Sunday, December 4, 2011

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Patients suffering from blood cancer

The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Thursday launched Rs 7.2 billion free treatment project for the patients of blood cancer in the province.

The project was launched in a ceremony at a local hotel.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Finance, Engineer Mohammad Hamayun Khan was the chief guest on the occasion.

The project will be carried out under public-private partnership and the provincial government for this purpose has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Novartis, a multi-national pharmaceutical company.

Under the project all the deserving patients of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in the province will be registered with a specially established focal point in Medical Oncology unit at Hayatabad Medical Complex (HMC) from where they will be provided free medicines.

Pakistan has about 12000 blood cancer patients and about 1000 of them belong to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Blood cancer is a deadly disease and its treatment is very costly and poor patients could not afford it.

Therefore, the provincial government in collaboration with Novartis launched this free treatment and medicine scheme in the province Addressing the ceremony, the minister said that despite financial constraints the provincial government allocated maximum funds for treatment of patients of blood cancer.

He said that last year the provincial government launched Bacha Khan Khpal Rozgar Scheme and allocated funds for the provision of free treatment of hepatitis and promotion of technical and vocational education.

He said that the provincial government also agreed with the proposal of the Novartis for provision of free medicines for the cancer patients.

Briefing the participants of the ceremony, Dr Abid Jameel, of the Department of Oncology, HMC said that CML used to attack people aged between 45 to 50 years in Europe and American continents, but in Pakistan it attacks in the prime age of 35 to 40 years.

He said that the medicines produced by Novartis for the treatment of blood cancer is a revolution in the medical history and successful treatment of 80 percent patients is a breakthrough in the field of medical sciences.

He said that the cost of one month dosage of the medicine was Rs 1,20,000 and annual cost of over Rs 1.4 million, which was not affordable by the poor patients and the provincial government was also lacking resources.

Therefore, it signed an MoU with Novartis under which the medicine to be provided free of cost to the patients.

The provincial government will now pay only Rs 8000/- per month for medicines of the patient.

Later, the minister formally inaugurated the scheme with distribution of free medicines among the patients.

Occupy Wall Street protesters launch hunger strike
OCCUPY Wall Street protesters have launched a hunger strike Saturday to demand a new occupation campsite in an unused lot.

Protesters in New York were evicted from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan on November 15 after almost two months of camping in the small square to protest income inequality and the influence of corporate money in US politics.

Hunger strikers planned to gather Saturday in Duarte Square, about a mile north of Zuccotti Park, protest organisers said in a press release. They hope to be allowed to camp in a vacant lot owned by Trinity Church.

Protesters who are arrested plan to continue their hunger strikes in jail, the press release said.

The Occupy protests, spearheaded by the activist magazine Adbusters, began in Zuccotti Park on September 17 and have spread to other cities throughout the US and the world.

Yesterday's press release called on protesters in other cities to join the hunger strike.

"This is a call for escalation in response to the escalated levels of government-enacted violence and repression," it said.

"In cities across the nation, mayors chose to stifle freedom of speech and the right to assemble by evicting peaceful occupations using illegal and unconstitutional force."

Occupy encampments in Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Seattle have also been shut down.

Afghanistan's future beyond 2014


A global conference in Germany to discuss Afghanistan's future beyond 2014 comes as the country faces political instability, an enduring Taliban-led insurgency and possible financial collapse following the planned drawdown of international troops and foreign aid.

About 100 countries and international organizations will be represented at the Monday gathering, with some 60 foreign ministers in attendance, among them U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But one of the most important countries for Afghanistan's future, its eastern nuclear-armed neighbor Pakistan, said it will boycott the conference to protest last month's NATO air assault carried out from Afghan territory that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan is seen as crucial player in the region because of its links and influence on insurgent groups that are battling Afghan government and foreign troops and that sometimes use Pakistan as a base for their operations.

The Bonn conference is expected to address the transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghan security forces over the next three years, long-term prospects for international aid and a possible political settlement with the Taliban.

"Our objective is a peaceful Afghanistan that will never again become a safe haven for international terrorism," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

The U.S. had once hoped to use the Bonn gathering to announce news about the prospect for peace talks with the Taliban, but neither an Afghan nor a U.S. outreach effort has borne fruit.

The reconciliation efforts suffered a major setback after the September assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading the Afghan government's effort to broker peace with the insurgents.

But Washington and other partners are still trying to arrange an interim step toward talks — the opening of a Taliban diplomatic office where its representatives could conduct international business without fear of being arrested or killed. Such a deal would be a minor accomplishment for the Bonn gathering.

"Right now we don't know their address. We don't have a door," to knock on, said Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Eklil Hakimi.

The final declaration of the Bonn conference is expected to outline broad principles and red lines for the political reconciliation with the Taliban, a project that several leading participants in the conference increasingly predict will outlast the NATO timeline for withdrawal in 2014.

The Bonn conference also seeks to agree on a set of "mutual binding commitments" under which Afghanistan would promise reforms and policy goals such as good governance, with donors and international organizations pledging long-term assistance in return to ensure the country's viability beyond 2014, a senior German diplomat said.

"It's about not repeating the mistakes of 1989, when the Soviet troops left and the West also forgot about Afghanistan," he said, referring to the bitter civil war that unfolded soon after the sudden withdrawal that was followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will formally open the one-day conference of about 1,000 delegates. Afghanistan's western neighbor Iran also joins the conference, represented by Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

Afghan civil society groups are meeting on the sidelines, and some 5,000 protesters were out in Bonn's streets Saturday, urging an end to the Afghan war.

While the conference is nominally run by the Afghans and organized by Germany, the United States is the key participant because it's the country that has by far invested the most blood and treasure in Afghanistan since 2001.

The NATO coalition of 49 countries currently has 130,000 troops in the country, including about 72,000 Americans. The U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan, however, totals more than 101,600 because other American forces operate under a separate command. The vast majority are set to withdraw from Afghanistan over the next three years, leaving only a small force focused on training and counterterrorism missions beginning in 2015.

President Barack Obama announced this summer that 10,000 U.S. troops will come home by the end of the year. Another 23,000 will be pulled out by the end of September 2012. Those troops represent the 33,000 reinforcements that Obama sent in to help reverse the Taliban's momentum, leaving a force of about 68,000 U.S. forces, which will gradually shrink as the deadline for withdrawal approaches.

That deadline was set a year ago, by agreement between NATO and Afghanistan. There is little chance it will be extended.

The U.S. had also hoped to use this opportunity to unveil an agreement with the Afghan government establishing operating rules for the small number of remaining U.S. forces and other issues after international forces withdraw. But talks on the deal have bogged down over the past several months.

Although the Bonn gathering is not a donors' conference where specific pledges are expected, the U.S. is seeking agreement among other nations that they will not rush to the exits and commit to long-term financial assistance to avoid seeing Afghanistan slip back into chaos.

The international troops' withdrawal could indeed cause the Afghan economy to collapse, the World Bank warned last month, stressing that the war-ravaged nation will need billions of dollars in aid for another decade or more.

Afghanistan this year received $15.7 billion in aid, representing more than 90 percent of its public spending, it said.

In a report published ahead of the conference, the Afghan government said that despite expected revenue increases from a growing mining industry, customs and taxes, foreign donors will have to finance about half of the country's economic output in 2015, equivalent to aid worth $10 billion.

Despite the international troops' presence for more than a decade, Afghanistan still ranks among the world's poorest and most corrupt nations.

Without foreign help, Afghanistan won't be able to pay for basic services needed by its security forces which are slated to increase to 352,000 personnel by the end of 2014. Those expenses will have grown to twice the size of revenues and will result in a shortfall of about $7.8 billion annually, or about 25 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 2021.

"There will be a gap from when international forces withdraw, and we want to see a plan," for filling it, Hakimi said.

Although the United States has spent $444 billion in Afghanistan since it invaded the country in late 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and plans to spend $101 billion in fiscal 2011, most of that money "does not reach Afghanistan because it primarily funds salaries of international soldiers, purchases of military hardware, and the like," the World Bank said.

Despite improvements to security in Afghanistan, militants operating from safe havens in Pakistan and chronic problems with the Kabul government pose significant risks to a "durable, stable Afghanistan," according to a recent Pentagon progress report on the country.