TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council (EC) Mohsen Rezayee said President Obama’s Persian New Year message to the Iranians as well as US threats with regard to Iran’s missile tests show uncertainty in the ranks of US government officials.

TEHRAN (FNA)- Secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council (EC) Mohsen Rezayee said President Obama’s Persian New Year message to the Iranians as well as US threats with regard to Iran’s missile tests show uncertainty in the ranks of US government officials.

Speaking to the state TV on Tuesday, Rezayee said the US government has no intention to recognize the Islamic Revolution of 1979, arguing that they seek to restore their previous hegemony and control over Iran.

“The Americans dream of dismantling the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). They have made it clear that Iran could only join the World Trade Organization if it dismantles the IRGC. This is wishful thinking,” he added.

He further noted that the Americans couldn’t be trusted, adding, “President Obama is not sincere in his Persian New year message. They seek to curb Iran’s missile defense program at the Congress. This shows their political uncertainty. The upcoming months and years will determine just that.”

In relevant remarks, Supreme Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei also lashed out at the US for not remaining loyal to its undertakings based on the July nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers.

“The Americans did not act on what they promised in the nuclear accord (the JCPOA); they did not do what they should have done. According to Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad Zarif), they brought something on the paper but prevented materialization of the objectives of the Islamic Republic of Iran through many diversionary ways,” Ayatollah Khamenei said on Sunday, March 20, addressing a large group of people in the holy city of Mashhad, Eastern Iran.

“What a hue and cry did they launch in the case of the missiles: Why Iran has long-ranged missiles? Why they (Iranians) aim and point to the target so precisely? Why they (Iranians) tested and why you (we Iranians) do military exercise?” he added.

“The Americans and one of the regional countries launch wargames every now and then in the Persian Gulf, which is several thousands of kilometers away of their country, while they have no responsibility there. Iran carries out military exercise in its own security boundary and home,” Ayatollah Khamenei stated.

Elsewhere, he referred to his message on the advent of the Iranian New Year, and said, “The reason we designated the new year as the Year of Resistance Economy, may be some would have minded giving preference to cultural issues, I wanted to develop dialogue with the public opinion under the topic of economy.”

The Supreme Leader also said that he supported the Iranian nuclear negotiating team and encouraged the people to cooperate with the government to achieve the goals set for the economic development.

In his message on Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei felicitated the Iranian nation on the advent of Nowruz, and called on people and officials to double efforts to improve economy and turn the threats into opportunities.

“The main issue is that the Iranian nation should be able to do something to bring its vulnerabilities to zero point, and we should have the art of using opportunities and turning threats into opportunities,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in his message after the start of the Iranian New Year.

He underlined that improvement of economy is the country’s main priority, and said increasing national production, creating jobs and fighting recession are among the issues which should receive attention in the New Year.

Ayatollah Khamenei described the resistance economy as the remedy to all economic problems and the way to stand against enemies’ threats and create opportunities, and said, “Therefore, what I choose as the slogan of this year is ‘the resistance economy; action and implementation’.”

Praying God Almighty for a life full of blessing for all Iranians, the Supreme Leader wished that the New Year will be a year that the Iranian nation deserves.

Nowruz, which coincides with the first day of spring on the solar calendar, is mostly celebrated in Iran, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

The International Day of Nowruz was registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on February 23, 2010.

For Iranians, Nowruz is a celebration of renewal and change, a time to visit relatives and friends, and pay respect to senior family members.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cost of maize soars

Copy of Copy of SSIB01_SAFRICA-MAIZE-_0127_11REUTERSFile picture: Siphiwe Sibeko

Chikwawa, Malawi – The Maize that is a food staple for much of southern Africa is now so expensive that it has become a luxury many cannot afford, after the worst drought in three decades damaged crops from Ethiopia to South Africa.

In Malawi, one of a dozen nations affected by the dry spell, Meleniya Mateyu says she has to forage for wild water-lily roots called nyika from streams and swamps to feed her two orphaned grandchildren. The small amount of grain she gets from an aid agency is barely enough for them to eat during one meal a day.

“We are surviving on nyika,” Mateyu said in an interview at her village in the southern district of Chikwawa, about 50km south of the capital, Blantyre. “This year’s hunger is the worst I’ve seen in 10 years.”

The drought – a symptom of the global El Niño weather pattern – is shrinking grain production across southern and eastern Africa and increasing the risk of widening hunger for some of the poorest populations in the world.

Read also: Food prices escalate at an alarming rate

Of the 34 countries that will require food aid this year, 27 are on the continent, the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data show. And the need is growing even as the rest of the planet enjoys a grain glut and shrinking food costs.

Dire situation

The situation may be the worst since southern Africa’s last major food crisis in 2002/03, with 28 million people already contending with hunger, according to January figures provided by the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency.

The World Food Programme says that as many as 50 million people may eventually be affected in the region. Another 10 million people are at risk in Ethiopia because of drought, along with millions more in conflict-ridden countries including South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

While the UN says the region is having its worst drought in 35 years, it has been a century since fields were this dry in South Africa, the biggest grower on the continent, and five decades for Ethiopia. That’s compounding the strain on a part of the world where more than 40 percent of the people live at or below the international poverty line of $1.90 (R29.03) a day, according to the World Bank.

Even with global food costs tracked by the UN dropping to a seven-year low, few in southern Africa are benefiting. The logistics of getting supplies from sea ports to landlocked markets in Malawi and Zimbabwe increases the cost.

Read also: SA may cut crop estimate

Like many other countries in the region, South Africa’s buying power is eroded by its weakening currency. And the economies of Angola and Zambia have been hit by struggling oil and mining industries.

“Importing food for many of these countries is going to be much more costly now than it was a year ago,” Debbie Hillier, a humanitarian policy officer at Oxfam International in England, said. “Countries have suffered very seriously from the decline in commodity prices.”

Food costs might double in Zimbabwe, which would need to import as much as 1 million tons of grain, Steve Wiggins, a research fellow at the UK’s Overseas Development Institute, said.

While ocean freight costs are low, the country has to import through South Africa and Mozambique. In a normal production year, local wholesale maize in Zimbabwe would cost about $120 to $150 a ton, but prices would probably be at least $100 higher this year with the added transportation costs, he said.

“The country in the region that is just looking down the barrel is Zimbabwe,” Wiggins said. “The bottom 10 to 20 percent of Zimbabweans will be in terrible straits in terms of sorting out their food during 2016.”

Depleted

To make matters worse, regional stockpiles are already depleted. Grain production fell 21 percent last year across southern and eastern Africa, and prospects for the next harvest, which begins in April and May, were “acutely unfavourable”, the FAO said on March 9.

South Africa predicts the harvest will be half what it produced two years ago and that the country will have to import maize to feed itself.

Even with the drought, southern Africa is producing more grain than two decades ago, doubling maize output since 1998, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data show.

Countries and international organisations have already started to prepare for a crisis by stepping up imports and calling on donors for aid.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, has appealed for $1.4 billion from international donors. The government has been buying up wheat in global markets since at least October, including a tender for 500 000 tons this week. The USDA forecasts the country’s wheat imports will almost triple this year.

Zimbabwe declared a national disaster last month and asked for $1.6bn in aid. The government says it has secured about half of the maize it needs so far after agreeing to import from Zambia and Ukraine.

Every meal

All that aid still may not be enough to prevent shortages, especially for white maize, used to make thick porridges known as nsima or pap, which some people in southern Africa eat for almost every meal.

Most maize harvested around the world is the yellow variety. Outside of southern Africa, only Mexico is a major producer of white maize, and it does not have a lot to export, according to Oxfam.

In addition, many southern African countries have laws prohibiting imports of genetically modified maize, which rules out much of the supply from the US, the world’s top exporter.

The effects of El Niño are expected to weaken over the next few months, according to the US Climate Prediction Center. But it will be too late to save crops across southern Africa.

Tendai Mhishi, a 50-year-old maize farmer in Runhanga Village, Zimbabwe, said his crop this year was a total write-off. He and his six children have been skipping meals in order to ration food.

“There are days one of my kids refuses to go to school all because of hunger,” Mhishi said in an interview. “This year, things have been really tough.”

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South Sudan: Humanitarian Response for Conflict-Affected Populations in Unity State: SMART Nutrition Survey Report December 2015

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Introduction

Mayendit County is one of the nine counties of Unity State; it borders Leer, Koch, Tonj North, Tonj East, Rumbek North, and Panyijar counties. Mayendit South where the survey was conducted has five payams namely; Madol 1, Madol 2, Bhor, Pabuong and Malkuer. Agriculture is the county’s primary economic activity. The people are nomadic agro – pastoralists who engage in both agriculture and rearing of livestock, especially cattle. Fishing is also prevalent in the area.

Samaritan’s Purse International Relief and UNIDO are implementing various interventions in the county namely food security, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) nutrition and health.

Back in April 2014, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF conducted a rapid assessment which identified a population of 20,500 in southern Mayendit with a proxy Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate of 29.2% and Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) rate of 1.9%. In August 2014, Samaritans Purse (SP) conducted mass Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) screening which registered a children under five (U5) proxy GAM rate of 9.9% and a Pregnant and Lactating Women (PLW) under nutrition rate of 26.2%. While Mayendit saw an improvement in malnutrition prevalence in 2014, recent mass MUAC screening conducted by SP in March 2015 registered a proxy GAM of 20.24% in children U5. Due to its more secure location, it is likely that southern Mayendit will receive an influx of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as fighting resumes during the dry season. This will put additional pressure on already limited food resources and increase the likelihood of a deterioration of U5 and PLW’s nutritional status. In addition, the recent Knowledge Attitude and Practices (KAP) survey that was conducted in November 2015 by SP showed that the nutrition situation was poor as the levels were above the emergency threshold of 15%.

To get a better understanding and assess the severity of the nutrition and mortality situation in Mayendit County, SP with OFDA funding conducted a Nutrition and Mortality SMART survey from the 10th to 23th December, 2015. Enumerator training was conducted from 11th to 14th December, 2015 with data collection conducted from the 15th to 23rd December, 2015.

Objectives

The overall survey objective was to determine the nutrition status among children aged 6 -59 months and to estimate crude and under-five retrospective mortality rates in Mayendit County. This also included collecting morbidity data (2-week recall), immunization and supplementation coverage, and a qualitative component on Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL).

Methodology

The survey was a cross sectional study with two-stage cluster sampling using SMART methodology. Anthropometric data, two-week retrospective morbidity, Measles and vitamin A coverage and retrospective mortality data was collected. The sampling frame was drawn from the population of five payams. The first stage involved random selection of 36 clusters based on probability to proportional to size using the ENA for SMART software Nov, 2013 version (9th July 2015 update).

Results

Findings of the nutrition survey indicate poor nutrition situation among the surveyed population as per WHO standards. The prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) in Mayendit County based on weight for height z scores /and or oedema was 16.1% [(12.1 – 21.0 95% C.I.) and the prevalence of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) was 2.4% [1.3 – 4.5, 95% C.I.]. The poor nutrition situation is attributed to poor food security due to the insecurity and high incidence of disease among children aged 6-59 months. Results for Anthropometry, Mortality, and Immunization and Morbidity indicators are summarized below.

Conclusion and recommendations

The findings of the assessment depict a poor nutrition situation, above the WHO emergency threshold in Mayendit South which is being caused by an interplay of factors ranging from household food insecurity, disease, poor maternal care practices and limited programme coverage. This calls for concerted efforts with an integrated approach on the interventions being implemented in the area with a special focus on the Supplementary Feeding Programme (SFP) due to the high cases of moderately malnourished children and Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) due to the high numbers of severely malnourished children. The IYCF programme currently being implemented requires to integrate a BCC and an IMCI component in order to improve the nutrition situation. In addition, the health programme implemented should be scaled up and increase its focus on integrated management of childhood illnesses (IMCI). In addition, the food security and livelihoods (FSL) programme implemented in the area require immediate scale-up as the population start the dry period and as drought makes most of the households vulnerable to food insecurity and eventually malnutrition. The FSL programme needs to focus on empowering the livelihoods of the population e.g. giving fishing nets, in order for them to be able to mitigate household food insecurity.

Lastly, there is an urgent need to increase the coverage and scale up of the programmes currently implemented in Mayendit South in order to have a wider reach of the vulnerable populations.

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Is it safe to travel to Europe?

Mourners wrote ‘More stars in Brussel’s heaven’ in chalk at Place de la Bourse in the centre of Brussels after deadly blasts rocked the city. Picture: AP Photo/Martin Meissner

TERROR attacks that rocked Belgium last night has also left foreigners unsure of whether or not they should avoid the usually popular tourist destination.

The three deadly blasts claimed by terror group Islamic State, which killed at least 34 people and injured at least 250 others, has sent Brussels into lockdown as authorities issue Belgium’s highest-possible national threat level.

Flights have been cancelled in and out of Zaventum airport, which was the site of two explosions. Other Belgian airports, including Brussels South Charleroi, Liege and Antwerp airports, are open but under heavy security.

Bus, train and metro services have been shut down across the capital and Eurostar has limited its services to the city.

Elsewhere, security has been beefed up at airports in London, Paris, Frankfurt and across The Netherlands.

Police outside a metro station in Brussels after last night’s terrorist attacks in Brussels. Picture: AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

Police outside a metro station in Brussels after last night’s terrorist attacks in Brussels. Picture: AP/Geert Vanden WijngaertSource:AP

In light of the attacks, the Australian government has urged Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Belgium, and cautioned about possible risks in France.

DFAT’s advice level for Belgium is the second-highest level issued by the department — its highest alert, “do not travel”, is usually reserved for countries experiencing ongoing conflict such as South Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Iraq.

But UK newspaper The Independent notes that the warning issued by “a ‘friendly’ Western power” such as Australia is “one indication of the magnitude of effect of (the) attacks” in Belgium.

DFAT has also urged Australians already in Belgium to stay indoors, remain where they are and be attentive to their surroundings.

French soldiers patrol Strasbourg railway station in France after the terror attacks in Brussels. Picture: AFP/Patrick Hertzog

French soldiers patrol Strasbourg railway station in France after the terror attacks in Brussels. Picture: AFP/Patrick HertzogSource:AFP

Travellers to Belgium should also check their travel insurance to see if they are covered under the current circumstances.

DFAT has also suggested Australians exercise a “high degree of caution” to travelling to France, where IS unleashed deadly terror attacks in November.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the events in Brussels last night showed no country was immune to terrorist atrocities.

“The lessons continue to be the same after every attack. No country is immune,” she said.

“This is why we are assisting the coalition fight of terrorism at the source in Syria and Iraq.”

DFAT has not changed its travel advice for any other European city in light of the terror attacks.

However, the United States has taken the extraordinary step of urging its citizens to reconsider travel across the whole of Europe.

The US State Department warned that terror groups “continue to plan near-term attacks throughout Europe, targeting sporting events, tourist sites, restaurants, and transportation”, and urged Americans to be aware of the risks there.

The UK Foreign Office is warning Britons travelling to Brussels to be “alert and vigilant”.

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Export target for 2015-18 fixed at $35b

Mian Arshad

Islamabad—Eng Khurram Dastgir Khan, Minister for Commerce, Tuesday said that government in its Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2015-18 has fixed a realistic and achievable export target of US $ 35 billion.
The minister, highlighting main features of the STPF 2015-18 policy at a press conference here said, “The main focus the new policy would be on competitiveness, efficiency driven and innovation driven economy and increase regional trade, besides facilitating the exporters.”
Product sophistication, diversification, market access, institutional development, strengthening and trade facilitation have been declared as the four main pillars of STPF 2015-18.
“The policy had to be launched in June 2015, however, it could not be launched due to a number of inevitable reasons” said the Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir Khan adding, this was why a rational and realistic export target had also been fixed.
A well placed source told Pakistan Observer that Rs 6 billion were allocated for export oriented incentives for exporters in the annual budget for the current fiscal year, however, due to the delayed announcement of the trade policy, the said amount could not be utilized so far. Moreover, a total amount of Rs 14 billion had been lying unutilized with Export Development Fund because the exporters had not been provided with the said incentives.
However, the Minister said that with the announcement of trade policy, the exporters would start getting benefits out of the announced incentives. When asked about the rationalization of export target under the new trade policy, the Minister said that a number of finished products sectors, that had been lying unexplored, had immense export potential and through this policy, those sectors would be activated.
For example, he said that pharmaceutical sector had tremendous potential of exports but there was not a single World Health Organization certified national lab, which had hindered Pakistani products exports to international markets.
Therefore, he added that government would focus on establishment of internationally certified labs and other facilities for the promotion of our exports of value added products.
He named Lather, pharmaceutical, fisheries and surgical instruments sectors with higher export potential adding that these sectors could lead to a quantum jump in total exports.
“In order to further boost export in these sectors, matching grant will be provided up to a maximum of Rs. 5 (five) Million for specified plant and machinery or specified items to improve product design and encourage innovation in SMEs and export sectors of leather, pharmaceutical and fisheries. Moreover, a Common Facility Center for surgical sector will be established” he added.
Minister said that trade policy framework has been formulated through an extensive consultative process spanning over almost a year.
All stakeholders in the public and private sector including Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, district Chambers, trade associations, private businesses, academia, think tanks, trade missions, Ministries and other government agencies were actively engaged.
Highlighting the main objectives of trade policy he said that improve export competitiveness, transition from ‘factor-driven’ economy to ‘efficiency-driven’ and ‘innovation-driven’ economy and Increase share in regional trade were the main objectives of the new trade policy.
“To develop the export sector and achieve the above targets, some key enablers are vital to increase productivity and competitiveness and resultantly enhance exports. The key enablers are categorized into four groupings i.e. Competitiveness, Compliance to Standards, Policy Environment and Market Access” he observed.
He added that MoC would continue working on its three-pronged strategy of trade diplomacy in the multilateral, regional and bilateral arenas for increasing market access.
He announced that under new trade policy a taskforce to conduct expeditious work on improving railway services for exporters would be established.
The cost of transport through roads is twice as uncompetitive as compared to rail and 148 times uncompetitive as compared to inland navigation. Accordingly, a task force will be established with its Secretariat in the Ministry of Water & Power.
Moreover, he said that a short term export enhancement strategy had also been made part of the STPF 2015-18, wherein, four products namely Basmati Rice, Horticulture, Meat and meat products and Jewelry would be focused in the four chosen markets namely Iran, China, Afghanistan and European Union.

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