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Balochistan Earthquake 2013

Two powerful earthquakes measuring 7.7 and 6.8 on the Richter scale hit Balochistan Province, south-western Pakistan, on 24 and 28 September 2013 respectively. According to the Government of Pakistan, the earthquakes killed 376 people and have affected at least 200,000 people.
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According to the Government, Awaran, Kech, Kharan, Panjgur, Washuk and Gwadar districts have been affected. Awaran and Kech districts have been hit the hardest and have therefore been prioritized for humanitarian response.
Complex Emergency in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA

Humanitarian partners are providing assistance to more than 1 million people who remain displaced across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) as a result of ongoing insecurity since 2008. Conflict in north-western Pakistan has displaced over 4 million people since 2008, of whom 3 million have returned home.
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Between March and June 2013, an escalation of hostilities displaced some 140,000 people from FATA, and in June and July, 67,000 people returned to safe areas in FATA. Humanitarian partners provided return packages including transport, food, non-food items and basic services. Partners are monitoring ongoing returns to ensure they are voluntary, safe, dignified and in accordance with humanitarian principles.
Monsoon 2013

Heavy monsoon rains experienced in August 2013 have triggered flash floods and caused widespread losses and damage across the country. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) reports the monsoon rains have affected nearly 1.5 million people, 1.45 acres of crops and damaged or destroyed nearly 80,000 houses, as of 9 September 2013
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Punjab and Sindh provinces are most affected. Government authorities, supported by humanitarian partners, are providing assistance in the flood-affected areas.
Monsoon 2012

Floods occurred in Pakistan in September 2012, affecting more than 5 million people. Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces were the hardest hit, with some districts inundated with floodwaters for the third consecutive year. The floods affected more than 1 million acres of crops, damaged over 460,000 houses and ruined basic infrastructure.
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The UN and its humanitarian partners are supporting the Government in providing assistance to the affected people in the hardest hit districts in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh provinces.

IRIN on Pakistan

Can de-radicalisation be taught at school?

Tue, 26 Apr 2016 13:25:06 +0000

Until recently, Fazal Akbar survived by begging on the streets of the Pakistani city of Peshawar after his mother died of cancer and his father was killed in a suicide bombing. Now, he lives and learns at a new government facility that aims to save children from being recruited by militant groups.

“My dream is to become a doctor as I want to serve the people who are injured or maimed in bomb blasts and militant attacks,” said 12-year-old Akbar.

It’s a dream that could become a reality since he and his two younger brothers became students two months ago at Zamung Kor, which translates as “My Home”. They are among the first 40 students at the facility – the first of its kind run by the government – which was inaugurated in November and will house as many as 1,000 boys by the end of the year.

The boys chosen to attend Zamung Kor will be among Pakistan’s most vulnerable children – those who became orphans due to conflict and others from poor families who are forced to work or beg on the streets. Such children have increasingly become victims of militant groups.

A 2012 report by UNICEF found that children, including girls, were being recruited as suicide bombers in Pakistan. In 2009, Save the Children and the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child found that children were increasingly being recruited as suicide bombers and indoctrinated as fighters in unregulated madrassas, or Islamic schools.

It is precisely that kind of exploitation and victimisation of children that led the government to create Zamung Kor.

“We now want to save our future generation especially children orphaned by the war from landing into hands of the militants,” said Muhammad Naeem, the project director. “The de-radicalisation efforts will definitely take time but we’re hopeful to achieve the goal with help of education.”

Zamung Kor offers a package of both secular and religious education at a large compound on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Peshawar.  There is a small mosque on the premises, as well as a computer lab, a library, gymnasium and dorm rooms.

“Children here are taught biological sciences, computer [skills], drawing and English to broaden their observation and knowledge about the world,” said Naeem. “We also teach them verses from the Koran, which encourage peace, harmony and love in the society.”

In contrast, he said, some madrassas in the area teach children “hatred against non-Muslims”. Yet, many poor families send their children to such schools because they provide free classes and lodging, while there are not enough government schools.

In 2009, there were at least 12 million Pakistani children in about 76,000 private institutions, according to the joint report by Save the Children and the SPRC. Yet, the government had no mechanism to oversee teaching standards, curriculums or fees charged.

“The state has no control over these private schools, including” madrassas, the report concluded.

Fighting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the border with Afghanistan has also disrupted classes and destroyed schools. Many of those that still function are overwhelmed by too many students.

Related Story

Education still on hold after year of war in Pakistan

Militant groups have also targeted schools directly. According to the Global Terrorism Database, which is run by the University of Maryland, more than 850 educational institutions were attacked in Pakistan between 1970 and 2014, killing at least 450 people.

To protect it from being attacked, Zamung Kor is surrounded by an 11-foot high wall with razor wire and security cameras along the top.

Akbar hopes the precautions are unnecessary.

“I don’t want to see anybody lose his friends or other close relatives in bomb blasts like I did,” he said.

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1.jpg Feature Aid and Policy Conflict Human Rights Child soldiers Politics and Economics De-radicalisation at school? Aamir Saeed IRIN A Pakistani orphanage aims to steer children away from extremism PESHAWAR Asia Pakistan

Polio hopes and Zika fears in the vaccine race

Wed, 06 Apr 2016 15:57:00 +0000

It’s busy times for the vaccine industry – a new vaccine against dengue fever has been deployed in the Philippines, research for a vaccine against Zika virus is gaining steam (although questions remain over the threat it poses), the Ebola outbreak refuses to go away, and a yellow fever outbreak in Angola has exposed an alarming lack of stockpiles.

Against this backdrop, the biggest-ever effort in human immunisation might finally be reaching the beginning of the end. Wild polio, once crippling hundreds of thousands a year, is found now in only two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan. There have been just nine reported cases so far in 2016.

If polio were in full retreat in 2017, it would mark 40 years since the last natural case of smallpox – the first disease to be completely wiped out in human history, in 1977.

The multi-agency polio eradication programme led by the WHO since 1988 shows that the road to eradicating any disease is long and expensive, even one with relatively simple characteristics (unlike a number of other diseases on the global agenda, polio can only survive in humans; there’s no reservoir in animals or insects). The Polio Eradication Initiative has a budget of more than $1 billion per year.

The research and development stages of any drug or vaccine take years, but that’s only one ingredient. Public education and mobilisation, funding, and, inevitably, tackling anti-vaccine suspicion and rumours, have all played their part in the twists and turns of the polio campaign. The same will surely be true of any future eradication programme.

The next steps of the anti-polio drive require a synchronised switch in the type of vaccine, due between now and 1 May in 155 countries, and then, in the years to follow, a gradual transition to injectable vaccines to replace the oral drops so many countries are familiar with.

Unintended consequences

Until this year, the most common oral vaccine protected against all three types of polio. Since type two is now eradicated in the wild, the new version of the vaccine only protects against types one and three.

Some surprising data is a factor behind this move.

While the number of naturally-acquired cases of polio last year were 74, the total number was 106. How?

In a tiny minority of cases – the WHO suggests it’s a 2.7 million to one chance – the oral polio vaccine backfires and causes paralysis: the signature symptom of polio.

Given the right circumstances, both in the patient’s stomach and an unhygienic environment, the polio virus can further survive in faeces and be transmitted to others. This, circulating vaccine-derived polio virus (cVDPV) is most commonly a variant of type two, so it makes sense to remove the pathogen from the vaccine now if it’s not present in the wild.

In 2015, 32 cVDPV cases were reported from Madagascar, Laos, Guinea, Myanmar, Nigeria and Ukraine.

Therefore, the old oral polio vaccine was in fact the cause of about a third of cases of polio-related paralysis last year. Governments accept the rare incidents of vaccine-derived polio as an acceptable price to pay along the road to worldwide eradication. Using only the new bivalent (two-pronged) vaccine should reduce this unintended consequence significantly, while concentrating firepower on the remaining two types. Developed countries now tend to use the injectable polio vaccine, which carries no risk of vaccine-derived polio. The rest of the world should also graduate to the injectable model if the frontline battle against polio can be won by the oral vaccine.

Ben Parker/IRIN
A Sanofi Pasteur employee visually checks a vial of vaccine. Manual and automated quality control is a significant part of the vaccine manufacturing process.

What about Zika?

Vaccine controversies, unfounded in science, have surfaced in Europe and the United States in recent years. There is no proof of a link between autism and vaccines, and a dropoff in vaccination rates has caused an upswing in cases of measles. Such scares and debates have always accompanied vaccines and are inevitable part of the public conversation, according to Sanofi Pasteur spokesman Alain Bernal.

Much of the recent media hype involving vaccines has centred on the Zika virus, which has exploded in the Americas this year and has been categorised as a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organization.

Sanofi Pasteur head of global research, Nick Jackson, told IRIN that in addition to being a major producer of polio and other vaccines it is among a number of bodies moving towards early-stage “wet experiments” on Zika.

For Zika, there is a particular lack of data and research on the virus, its mosquito hosts and means of transmission. There’s also debate about the normal incidence of various congenital and neurological conditions that have so far been linked to it. Building baseline data will be critical both for researchers and for subsequent public confidence in any vaccine. A recent review of expert opinion by Scientific American explores a range of risks and complicating factors, all suggesting a quick win in vaccine research unlikely.

One of the conditions that may be linked to Zika in adults is a severe neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). “What is tricky is to be able to measure the level of GBS without vaccination… The background level exists naturally. It’s very important for a vaccine producer to demonstrate the level of these events before the vaccination, so that after the vaccination people don’t blame the vaccine,” Bernal told IRIN.

Pressure for Zika treatment and prevention is an acute international priority according to the WHO – and the outbreak’s development in the Americas has triggered the early promise of US cash and research resources. At a recent consultation in the US, researchers, drug company officials, medical journals and public health officials compared notes. “Ebola’s scary because we know what it can do. Zika’s scary because we don’t know yet what it can do,” said Jackson.

[Sanofi Pasteur provided travel expenses for IRIN's visit to its facilities in Lyon.]

 

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Might this be the year polio is defeated? Polio hopes and Zika fears in the vaccine race vaccinetesting.jpg Ben Parker Feature Aid and Policy Health LYON IRIN Africa Madagascar Guinea Nigeria Americas United States Asia Afghanistan Lao Peoples Democratic Republic Myanmar Pakistan Europe Ukraine Laos

Situation Reports and Updates

DateTitleDownload
15-Oct-2013Humanitarian Bulletin Pakistan Issue 19 | 16 September – 15 October 2013Download
15-Sep-2013Humanitarian Bulletin Pakistan: Issue 18 | 16 August – 15 September 2013Download
13-Sep-2013MONSOON UPDATE Issue 8 | 7 - 13 September 2013Download
06-Sep-2013MONSOON UPDATE Issue 7 | 31 August - 6 September 2013Download
30-Aug-2013MONSOON UPDATE Issue 6 | 24 August - 30 August 2013Download
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