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India’s COVID-19 cases dip from peak, but calls for shutdown mount

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(Last Updated On: May 10, 2021)

Calls grew for India to impose a nationwide lockdown as new coronavirus cases and deaths held close to record highs on Monday, increasing pressure on the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Reuters reported.

The 366,161 new infections and 3,754 deaths reported by the health ministry were slightly down from recent peaks, taking India’s tally to 22.66 million with 246,116 deaths.

But as many hospitals grapple with an acute shortage of oxygen and beds while morgues and crematoriums overflow, experts have said India’s actual figures could be far higher than reported, Reuters reported.

Sunday’s 1.47 million tests for COVID-19 were this month’s lowest yet, data from the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research showed. The figure compared with a daily average of 1.7 million for the first eight days of May.

The number of positive results from the tests was not immediately clear, however.

Many states have imposed strict lockdowns over the last month while others have placed curbs on movement and shut cinemas, restaurants, pubs and shopping malls.

But pressure is mounting on Modi to announce a nationwide lockdown as he did during the first wave of infections last year, Reuters reported.

He is battling criticism for allowing huge gatherings at a religious festival and holding large election rallies during the past two months even as cases surged.

“A failure of governance of epic and historic proportions,” Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, said on Twitter.

On Sunday, top White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said he had advised Indian authorities they needed to shut down.

“You’ve got to shut down,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” television show. “I believe several of the Indian states have already done that, but you need to break the chain of transmission. And one of the ways to do that is to shut down.”

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also called for a “complete, well-planned, pre-announced” lockdown.

New Delhi, the capital, entered a fourth week of lockdown, with tougher curbs such as the shutdown of the suburban rail network, while residents scrambled for scarce hospital beds and oxygen supplies, Reuters reported.

“This is not the time to be lenient,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Sunday.

“This phase is so tough, this wave is so dangerous, so many people are dying…the priority at this hour is to save lives,” he said in a televised address.

Global support, in the form of oxygen cylinders and concentrators, ventilators and other medical gear, has poured in.

By Sunday, the world’s largest vaccine-producing nation had fully vaccinated just over 34.3 million, or only 2.5%, of its population of about 1.35 billion, government data shows.

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Thousands take exams for Turkish-run schools in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

Thousands of Afghan students, including girls under grade 7, took entrance exams on Friday for a Turkish foundation in Kabul that runs some of Afghanistan’s most highly regarded schools.

As many as 3,600 students sat the highly competitive exams for the Afghan-Turk school system, Afghan-Turk School’s officials said.

“We want all girls to be educated. This is our president’s and our government’s wish and that of Afghans,” the Educational Councillor at Kabul’s Turkish Embassy, Changez Idmir, said at a news conference to mark the holding of the entrance tests.

Facing mounting global pressure, the IEA has said they will allow older girls to resume classes once arrangements are made to ensure they can do so in conformity with what the movement considers proper Islamic standards.

Afghan-Turk schools are regarded among the top schools in Afghanistan and admission is highly competitive.

Unofficially, many parts of the country have seen older girls restart classes, while officially the IEA says they are still working on a national system.

Ehsan Khateb, Head of Kabul Education Department, also attended the ceremony and thanked the Turkish government.

Afghan-Turk schools have had to make changes to their curriculum, shutting music, theatre, and dance departments at the request of IEA officials, the head of the Turkish educational foundation, Salleh Saghar, told Reuters.

The foundation respected the rules and culture of the host country, he said.

“Like the music, theatre, and dancing department … based on Taliban (IEA) requests we closed the departments,” he said, and it was for the IEA government to decide if they would reopen.

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Afghan humanitarian crisis, drug trafficking alarm India, Russia, China

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

The foreign ministers of India, Russia and China expressed concern on Friday at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the spread of drug trafficking in the country.

Afghanistan has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, following the collapse of the Western-backed government and return to power of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in August.

“Expressing concern over deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the Ministers called for immediate and unhindered humanitarian assistance to be provided to Afghanistan,” said a joint statement released following a virtual meeting between India’s S Jaishankar, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi.

The three countries also pledged to do more to combat drug smuggling in the region.

“The spread of illicit drug trafficking in opiates and methamphetamine from Afghanistan and beyond… poses a serious threat to regional security and stability and provides funding for terrorist organizations,” the statement added.

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Kabul hospitals receive more children suffering from malnutrition

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

Hospitals in Kabul are receiving more child patients suffering from malnutrition, as the humanitarian crisis worsens in the country amid conflicts and economic collapse.

About 20 children, many below five years old, are currently receiving treatment in the Kabul Children’s Hospital, one of the children’s medical centers in the city offering free medical services for Afghan people.

The hospital has opened a special area for the treatment of malnutrition as the number of malnourished child patients keeps increasing.

Three wards are full of children with pale faces and dull eyes. Some of them are relying on oxygen to maintain the faint breath, and others look puffy and swollen as they suffer oedema caused by severe deficiency of protein and other nutriment.

“Most of the malnourished patients here come from the countryside. As it starts to snow and the weather becomes cold, it will be difficult for them to go to the clinic or come here for treatment. The number of malnourished patients is likely to increase,” said Latif Baher, director of the hospital.

In an interview with China Central Television, Latif said the hospital is being expanded to receive more malnourished child patients. A special building will be established to accommodate about 100 malnourished children.

Latif said prolonged conflicts and the poor living environment have resulted in the malnutrition among people.

“Afghans are living in a bad situation. The adults in the family cannot get enough food, and they cannot provide enough nutrition such as protein or carbohydrates to their children,” he said.

Without reliable access to water, food and basic health and nutrition services, Afghan children and their families are bearing the brunt of years of conflict and the current economic crisis, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The fund reported last month that about 14 million people in Afghanistan are facing acute food insecurity, and an estimated 3.2 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year. At least 1 million of these children are at risk of dying due to severe acute malnutrition without immediate treatment.

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