Emergency Hotlines: LANDLINE (+63) 2 911 – 8688

Indians gather at border with Pakistan to welcome downed pilot

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2019

Indian Soldiers and civilians await at border with Pakistan for the return of downed Pilot Abhinandan | Photo grabbed from a Reuters video

(REUTERS) — Indians eagerly waited for the return of a captured pilot by Islamabad on Friday (March 1), with some who have been staking out the Wagah border with Pakistan vowing to stay there until the arrival of their “hero”.

The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan, became the human face of the flare-up over the contested region of Kashmir following the release of videos showing him being captured and later held in custody.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot would be released on Friday, even as his military reported that four Pakistani civilians had been killed by India firing across the disputed border in Kashmir.

The United States, China, European Union and other powers have urged restraint from the two nations, as tensions escalated following a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity, since the partition of the British colony of India into the separate countries of Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India.

Tags: , , ,

India ramps up relief efforts after Cyclone Fani hits eastern coast

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Tropical Cyclone Fani lashed coastal areas of eastern India on May 3, 2019. | Courtesy: Reuters

Relief efforts gathered pace on Friday (May 3) as a powerful cyclone lashed coastal areas of eastern India with torrential rain and winds gusting up to 200 kilometres per hour (124 mph).

Tropical Cyclone Fani, the strongest to hit India in five years, spent days building up power in the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal before it struck the coast of the state of Odisha at around 8 a.m. (0230 GMT), the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

Howling winds and driving rain impacted visibility in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha state, leaving broken branches and felled trees strewn across the city’s streets.

Odisha had evacuated more than a million people from the most vulnerable communities along the low-lying coast, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said on Twitter.

Local authorities in the eastern seaport town of Paradeep said it was providing around 2,000 with hot meals across eight cyclone centres.

India’s cyclone season can last from April to December, when severe storms batter coastal cities and cause widespread deaths and damage to crops and property in both

India and neighbouring Bangladesh, but recent technological advances have helped meteorologists predict weather patterns more accurately and prepare. (REUTERS)

Tags: , , , ,

Over a million Pakistani children missed vaccinations amid fake scare against polio vaccine

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Pakistani children are being lined up for vaccination | Courtesy : Reuters

A Federal government campaign to vaccinate more than 40 million children under five against polio in Pakistan has been suspended following a series of attacks on workers and police over the past week.

On April 23, a police officer responsible for protecting polio workers was gunned down in Bannu. The same day, a polio worker was injured with a knife in Lahore by a man refusing to allow his child to be vaccinated, citing a recent hoax video that claimed children were becoming ill after the immunisations.

The violence was preceded by a series of rumours intended to derail Pakistan’s campaign to eradicate the disease.

On April 22, several thousand children were taken to hospital in the north-west of the country by panicked parents after a video circulated on Facebook in which a man attested that children were falling sick following vaccinations.

The rumours spread like wildfire, triggering mass panic. Mobs burned a village health centre, blocked a highway and pelted cars with stones. Thirteen people are being investigated over the incident.

“The speed with which it (rumour) spread in the society, so quickly, it shows that there was some conspiracy against it (polio vaccinations). And obviously, government is investigating on those lines as well. The committee… Initially, the health department formed its own committee and we investigated this matter,” said Farooq Jameel, top Provincial Health official.

Vaccinators and police teams have previously been targeted in the country, where rumours have persisted about immunisation programmes being harmful or a cover for foreign interests.

But a shift to recruiting local workers for the door-to-door campaigns – people known and trusted in their communities and with the right language skills and access – had led to better acceptance.

“We knew that there was community mistrust, but community mistrust in one segment of society which refused vaccination due to religious beliefs will translate into the rest of the country, is something not seen in the past before in the polio program, because I’ve worked in the polio program myself for eight years and we haven’t seen any such phenomenon in the past in the program,” Babar Atta, Pakistan government’s focal person on polio said.

“But it clearly tells us that a lot of action and work now needs to be done at the community level at restoring public trust in vaccination campaigns,” the official added.

Pakistan has seen a 96% reduction in polio cases since 2014. It is one of three countries that have yet to eliminate the disease, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. (REUTERS)

Tags: , , , ,

DFA cautions Filipinos vs travel to Kashmir amid India-Pakistan tensions

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2019

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), on Thursday, advised Filipinos in India and Pakistan to stay vigilant and avoid travels to the Kashmir region.

This is amid rising tensions between the two countries which stemmed from a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in the Indian-controlled Kashmir on February 14.

Pakistan and India launched airstrikes against each other and exchanged fire in dozens of locations.

The DFA expressed hope “that India and Pakistan will exercise restraint.”

According to the DFA, there are no Filipinos working, residing in Kashmir. But there are seven Filipino military observers serving with the United Nations Military Observer Group In India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).

“All seven are safe along with the approximately 1,780 members of the Filipino Community in Pakistan and 1,167 others in India,” said the DFA in a statement.

The Foreign Affairs Department advises Filipinos to contact
the Philippine Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan at +92 333 524 4762 or the Philippine Embassy in New Delhi, India at (+91) 99 1079 7014 for emergency situations. —Aileen Cerrudo with reports from Reuters

Tags: , , , , ,