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‘We lost everything’: Syrian refugees caught up in Beirut blast | News

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Beirut, Lebanon – More than two weeks after the Beirut blast that killed half of her family, Dima Steif, a 16-year-old Syrian refugee from Idlib, is still in shock.

Dima’s face is gaunt and emotionless as she recalls August 4, the day she lost her mother Khaldi and two sisters, 22-year-old Latifa and 13-year-old Jude.

Her 18-year-old sister Diana was wounded while her father was not home at the time of the explosion.

“We were at home, talking and laughing, when we heard the first explosion. We thought it was a fire, but then the next blow came and the whole earth shook underneath us,” said Dima, as she hugged a shaggy red stuffed animal that belonged to Jude.

Along with a printed scarf that Latifa used to wear and her own journal, the stuffed toy was among a few things Dima managed to pull out from the rubble of her family’s home days after the blast.

“The roof had already collapsed before we could get out of the house,” said Dima, who lived in Karantina, a poor Beirut neighbourhood near the port. They had come to Lebanon in 2014 after escaping the civil war in Syria.

Dima and her father have been temporarily staying at a hotel paid for by an aid organisation, while Diana is undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. 

Dima’s family members were among many Syrian refugees who lost their lives on August 4.

A statement by the Syrian embassy on August 8 said 43 Syrians – almost a quarter of the approximately 180 victims – died when nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded at Beirut’s port.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said it received reports of the deaths of 89 registered Syrian refugees.

Omer Elnaiem, head of communications at the UNHCR, said: “The organisation has only confirmed 14 so far.”  

‘Lost everything’

Basma Tabaja, deputy head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Lebanon, said Syrians were particularly affected by the incident.

“A lot of Syrians worked at the port in offloading and loading cargo. Others lived in Karantina. That’s why many died or were injured,” said Tabaja.

Fatima Abumaghara, 35, fled Aleppo with her family in 2013. Her husband, Abdel Qader Balusso, died in the Beirut blast, leaving behind four young children.

The 43-year-old labourer was working in Karantina at the time of the explosion. After his death, Fatima said life was no longer worth living.

“We lost everything of meaning. Their father, the most valuable thing, is gone,” Fatima said as her two daughters, Nurulhuda, 13, and Farah, 18 months, huddled around her.

“The blast was even worse than what we experienced in Syria. At least, back there, we knew we might not live to see another day. But we never expected this here.”

In addition to the shock and a “constant struggle” to make ends meet before that, Fatima said her family has been the victim of discrimination since they moved to Lebanon.

“Life in Lebanon has been difficult every day,” said Fatima, explaining that, as Syrians, her children are regularly bullied at school and humiliated by their neighbours.

“We put up with all that for the sake of the kids’ future, but we’ve now lost any sense of safety and security.” 

The exact number of Syrian refugees who died in the blast remains unclear [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Already vulnerable

There are nearly one million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, having moved there since the start of the civil war in 2011, according to the UNHCR.

Thousands of them were affected by the blast, said Jihan Kaisi, executive director of Lebanese NGO the Union of Relief and Development Associations (URDA).

“And at least 100 Syrian families have been severely impacted. They now need everything from food and medicine to home rehabilitation,” said Kaisi.

The UNHCR promised $35m to help 100,000 people affected by the blast, regardless of their nationality. But Syrian refugees and migrant workers remain more vulnerable than others, say aid organisations.

“Syrian refugees were already part of the most vulnerable sector in the Lebanese society,” said UNHCR’s Elnaeim.

“In recent months, the coronavirus pandemic and deepening financial crisis pushed the number of refugees living under extreme poverty in Lebanon from 50 to 75 percent,” he added, referring to a prolonged economic crisis and lack of basic services that sparked mass anti-government protests that have continued since last October.

“After the blast, they’ve been pushed further down.”

Tabaja agreed, saying that “Syrian refugees have an added layer of vulnerability”.

“It is harder for them to find work or adequately paid jobs,” she said, explaining that access to healthcare was another obstacle.

Although the Lebanese government promised to provide free hospital treatment to everyone affected by the explosion, media reports indicated that some hospitals have refused to treat Syrian refugees.

Syrian refugee story - Dima [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Dima lost her mother Khaldi and two sisters, 22-year-old Latifa and 13-year-old Jude in the blast. [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera] 

‘Wish I had died’

Fatima has spent her days since the blast trying to reach relief organisations to help her family.

Meanwhile, Dima – who stopped attending school two years ago after her father could no longer afford the school bus fees – has divided her time between visiting her sister in hospital and taking part in aid distributions near the port.

“Going to the hospital and volunteering keep me busy, but nothing can really take my mind off my sisters and mother,” said Dima, as she looked away and clutched the red toy more tightly.

“I just wish I’d remained under the rubble and died with them.”

Follow Arwa Ibrahim on Twitter @arwaib





Source – www.aljazeera.com

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

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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

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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.



Source – observer.ug

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

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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”.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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