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The occupation has left Palestinians unable to control the virus | Occupied West Bank



In recent weeks, some countries around the world managed to slow down the spread of COVID-19 within their borders, and successfully eased their strict lockdown measures. Many others, however, experienced a second wave of infections and are still struggling to reduce the number of new coronavirus cases. 

Unfortunately, the occupied Palestinian territories are in the latter group. 

After imposing strict measures early on during the first wave of infections, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories appeared to have contained their outbreaks, with each reporting only a few dozen new cases a day in May. But an easing of restrictions has led to a steady uptick in cases since mid-June. This caused panic and confusion while the authorities rushed to come up with more effective methods to get the virus under control.

However, stemming the spread of the coronavirus is particularly difficult in Palestine due to Israel’s military occupation and the resulting apartheid and economic devastation. 

The sharp deterioration in coordination between Israeli and Palestinian officials after Israel threatened to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank has made an already grave situation worse. The Palestinian Authority’s refusal to accept tax revenues from Israel due to its annexation plans meant that the public sector employees did not receive regular salaries since May, putting more strain on the local economy during the lockdown. 

The fractured administrative structure of the occupied West Bank – where Area A is exclusively administered by the PA, Area B is administered by both the PA and Israel; and Area C is administered only by Israel – has made it impossible for the Palestinian leadership to impose effective preventative measures. The PA’s inability to fully access Areas B and C, which comprise almost 80 percent of the West Bank, has left it struggling to follow an all-inclusive coronavirus containment strategy.

The recent rise in coronavirus cases in the occupied territories has largely been blamed on the continuation of weddings, funerals and other forms of mass gatherings as well as Palestinian labourers working in Israel. Recognising that it is powerless to officially impose any virus containment measures in areas under Israeli control, the PA has asked grassroots activists, influential families, clan and tribe leaders to help it raise awareness and prevent large gatherings. 

The situation in the West Bank city of Hebron, the area hardest hit by the second wave of infections, provides further proof of the occupation’s devastating impact on the PA’s ability to contain the virus. The 1997 Hebron Protocol signed between Israel and the PA divided the city in to two areas: H1 and H2. The H1 is controlled by the PA, but H2 is under Israeli military control.

During the first wave of infections, the PA imposed a strict lockdown in H1, however, Israeli authorities did not follow the same strategy in H2. Thus, while some shops and venues were forcefully shut down, others, sometimes located on the opposite side of the same street, were allowed to continue with business as usual. This caused a lot of confusion and frustration for the residents of the city and exacerbated the spread of the virus.  

Furthermore, on July 21, at a time when the Palestinian Ministry of Health recorded daily increases averaging 400 cases across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with 80 percent of active cases being recorded in Hebron, the Israeli authorities demolished a COVID-19 quarantine and testing centre in the city. Another testing centre in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan was raided and shut down by the authorities in mid-April.

And as the Palestinian population was put under another strict lockdown in July, Israeli forces continued to conduct nightly raids on Palestinian areas, disregarding the severity of the crisis. Ramallah, Jenin, Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities were raided multiple times throughout the month, with scores of Palestinian being arbitrarily arrested. 

On July 18, Israeli forces also conducted a night raid on the Al-Jalazon refugee camp, where over 150 COVID-19 cases have been recorded and approximately 14,000 people are forced to live in close quarters with little possibility of social distancing. The camp’s youth and volunteers have been working hard to control the spread of the virus within the camp, but the Israeli raid and the resulting clashes and arrests brought their efforts to a halt. 

Palestinians in East Jerusalem have also been left vulnerable to the virus due to the activities and policies of Israeli authorities. In a July briefing paper, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Al-Haq and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Centre highlighted how “Israel’s discriminatory response to COVID-19 in East Jerusalem, coupled with long-standing failures to fulfil fundamental human rights, has compounded Palestinians’ susceptibility to the pandemic”.

In their joint briefing paper, the NGOs explained how Israeli policies led to “long delays in opening testing centres for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, delays in the provision of quarantine facilities, harassment, arrests, and persecution of local volunteers distributing aid materials and foodstuffs, closures of community-led initiatives to contain COVID-19 and raise awareness as to the pandemic, and the initial failure even to provide data on the numbers and rate of infections in Palestinian communities as well as to issue information and guidance for the Arabic-speaking public”. 

Most of the fears Palestinians had when the pandemic began in March were realised over the past few weeks. The virus had spread, uncontrolled, in heavily populated cities and towns. It had also hit vulnerable and overcrowded refugee camps all over the West Bank, where social distancing is not possible. 

Palestinians in the occupied territories are aware that their capabilities in the health sector pale in comparison to those of more developed nations who had been devastated by the pandemic. This is why they fear the worst could be still to come. They are angry with the PA for failing to protect them from this deadly virus, but they are also aware that the Israeli occupation is making it almost impossible for the Palestinian leaders to manage the situation. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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