UNITED STATES AND KHYBER PAKHTUNKHWA IMPROVE DIABETES TREATMENT

ISLAMABAD

 The United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is partnering with the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to improve diabetes treatment.  By installing a case-based information management system – called the D-Talk Electronic Medical Records system – at 20 health facilities across the province, they will revolutionize the case management of diabetic patients and improve the availability of insulin at provincial health facilities.

“USAID is committed to extending all possible support to the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for sustainable public health systems in the province,” said Dr. Enilda Martin, Director of USAID/Pakistan’s Office of Health, Population and Nutrition.

“If we want Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to progress and health services to be on par with the developed world, digitization is the key,” said KP Secretary of Health, Mr. Syed Imtiaz Hussain Shah.  “Digitizing and having a dedicated management information system for various functions in the department is the way towards e-governance and effective patient management in the future.”

The U.S. government support will also include an Asset Management Information System to automate the inventory at health facilities and thereby manage resources more effectively, reducing the waste of expensive equipment and assets to streamline health management in the province.

Additionally, USAID has partnered with the Government of Pakistan’s health and disaster management authorities in their COVID-19 pandemic response to strengthen district-level monitoring and rapid response teams, expand testing, provide ventilators, and train health workers across COVID-19 related service delivery systems.  This partnership encourages citizens to have confidence in the public health system and seek care in local health facilities.

Pakistan has denied threatening Afghan forces against removing the Taliban from the border

Pakistan has denied allegations by Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh that the Pakistan Air Force had issued an official warning to Afghan security forces to repel any action by the latter to dislodge the Taliban from the border crossing of Spin Boldak.

Such allegations “undermine Pakistan’s sincere efforts to play its part in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led solution” for restoring peace in the war-torn country, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office (FO) on Friday.

Saleh had made the allegations in a tweet on Thursday, also claiming that the Pakistan Air Force was providing air support to the Taliban in certain areas.

“Breaking: Pakistan air force has issued official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force. Pak air force is now providing close air support to Taliban in certain areas,

In a separate tweet, he had added: “If anyone doubts my tweet on Pak Air Force & Pak Army warning to d Afg side not to retake Spin Boldak I am ready to share evidence through DM.

The FO denied the allegations on Friday, stating that the Afghan side had conveyed to Pakistan its intention of carrying out an air operation inside its territory adjacent to the Chaman border.

“Pakistan responded positively to [the] Afghan Government’s right to act in its territory. In spite of very close border operations normally not acceded to by internationally accepted norms/ standards/ procedures, Pakistan took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population.”

Pakistan acknowledged the Afghan government’s “rights to undertake actions on its sovereign territory,” it added.

In the statement, the FO recalled that recently, Pakistan had rescued 40 Afghan National Defence Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel, who had fled into the country.

They were returned to the Afghan government with “respect and dignity, with a declared offer to ANDSF to provide all logistical support as requested,” the FO said.

It added that Pakistan remained “committed to peace in Afghanistan and shall continue to endeavour towards this end irrespective of the detractors.”

“It is, however, important that at this critical juncture, all energies are focused on achieving an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement in Afghanistan,” the FO stressed.

Border closure

These developments came two days after the closure of the Chaman border — a key frontier between Afghanistan and Pakistan — amid reports of the Taliban capturing the strategic border crossing of Spin Boldak.

Pakistan had sealed its border with Afghanistan on Wednesday after Taliban militants wrested control from Afghan forces of the border town of Wesh that sits opposite the Pakistani border town of Chaman.

“Wesh Mandi, which has great importance for Afghan trade with Pakistan and other countries besides business activities, has been captured by the Taliban,” an official of the Chaman administration had told Dawn at the time, quoting reports pouring into his town.

The border was briefly opened on Thursday, on what officials described as “humanitarian grounds”, as hundreds of people remained stranded on both sides of the border.

Peace conference

The allegations by the Afghan vice president and the rebuttal from Pakistan also precede a three-day Afghan peace conference that Pakistan will be hosting over the weekend, starting from tomorrow (Saturday).

According to Tolo News, 21 prominent Afghan leaders, including Abdullah Abdullah, Karim Khalili, Mohammad Younus Qanooni, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Salahuddin Rabbani, Ismail Khan, Ata Mohammad Noor, Sayed Hamed Gailani, Sayed Eshaq Gailani, Batur Dostum and Mirwais Yasini, have been invited to the conference.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had telephoned former Afghan president Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, inviting him and other leaders to the conference.

The Taliban, however, have not been invited.

The FO spokesperson had clarified in a statement on Thursday that Taliban were not among the invitees as they had already visited Pakistan many times and held detailed discussions on the peace process.

India orders 660 mln vaccine doses amidst warnings over shortages – media

July 16 (Reuters) – The Indian government has ordered 660 million vaccine doses for August-December, its largest procurement, local news reports said on Friday, as state authorities and health experts warned that shortages could leave millions vulnerable if coronavirus infections surge again.

The federal government aims to inoculate all of the country’s estimated 944 million adults by December, a target health experts have said is ambitious, as only 8% of that number is currently vaccinated with the mandatory two doses.

Several states have reported vaccine shortages, with many inoculation centres shut and people having to wait for long hours at others for their shot.

The government has now ordered 375 million more doses of AstraZeneca’s(AZN.L) locally produced Covishield and 285 million doses of Bharat Biotech’s homegrown Covaxin, the Economic Times newspaper reported, citing sources.

The health ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The Serum Institute of India, which manufactures Covishield, has raised monthly production to about 100 million doses.

The government says Bharat Biotech’s monthly output will jump to as much as 70 million doses in July/August, from about 10 million doses in April. Production could rise further to nearly 100 million by September, it says.

Bharat Biotech, which has been struggling to raise output of its vaccine, did not respond to a request for an update on its production plans.

“I expect the vaccine shortage to continue and as per the planned vaccine supply, it appears that the daily average for the whole of July will stay below 4 million,” said Rijo John, health economist and a professor at the Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in the southern city of Kochi.

After a record 9.1 million doses were administered on June 21, fewer than 4 million doses per day have since been given on an average this month.

A full rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in India has also been delayed due to a lack of imported supplies. Commercial production of the vaccine in India, however, could begin soon.

India’s daily COVID-19 cases have dropped to nearly two-month lows, the country remains the second-highest globally in terms of daily infections.

India reported on Friday 38,949 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, taking the nationwide tally above 31 million. Total fatalities were 412,531.

World leaders dial in as New Zealand hosts special APEC meeting on pandemic

WELLINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and other world leaders meet virtually on Friday for the Asia-Pacific trade group APEC, seeking collective actions to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts.

New Zealand, the revolving Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation host, said this week it will chair the extraordinary meeting ahead of a formal gathering in November, the first time such an additional meeting has been held. 

The meeting highlights growing concerns around COVID-19 which is raging in the region as countries including Indonesia, Thailand and Australia face new waves of infections.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stressed the importance of the 21-economy group working together to navigate a way out of the pandemic in a call with Biden ahead of the meeting.

But tensions among APEC members – mostly notably between the West and China over the origins of the coronavirus, trade, Xinjiang and South China Sea – could yet upend the agenda.

A senior Biden administration official said the president will use the forum to demonstrate his commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“As one of the first opportunities he has to engage with many of these leaders, he will make clear that the U.S. has an enduring commitment to the region. He will put forward a vision for the region that is based on our values,” said the official.

Biden will also discuss how the region can work together to fuel the global economic recovery.

The meeting will include an ‘interactive’ Q&A session where leaders can ask questions or make comments, a format that is unusual for APEC leaders, where events are usually scripted.

“We expect a dynamic and interactive discussion among leaders. That is the intention of such a meeting,” said a regional diplomat. “We hope through this leaders’ meeting there will be a more concrete programme for mitigating the pandemic.”

The grouping includes the world’s three largest economies and impoverished nations such as Papua New Guinea, as well as members at vastly different points in the COVID-19 cycle, providing further challenges for building consensus.

That consensus model of APEC has been tested in recent years, with the group unable to agree on a communique at their 2018 meeting in Papua New Guinea, driven by differences between the United States led by former President Donald Trump, and China.

The 2019 APEC meeting in Chile was cancelled due to protests while the one in Malaysia last year was side-tracked as officials hastily organised a virtual meeting as the pandemic locked down the world.

In June, APEC trade ministers agreed to review trade barriers and expedite the cross-border transit of COVID-19 vaccines and related goods, but stopped short of a broad commitment to remove tariffs which New Zealand was pushing for. 

There have been over 50 million cases of COVID-19 within APEC’s borders, with over one million deaths. APEC-wide GDP contracted by 1.9% in 2020.

Tennis-Djokovic confirms he will compete at Tokyo Games

Reuters

World number one Novak Djokovic confirmed he will compete at the Tokyo Olympics as the Serb remains on course to achieve the Golden Slam in tennis.

Djokovic completed the third leg towards achieving the Golden Slam last weekend when he added the Wimbledon title to his Australian Open and Roland Garros triumphs in 2021.

No man has ever won the four slams and an Olympic gold in the same year, with Germany’s Steffi Graf the only player to accomplish the feat in 1988.

After winning at Wimbledon, Djokovic said he was “50-50” about competing at the July 23-Aug. 8 Games following the organisers’ decision to ban fans from attending and the restrictions on the number of people he can take to the Games. 

But the 34-year-old said on Thursday he had booked his flight for Tokyo.

“I am very proud to pack for Tokyo and join our national team in the fight for the brightest medals on the Olympic arenas,” Djokovic, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, tweeted.

“For me, the game for Serbia has always been a special joy and motivation and I will do my best to make us all happy! Let’s go.”

Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Serena Williams, Stan Wawrinka and Simona Halep have already announced their decision to skip the Games, which has been delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.