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In Kabul children’s hospital, medics struggle with staff shortages

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October 26, 2021

By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

KABUL (Reuters) – In Kabul’s main children’s hospital, the crumbling of Afghanistan’s health system is reflected in the eyes of exhausted staff as they eke out fast-diminishing stocks of medicines.

As crowds of mothers and sick children fill waiting rooms in the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, medical staff are squeezing three babies into a single incubator and doubling them up in cot-like infant warmer beds.

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Nurses who once took care of three or four babies each are now having to look after 20 or more to make up for the absence of staff who fled the country when the Taliban seized power in August.

“We tell each other that we have do this work, if we don’t do it, these problems will become big, it’s a loss for ourselves, our society and for our country,” said Dr Saifullah Abassin as he moved from bed to bed in the crowded intensive care unit.

Although the number of blast victims and war wounded have fallen since the fighting ended, Afghanistan’s hospitals are grappling with the fallout of a rapidly spreading economic crisis that has threatened millions with hunger.

U.N. agencies say as much as 95% of the population does not regularly have enough to eat and last month, the head of the World Health Organisation warned the health system was on the brink of collapse as international aid has dried up.

Lack of support for the $600 million Sehatmandi health service project administered by World Bank, has left thousands of facilities unable to buy supplies and pay salaries, threatening health services at all levels from village clinics to hospitals offering caesarian sections.

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STAFF NOT PAID IN MONTHS

For the medical team, it is the acute staff shortage that is causing the heaviest strain. They have not been paid in months and often struggle even to pay their car fare to work.

“We only ask from the government firstly that, they should increase our staff,” says Marwa, the nursing supervisor in the nursery ward. “Because of the changes, most of our colleagues left the country.”

Nurses who would normally be taking care of three or four babies for each nurse are now handling 23. “It is a lot of load on us,” she said.

Mohammad Latif Baher, assistant director of the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, said officials from the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF have given some help but more is needed quickly to fill the shortage of medicines and supplies to treat malnourished children.

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“They (international organisations) have promised more aid. And we hope that they will keep their promises,” Baher says.

The hospital, built during the Soviet era in 1985 and financed by Indian aid money, has 360 beds but is operating well over capacity because of the lack of functioning clinics in the provinces around Kabul.

With a heavy flow of families coming in, the hospital has admitted 450 children and turned others away, he said.

Arzoo, who brought her eight-month-old daughter Sofia in for treatment, already lost one of her five children to malnourishment-related illness and is desperate not to lose another.

“We had a water tank at home – we sold that and used that for treatment,” she said, even though the cost means Sofia’s four siblings at home do not have much to eat.

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“Their father came in the morning and told me the kids don’t have anything. When they (hospital) provide some food, I portion it out and send some home to the kids.”

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam, Editing by William Maclean)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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