAE national day was always a major occasion that meant a great deal to the citizens of his country. He also expressed his gratitude to all the students for participating in the program and making it memorable through their performance.

Al-Zaabi said Pakistan and the UAE enjoyed a strong and historic relationship which was spread over 51 years of shared cooperation.

“We always look at this relation as unique in the region,” he continued. “There are feelings of trust between the people and leaders of the two brotherly countries.”
The UAE envoy said his country looked to future generations through educational cooperation.

“Under Sheikh Zayed International Academy, students from different nationalities and cultures have come here to celebrate the UAE national day with our culture which is really important for all of us,” he added.

Students of Sheikh Zayed International Academy are performing to celebrate the 51st UAE national day in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AN Photo)

Speaking on the occasion, former president of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industries Sardar Yasir Ilyas said Pakistan could learn a great deal from the UAE, including how to strengthen its tourism industry.

“Tourism has made the UAE a hub of international attention and Pakistan should learn from [UAE’s] experience to tap its vast potential in this field,” he added.