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Russia says no progress in talks with US over standoff

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Pakistan capital is leading the country in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, with health ministry data up to Sept. 30 showing more than 85 percent of people in Islamabad had received a first dose and 47 percent were fully vaccinated. This compared to only 15 percent of the target group in the country’s…

Russia says no progress in talks with US over standoff

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Pakistan capital is leading the country in vaccinating its population against COVID-19, with health ministry data up to Sept. 30 showing more than 85 percent of people in Islamabad had received a first dose and 47 percent were fully vaccinated.

This compared to only 15 percent of the target group in the country’s least populous province of Balochistan having been administered one jab, the data showed.

The government launched a national vaccination drive in February this year, prioritizing health care workers and elderly citizens before broadening the campaign. Now in the fourth wave of the pandemic, Pakistani officials say that a ramped-up vaccination campaign has helped to push down daily infection rates from a peak of more than 9 percent in August to less than 2 percent currently.

About 125 million of Pakistan’s 220 million total population is eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Among the eligible population, about 90 million have received at least one dose since February, health ministry data shows.

As of Monday this week, fully vaccinated Pakistanis constituted 26 percent of the target population, with all federating units saying that they were ramping up efforts to boost daily vaccination rates by launching door-to-door campaigns and forbidding unjabbed people from using public transportation, air travel, buying fuel at petrol stations and using other essential services.  

“The COVID-19 vaccination has helped us reduce the severity of disease and hospitalization rates among those infected with the virus in Islamabad,” Dr. Hasan Orooj, director general of health services in Islamabad told Arab News, saying the administration was vaccinating eligible people at public transport stands, weekly bazaars and public and private offices.

“We (Islamabad) are well ahead of our (vaccination) target, but still people should continue to follow health guidelines to prevent the next wave,” Orooj cautioned, adding that his teams were also working to bridge a vaccination gap between rural and urban areas of the capital.

“The vaccination numbers in Islamabad’s rural areas are comparatively low, and we are mobilizing our special teams to bring it on a par with urban areas,” he said.

According to official data collected by Arab News from all four provinces and Islamabad, the impoverished Balochistan province has the lowest vaccination rates, with only 7 percent of the province fully vaccinated and 15 percent partially jabbed. The province is Pakistan’s largest — it makes up more than 40 percent of the total land area of Pakistan — but it is also the least populous.

Statistics show a total of 1.25 million individuals — including people from other cities — had received at least one dose of a vaccine in Islamabad as of last week, though only 686,905 people had been fully vaccinated.

Islamabad’s eligible population for the COVID-19 vaccination is about 1.46 million, of which 47 percent are fully vaccinated, health department data showed.

PUNJABIn Punjab, 45 percent people are partially vaccinated, followed by 39 percent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 35.53 percent in Sindh and 15 percent in Balochistan.

Punjab Health Secretary Imran Sikandar Baloch said that about 233 million people in the province had been administered a first dose, while a second dose had been administered to more than 10 million people.

“Punjab is leading the national vaccination drive both in numbers and percentages,” Baloch said.

Sharing the vaccination data of major cities in the province, the secretary said that 58 precent of Rawalpindi’s population had been administered the first dose, 53 percent of Multan’s, 51 percent of Lahore’s, 52 precent of Gujranwala’s and 41 percent of Faisalabad’s.

The districts of Jhelum and Mandi Bahauddin had partially vaccinated 69 percent and 62 percent of eligible individuals respectively, the secretary said.  

To boost inoculation numbers, Baloch said that the provincial government had devised door-to-door campaigns, especially in rural and hard-to-reach areas.

“We have also decided to target small populated units with mobile vaccination centers,” he added.

SINDHIn Sindh province, 35.53 percent of 34.8 million eligible individuals had been partially vaccinated, according to the health department. The number of those who had received at least one dose in the province stood at 12.4 million while 5.4 million were fully vaccinated, according to official data compiled up to Thursday.

Data from the different divisions of Sindh showed Karachi division was 42.81 percent partially vaccinated, Hyderabad division 29.68 percent, Sukkur division 26.03 percent, Mirpur Khas division 48.94 percent, Shaheed Benazir Abad division 34.06 percent and Larkana division 24.54 percent.

Sindh had administered 150,000 vaccines a day on average in the past two weeks in Sindh province, said Mehar Khursheed, a spokesperson for the Sindh Health Department.

Sindh is home to Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, the nation’s financial hub, where the vaccine rate is higher than other parts of the province.

Khursheed said that the vaccination rate was high in urban districts due to high awareness among people, while the district administration was strictly implementing an obligatory vaccine regime to improve vaccination numbers in low-performing districts.

“Sindh is the first province that has taken bold steps in terms of the obligatory regime to increase its vaccination coverage, like blocking mobile phone SIMs, banning commercial activities and travel by unvaccinated people,” Khursheed told Arab News.

KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWAIn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, authorities have partially vaccinated about 39 percent of its target population. Overall, more than 9 million people from the northwestern province had received a first dose while 3.2 million were fully vaccinated, according to the provincial health department.

Dr. Niaz Muhammad, director general, KP health, said that some districts such as Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Chitral, Orakzai, Peshawar and Kurram had good vaccination results but poor awareness continued to fuel vaccine hesitancy and low immunization rates in other areas.

“We are sending outreach teams in view of the reluctance among some people and carrying out mass door-to-door vaccination,” Muhammad told Arab News. “People had some concerns due to some media reports coupled with poor awareness but we’re working to improve our communication strategy.”

In addition, he said that the government had already announced an obligatory vaccine regime under which the transport sector and school children would need to have received one COVID-19 vaccination dose by Oct. 15.

BALOCHISTANIn Balochistan, official data showed that about 1,482,791 people had been vaccinated in 33 districts of the province between February and September.

Dr. Naqeeb Niazi, deputy in-charge, operation cell, primary and secondary health department in Balochistan, said that the first dose coverage in the province had reached up to 15 percent while only 7 percent were fully vaccinated — the lowest vaccination rate in the country.

“We have been implementing an obligatory regime of vaccination from Oct. 1, and hope the vaccination number will increase in districts with low numbers by Oct. 31,” Niazi told Arab News.

A senior official at the National Command and Operation Center, Pakistan’s federal pandemic response body, said that vaccination rates varied “because of the peculiar environment and population of every province.”

“Punjab is leading the vaccination drive among provinces because it is the most populated territory in the country,” he said, declining to be named. “Similarly, the low turnout in Balochistan is due to its geographic location, not because of less government motivation to vaccinate the provincial population.”

He said that people in the remote, sparsely populated Balochistan province had to travel long distances to reach vaccination centers, while lack of awareness and misinformation also continued to fuel low rates in the region.

“Vaccination numbers are usually low in rural areas of the country for different reasons, including low motivation and the luxury to avoid government-imposed restrictions because they don’t need to travel by air or go to restaurants for which it is mandatory to get vaccinated now,” the official said.

Additional reporting by Naimat Khan in Karachi, Rehmat Mehsud in Peshawar and Saadullah Akhter in Quetta

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In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs

As the UN turns 76, students draw inspiration from its Sustainable Development Goals NEW YORK CITY: When the Bobcat Fire, one of the largest outbreaks in Los Angeles county’s history, erupted in September 2020, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres, 12-year-old Audrey Ma was within 500 feet of the area where a mandatory evacuation order…

In Islamabad, a cafe serves up qahwah, the ‘language of love’ for Arabs

As the UN turns 76, students draw inspiration from its Sustainable Development Goals

NEW YORK CITY: When the Bobcat Fire, one of the largest outbreaks in Los Angeles county’s history, erupted in September 2020, scorching hundreds of thousands of acres, 12-year-old Audrey Ma was within 500 feet of the area where a mandatory evacuation order was issued.

Ma’s parents asked her to pack her belongings as flames approached the neighborhood, and for a moment the child contemplated the possibility of losing everything she had and abandoning the only life she had known so far.

The Bobcat, one of about 30 major wildfires burning in the US state of California, led to the deaths of 26 people and the destruction of an untold number of properties.

Although her house was spared from the flames, Ma’s fear of the infernal images of forests and structures burning to the ground prompted her to look into the causes of the California fires.

How do they start? How do they spread? Why are there so many fires in Southern California?

FASTFACT

United Nations Day is an annual commemorative day, reflecting the official creation of the United Nations on Oct. 24, 1945

“I learned that, although climate change is not the (direct) cause of the fires, (drier climates due to rising temperatures) make fires easier to start and spread. So, I started to learn about sustainability,” Ma told Arab News.

A UN scientific study this year has shown that human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways.

The report warned of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, called it “a red code for humanity.”

But the world continues to fall short of its promises to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, transition into clean energy and rebuild sustainably.

However, the new generation, like Ma, is directly feeling the urgency and realizing the direct impact climate change is having on their daily lives.

Thousands of people from around the globe have shared their vision for #TheWorldWeWant in a single photo.Ahead of Sunday’s #UNDay, get inspired with this visual manifesto & join the global pledge for a better future: https://t.co/gLktRmARhM pic.twitter.com/aSYk2amhUk
— United Nations (@UN) October 22, 2021

Renee Larios is the student community engagement coordinator at Pasadena’s private Polytechnic School where Ma is a student. Larios works with students to “help them navigate the things they want to do in the world to make the world better.”

Larios happened upon the UN Sustainable Development Goals four years ago. Her mind was blown, she told Arab News.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly set forth the SDGs — 17 global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” The SDGs are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.

“We decided to bring the SDGs back to our school to create a framework for our community engagement programs, to help students see the drops in the bucket that their volunteering does to further the 17 goals,” Larios said. “We’re also trying to get teachers to connect their curriculum, when possible, to one or more of the goals.”

“The students must, for every community engagement or service work that they do, explain what the relationship is between what they did and how that furthers the intention of one of the SDGs.”

After learning how food thrown into landfills rots and creates methane gas responsible for trapping the heat in our planet and making it warmer, Ma began implementing a sorting program at her school to separate the food waste from the trash, and then composting the waste in bins around the school.

“Now our sorting program can absorb 25 percent of our food waste,” Ma said. “However, the other 75 percent goes to an off-site composter, and we’re still burning fossil fuel by transporting it from place to place, which is not sustainable.

“So, our short-term goal is to be able to compost 100 percent of our food waste on-site at Poly (Polytechnic School), which leads to our long-term goal, which is (to) take this program and make it a science and then export it to other schools and use it as a blueprint for other schools to do the same thing, so we can reach meaningful reduction of greenhouse gas.”

“A Blueprint for a Better Future” is the theme established by the United Nations Association to celebrate UN Day on Oct. 24, marking the 76th anniversary of the foundational UN Charter.

The values that have powered the charter — peace, development, human rights and opportunity for all — “have no expiry date,” in the words of Guterres.

“Seventy-six years ago, the United Nations was created as a vehicle of hope for a world emerging from the shadow of catastrophic conflict,” he added in his message marking UN Day.

“COVID-19, conflicts, hunger, poverty and the climate emergency remind us that our world is far from perfect, but they also make clear that solidarity is the only way forward.

“We need to come together to tackle great challenges and advance the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“Today, the women and men of the UN carry this hope forward around the globe.”

As the head of global Initiatives Program at the Polytechnic School, Ann Diederich mentors the leaders of the UNA-Polytechnic School Chapter, where a rich programming is in place geared toward creating youth leadership.

“Our theme is ‘Empathy into Action,’” Diederich said. “How do we get our kids to come up with solutions to really complex global challenges, look at the SGDs and come up with concrete action steps to design change?

“The SDGs are very helpful for giving kids a framework and a blueprint, so they can do it and do it in a healthy way.”

Diederich, who has been teaching for 25 years, said she is concerned about this generation, commonly known as Gen Z.

“They seem to be on edge, overloaded with all the issues that they’re confronted with,” she said. “They really want to do something. They really care about each other. They have been isolated throughout the pandemic, and (now) they are very eager to work for change.

“I have never seen a generation like this. They’re quick, they do not waste time, they see that change needs to be made fast, and they don’t really trust the older generation, the millennials, to do that. They also sometimes outdo themselves.”

Ma quotes British explorer Robert Swan Obe, the first man to walk to both the North and South Poles: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Ma said: “I know at the end of the day, everything that we do is a choice. And sometimes I am worried that people are making the easy choice.

“I know that we’re able to either choose to battle climate change or to do everything the way we always did and someone is gonna come along and figure out a way to save us.

“I chose to fight for my future and climate change and I hope that one day everybody will make that decision as well.”

Since its inception, the UN’s overarching aim was simple: Children should have a better and happier life than their parents.

The UN has spent more than seven decades attempting to save and improve lives, lives that today continue to hang in the balance as wars erupt in different parts of the world, driving millions into displacement, poverty and extreme food insecurity.

The pandemic has also widened the gap between rich and poor. The world’s inequalities have never been so clearly displayed for everyone to see, from vaccine inequality to the discrepancy in quality education.

SDG 4 is about quality education for all.

Ma said: “I know I myself am very privileged to be able to have this education but there is a lot of people out there who are not able to.

“I look up to people like Malala Yousafzai, who is fighting for quality education, especially for girls in Pakistan.

“I’ve watched a doc about her. I read her book. And I also listened to her UN speech. I am really inspired by her movement for gender equality and education for girls in Pakistan. I think that’s really important.”

Ma has a message for girls in Syria, Yemen and all the war-ravaged countries where people like her merely survive:

“My message to girls around the world: We all have different strengths and backgrounds and diverse stories. Even if you can’t get access to education, you can try to learn as much as you can, educate yourself about the world around you and if you can, maybe with your friends, your family. Fight for what you think is right in the world.”

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Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects. The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019. He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before…

Swedish teen rapper killed in Stockholm shooting

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects.

The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019.

He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Thursday.

Ambulance personnel administered first aid but he died at the scene, Stockholm police spokeswoman Towe Hagg told AFP.

Police have opened a murder investigation.

“We are actively working to figure out why it happened and who can be behind it,” Hagg said.

In line with usual practice, the police have not yet confirmed the identity of the victim. But Sweden’s mainstream media identified him as Einar, whose full name is Nils Kurt Erik Einar Gronberg.

Many of Einar’s songs reference a life of crime, including drugs and weapons. He had public feuds with rival artist Yasin, who in July was jailed for 10 months for his role in a planned kidnapping of Einar in 2020.

The plan was ultimately aborted, but Einar was abducted several weeks later without Yasin’s involvement.

Einar was beaten, robbed, photographed in humiliating conditions and blackmailed, according to prosecutors.

The kidnapping was part of a broader case involving 30 suspects in a criminal network accused of a variety of crimes.

Among the suspects was another rapper, Haval Khalil, who was sentenced in July to two-and-a-half years in prison for complicity in the kidnapping and who has also had public spats with Einar.

The verdict was appealed and the case is currently being heard by the Svea Court of Appeal, which is expected to go on until December.

Einar had been called to attend the trial as a plaintiff, but was not planning to do so, his lawyer Rodney Humphreys told AFP.

“The same way he didn’t attend the trial in the district court,” Humphreys said.

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported Friday that Einar was living with a “price on his head” after a series of threats against him which had escalated recently.

Einar himself was one of several suspects arrested for a stabbing at a restaurant in central Stockholm earlier this month.

The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work.

He started his career posting songs to social media, and broke through in 2019 releasing “Katten i trakten” (The cat in the area), which hit No. 1 on Sweden’s singles chart.

He won several music awards, including Swedish Grammis.

Fans and friends expressed their grief on Einar’s social media.

“Einar was a real brother to me and I will miss him so much. We just released our first record last week and it feels so strange since I spoke to him just a day ago,” producer Trobi wrote on Instagram.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that “it is a young life that has been lost, and I understand that he meant a lot to many young people”.

“It’s tragic that another life has been lost,” he told news agency TT.

Another lesser-known Swedish rapper, 23-year-old Rozh Shamal, was also killed in a 2019 gangland shooting.

Sweden has in recent years struggled to rein in rising shootings and bombings — usually settlings of scores by gangs and organised crime involved in drug trafficking.

As of October 15, 273 shootings had been recorded with 40 people dead so far in 2021, according to police statistics.

During 2020, 47 people were killed in 366 shootings in the country of 10.3 million people.

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Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects. The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019. He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before…

Red Cross warns aid groups not enough to stave off Afghan humanitarian crisis

STOCKHOLM: Award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, who has topped the country’s charts, was shot and killed in Stockholm, police and media said Friday as police hunted for suspects.

The 19-year-old Einar, who raps in Swedish, was the most streamed artist on Spotify in Sweden in 2019.

He was shot several times outside an apartment building shortly before 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Thursday.

Ambulance personnel administered first aid but he died at the scene, Stockholm police spokeswoman Towe Hagg told AFP.

Police have opened a murder investigation.

“We are actively working to figure out why it happened and who can be behind it,” Hagg said.

In line with usual practice, the police have not yet confirmed the identity of the victim. But Sweden’s mainstream media identified him as Einar, whose full name is Nils Kurt Erik Einar Gronberg.

Many of Einar’s songs reference a life of crime, including drugs and weapons. He had public feuds with rival artist Yasin, who in July was jailed for 10 months for his role in a planned kidnapping of Einar in 2020.

The plan was ultimately aborted, but Einar was abducted several weeks later without Yasin’s involvement.

Einar was beaten, robbed, photographed in humiliating conditions and blackmailed, according to prosecutors.

The kidnapping was part of a broader case involving 30 suspects in a criminal network accused of a variety of crimes.

Among the suspects was another rapper, Haval Khalil, who was sentenced in July to two-and-a-half years in prison for complicity in the kidnapping and who has also had public spats with Einar.

The verdict was appealed and the case is currently being heard by the Svea Court of Appeal, which is expected to go on until December.

Einar had been called to attend the trial as a plaintiff, but was not planning to do so, his lawyer Rodney Humphreys told AFP.

“The same way he didn’t attend the trial in the district court,” Humphreys said.

The Aftonbladet newspaper reported Friday that Einar was living with a “price on his head” after a series of threats against him which had escalated recently.

Einar himself was one of several suspects arrested for a stabbing at a restaurant in central Stockholm earlier this month.

The son of Swedish actress Lena Nilsson, Einar grew up in southern Stockholm and often referred to the criminal scene in the area in his work.

He started his career posting songs to social media, and broke through in 2019 releasing “Katten i trakten” (The cat in the area), which hit No. 1 on Sweden’s singles chart.

He won several music awards, including Swedish Grammis.

Fans and friends expressed their grief on Einar’s social media.

“Einar was a real brother to me and I will miss him so much. We just released our first record last week and it feels so strange since I spoke to him just a day ago,” producer Trobi wrote on Instagram.

Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said that “it is a young life that has been lost, and I understand that he meant a lot to many young people”.

“It’s tragic that another life has been lost,” he told news agency TT.

Another lesser-known Swedish rapper, 23-year-old Rozh Shamal, was also killed in a 2019 gangland shooting.

Sweden has in recent years struggled to rein in rising shootings and bombings — usually settlings of scores by gangs and organised crime involved in drug trafficking.

As of October 15, 273 shootings had been recorded with 40 people dead so far in 2021, according to police statistics.

During 2020, 47 people were killed in 366 shootings in the country of 10.3 million people.

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