Monthly Archives: April 2009

Bantuan ehsan bencana dikemas kini: TPM

KOTA SAMARAHAN (Sarawak): Kerajaan akan mengemas kini proses pengeluaran bantuan ehsan supaya ia dapat disalurkan dengan cepat kepada mangsa bencana, kata Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Beliau berkata pendekatan yang akan dikaji oleh Majlis Keselamatan Negara ialah bagi menurunkan kuasa membuat pengeluaran bantuan ehsan dalam jumlah tertentu kepada agensi di peringkat negeri.

“Dalam masa yang sama, pemberian bantuan ehsan kepada mangsa banjir juga tidak perlu menunggu sehingga majlis penyampaian diadakan, malah boleh dilakukan sendiri oleh wakil agensi kerajaan, ketua masyarakat di peringkat negeri atau bahagian itu sendiri,” katanya pada majlis penyampaian bantuan wang ehsan sebanyak RM34.1 juta kepada mangsa banjir di Sarawak baru-baru ini di sini hari ini.

Jumlah itu merangkumi bantuan ehsan kepada 4,112 keluarga yang berpindah ke pusat pemindahan, 46,742 keluarga yang tidak berpindah, 16,760 petani dan perternak kecil, tiga keluarga kehilangan anggota keluarga dan pemilik-pemilik 68 rumah yang musnah.

Muhyiddin berkata kementerian dan agensi yang berkaitan perlu memberikan perhatian kepada usaha meningkatkan dan mempelbagaikan ekonomi masyarakat yang terlibat supaya dapat menampung keperluan kehidupan mereka selepas dilanda sesuatu kejadian bencana. – Bernama

Baguslah kalau bantuan bencana nie dapat diberikan segera dan tidak perlu menunggu terlalu banyak protokol.  Kadangkala karenah birokrasi yang melampau mengakibatkan mangsa bencana merasai diri mereka menjadi objek dan orang lain mengambil kesempatan diatas kesusahan mereka untuk mendapatkan publisiti murahan dan kadangkala menjadi agenda politik sesetengah pihak.  Perkara ini amatlah menyulitkan mereka yang sedang ditimpa masalah.  Langkah yang diambil untuk menyegerakan bantuan bencana ini amatlah dialu-alukan dan DUNIA KEMANUSIAAN berharap ianya akan dapat dilaksanakan secepat mungkin seperti yang dijanjikan.      Shahrul Peshawar, Alor Setar.

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Signs that show Malaysia on human trafficking route

By : V. Shankar Ganesh, Evangeline Majawat and Jassmine Shadiqe

PORT KLANG: The drowning incident off Pengerang in Johor and the arrest of 33 foreigners off Port Klang have confirmed suspicions that Malaysia is a transit point for human trafficking syndicates.

On Tuesday, nine bodies, eight of them Pakistanis, were found floating in the South China Sea off Pengerang.

On Sunday, marine authorities nabbed 33 foreigners from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq on a boat off Kuala Langat, some 30km from here.

In both incidents, the foreigners had luggage with them and most were carrying huge amounts of money.

Police recovered US$8,800 (RM31,620) from the body of a Pakistani woman who had drowned off Pengerang.
Malaysian authorities are probing if both incidents are linked as intelligence reports indicated that the foreigners were on their way to Indonesia before continuing their journey to Australia where they hoped seek asylum.

Last week, Australia’s national security adviser led a delegation to Kuala Lumpur seeking the help of their counterparts to intercept these boats before they reached the continent.

On Sunday, Selangor marine police intercepted a boat off Kuala Langat and detained 16 Afghans, 14 Pakistanis and three Iraqis. The Afghans comprised five families with children as young as 2 years old. Initial investigations revealed that the 33 foreigners were on their way to Australia and had big travelling bags with them.

The 44-year-old Indonesian boatman was taking the foreigners to Tanjung Balai in Sumatra.

The Pakistanis were from the border regions with Afghanistan while the Iraqis were Kurds from the north of Iraq.

All had valid passports except for one Iraqi. One of the Afghans also had a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees card with him.

The Afghans and Pakistanis had obtained their visas from the Malaysian embassy in Pakistan.

The foreigners had entered the country through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport about two weeks ago and were attempting to leave by illegal means.

They waded through muddy waters to get to the boat in Sungai Langat before they sailed to the open sea, where they were nabbed at 3.40am on Sunday.

The group allegedly paid US$1,000 per person to the syndicate for the trip to Indonesia.

Selangor marine police chief Deputy Superintendent Marzuki Ismail said the foreigners were nabbed after a tip-off from a passing boat.

They have been handed over to the district police for further investigations.

It was reported that human traffickers promised their victims better lives in Australia and Western countries for a fee. The victims are usually picked from war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq.

Recently, there has been a large number of refugees from Pakistan.

They are given valid passports from their countries. They are then taken to Malaysian embassies or consulates where they will apply for tourist visas to enter the country.

They will arrive in Malaysia through normal entry points.

Once here, arrangements are made to get them to Indonesia illegally through fishing or barter trade boats.

From Indonesia, they will be “loaded” into another boat for Australia.

Source:  NST – 30 April 2009

The international trafficking syndicate out there is well organised and well administered.  They use latest equipments – sometimes much better than the one used by the government.   Their PR is superb and their info-gathering and intelligence team is at par with Italian Mafia, no doubt.

It is not easy to identify an Afghan with a Pakistani or an Iranian or Uzbek.   But if you had known them, their styles, their languages and thinking – it is easy to group them.  A refugee might be speaking fluently in Parsi, but if you know Parsi you may differentiate it with Dari (spoken in Afghanistan).  Knowing Urdu will easily assist you in knowing whether a refugee is a Pakistani or Afghan origin.  Knowledge in Pashtu will identify whether the refugee is from Balochi-Quetta area or Peshawar-Ningarhar border.  The gestures and tonne will allow you to guess who they are and they cannot run from that.

Once you know how to identify a Pakistani, it will be easy to identify others – Nepalese, Rohingyas, Bangladeshi and Indian.

Shahrul Peshawar – after all, we are all in the same big family

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SIA-SIA Penduduk demonstrasi bantah ternakan babi

Kenapa perlu nak demonstrasi?  Kan ada saluran betul.  Gunakanlah saluran betul.  Pergilah jumpa Ketua Menteri Melaka – dia kan seorang melayu umno – sudah tentu dan pastinya dia benci dengan babi.  Tak payahlah susahkan media untuk buat liputan kes yang asyik dipolitikan ini. Korang duduk ajelah bertapa depan pejabat dia sama macam hari dia kena tuduh rasuah politik dulu tu…

Ini semua politik murahan – suratkhabar nie pun kekadang memandai-mandai je.  Dalam banner yang sorang mamat tu pegang – dia tak kata dia nak ternakan babi dipindahkan dia cuma mahu kandang babi dimodenkan (dah selesa kot duduk dengan babi kat situ).  Aku pun jadi keliru – yang nak kandang babi moden ni orang Melayu, apasal yang dia pulak sibuk-sibuk nak kandang moden?

KESIMPULANNYA – Cerita kandang babi nie cerita murah orang politik untuk membangkitkan kemarahan orang melayu yang bodoh, yang gagal memilih wakil yang boleh memperjuangkan hak mereka – dah 30 tahun… masih duduk hidu bau tahi babi dan setiap 5 tahun pemimpin Melayu datang merayu dan Melayu bodoh nie semuannya diam dan sokong dia… sekarang buat apa bising-bising?  Tunggu ajelah 60 tahun lagi. SHAHRUL PESHAWAR

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ALOR GAJAH 28 April – Hampir 50 penduduk sekitar Pengkalan Balak di sini hari ini mengadakan perhimpunan aman membantah ternakan babi di kawasan itu yang dikhuatiri membawa kepada wabak selesema babi (H1N1).

Dengan membawa sepanduk bantahan, para penduduk mendakwa, ternakan babi di situ sejak lebih 30 tahun lalu perlu dihentikan segera sebelum ia menjadi punca merebaknya H1N1 di kalangan penduduk.

Rata-rata mereka mahu kerajaan negeri segera menghentikan operasi ternakan babi itu ekoran kebimbangan penduduk terhadap ancaman wabak terbaru tersebut.

Seorang penduduk, Zahrah Bachik, 62, berkata, walaupun belum ada kes jangkitan wabak selesema babi di negara ini, ia tidak bermakna Malaysia terselamat daripada dijangkiti H1N1.

“Dari dulu sampai sekarang, isu babi sering menjadi masalah penduduk di sini menyebabkan kami tidak pernah hidup selesa.

“Kini, nyawa kami pula menjadi pertaruhan apabila haiwan ini boleh membawa wabak baru yang mengancam nyawa,” katanya.

Justeru, dia amat berharap kerajaan negeri dapat memberi perhatian yang serius terhadap masalah dihadapi mereka yang tidak pernah selesai sehingga kini.

Salah seorang penduduk Kampung Pengkalan Balak, Zakaria Othman, 46, berkata, setiap hari penduduk hidup dalam ketakutan sejak berita tentang penemuan wabak selesema babi itu dilaporkan.

“Ia ibarat mencari penyakit kerana penduduk di sini terpaksa tinggal dalam kawasan yang mempunyai ladang ternakan babi.

“Dulu mungkin kami boleh bersabar, tapi apabila sudah sampai ada wabak yang boleh mengancam nyawa kami, takkan pihak berwajib hendak berdiam diri?” katanya.

Tambahnya, jika ladang ternakan babi di kawasan itu tidak dipindahkan sekalipun, kerajaan perlu memastikan pengusaha haiwan itu melakukan ternakan dengan cara moden.

“Ternakan cara moden mungkin memadai untuk kami berasa lebih selamat kerana tiada pencemaran berlaku,” katanya.

Sementara itu, pengusaha sebuah resort di Pantai Padang Kemunting, Pengkalan Balak, Ab. Rahman Yusof, 50, berkata, ternakan babi itu perlu dihentikan segera demi memastikan pembangunan pelancongan di kawasan tersebut.

“Jangan sampai berlaku kes jangkitan wabak selesema babi di kawasan ini yang akhirnya menjejaskan satu-satunya kawasan pelancongan di daerah ini.

“Tindakan segera perlu diambil oleh pihak berwajib sebelum keadaan menjadi semakin serius,” katanya.

Abdul Rahman Abdullah, 45, pula, kesal kerana isu babi di kawasan itu tidak pernah selesai walaupun mendapat rungutan yang berterusan di kalangan penduduk.

“Sampai bila kami perlu hadapi masalah babi ini? Adakah ia bermakna babi lebih penting dan penduduk yang terpaksa berpindah?” soalnya.

Penularan virus H1N1 yang mengandungi kombinasi virus babi, burung dan manusia yang belum pernah dilihat penyelidik, mula dikesan di Mexico City, 24 April lalu.

Sehingga semalam, angka kematian di negara itu yang disahkan dan disyaki berpunca daripada selesema babi mencecah 152 orang manakala sekitar 1,995 orang telah dimasukkan ke hospital.

Ekoran itu, Kerajaan Malaysia kini mengawal ketat semua pintu masuk negara sebagai langkah berjaga-jaga bagi mengekang penularan wabak tersebut.

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SPR semakin kehilangan ke-JANTAN-annya

SPR = Badut Jahat

SPR = Badut Jahat

Macam biasa, bila lambat umum akan ada saja benda baru dan tak disangka-sangka akan timbul.  Tapi semua trick tu kita dah boleh agak, siap simpan dalam poket depan lagi.

Dalam Pilihanraya 8 Mac 2008 dulu, masih ingat tak “Tragedi Cat Merah”… konon ada orang campak pada rumah Pengerusi SPR zaman tu.  Yang best kereta Kancil kena cat tu, Merc tak kena pulak. 

Lepas tu SPR janji nak tanda jari dengan dakwat – lepas tu dah dekat nak pilihanraya dia kata tak praktikal lah, bla-bla-bla.

Yang best – dia cuma tukar peti undi jadi lut-sinar untuk menampakkan ketelusan.

SPR nie ingat dia kerja zaman type-writer lagi – kadang-kadang jari terselit antara kekunci.  Dia tak sedar, sekarang nie dah zaman wireless.  Orang boleh terima-hantar emel kat handphone je. 

Cara dia marah pasal pondok panas (barong) dengan penyokong datang beramai-ramai tu cam IKLAS je, tapi semua orang tahu itu semua sebahagian daripada perancangan jahat penguasa zalim.

Korang tengoklah penipuan di Penanti kelak – dari pengundi hantu, petugas SPR = petugas UBN, jawatankuasa peti undi semua orang yang cenderung pada UBN, kempen pilihanraya dalam TV ikut suka hati diaorang  aje, pertambahan kertas undi, faktor polis, kemasukkan agensi-agensi kerajaan pusat dan sebagainya. 

Aku akan turun habis-habisan – Di Mulut Naga lagikan ku Rebut – Inikan pula ditangan Najib dan Muhyiddin… chit…

Shahrul Peshawar, Alor Setar

Penamaan calon Penanti 23 Mei, mengundi 31 Mei

Oleh Saufi Hamzah
sofeeham@bharian.com.my


ABDUL AZIZ menunjukkan peta DUN Penanti kepada Pegawai Pengurus pilihan raya kecil itu, Roslan Yahaya selepas sidang media di Ibu Pejabat SPR di Putrajaya, semalam.

SPR larang dirikan pondok panas, 15,384 pemilih layak undi

PUTRAJAYA: Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) menetapkan hari penamaan calon pilihan raya kecil kerusi Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) Penanti, Pulau Pinang pada 23 Mei dan mengundi 31 Mei ini jika ada pertandingan.

Pada masa sama, SPR tidak lagi membenarkan parti politik mendirikan pondok panas bagi merayu undi saat akhir hari pengundian.

Pengerusi SPR, Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, berkata pihaknya menerima pemakluman rasmi Speaker DUN Pulau Pinang mengenai kekosongan kerusi berkenaan pada 17 April lalu yang menyertakan surat peletakan jawatan Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (Adun) kawasan itu, Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, bertarikh 19 Mac.

“Selepas meneliti pemakluman serta salinan surat peletakan jawatan berkenaan, SPR bersetuju kerusi DUN N12 Penanti disahkan kosong berkuat kuasa pada 17 April lalu,” katanya pada sidang media di pejabatnya di sini semalam.

Beliau berkata SPR akan menggunakan Daftar Pemilih Induk 2008 yang dikemaskini sehingga 16 April lalu mengandungi 15,384 pemilih, termasuk 24 pengundi pos.

Katanya, pusat penamaan calon dan penjumlahan undi ialah di Dewan Besar Institut Kemahiran Belia Negara (IKBN) Bukit Mertajam, manakala pengundian, proses pengeluaran dan pengiraan undi pos di Bilik Gerakan Pejabat Daerah Seberang Prai Tengah.

Katanya, SPR akan menubuhkan dua Pasukan Penguat kuasa Kempen Pilihan Raya (PP-KPR) yang akan memantau pemasangan bahan dan kegiatan kempen sepanjang tempoh berkempen dari 23 Mei sehingga selesai hari mengundi jam 5 petang 31 Mei.

Abdul Aziz berkata, PP-KPR akan diketuai seorang pegawai penguat kuasa SPR dan dianggotai masing-masing seorang pegawai polis, wakil pihak berkuasa tempatan (PBT) dan wakil calon.

Pengundi boleh membuat semakan melalui laman web SPR http://www.spr.gov.my atau melalui SMS dengan menaip SPR SEMAK nombor kad pengenalan dan dihantar ke 15888 mulai 8 Mei ini.

 

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Sri Lankan rebels announce unilateral ceasefire, gov’t rejects

COLOMBO, April 26 (Xinhua) — Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels said on Sunday that it has announced a unilateral ceasefire in the face of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and in response to the calls made by the international community, but the offer has been rejected by the government.

“In the face of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and in response to the calls made by the UN, EU, the governments of the United States, India and others, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has announced a unilateral ceasefire,” the peace secretariat of the LTTE said in a statement.

Tamil civilians flee to government controlled areas from Tamil Tiger rebels' last territory in Puthukkudiyiruppu, northern Sri Lanka, April 24, 2009. (Xinhua/Chen Zhanjie)

Tamil civilians flee to government controlled areas from Tamil Tiger rebels’ last territory in Puthukkudiyiruppu, northern Sri Lanka, April 24, 2009. (Xinhua/Chen Zhanjie)

    “All of LTTE’s offensive military operations will cease with immediate effect,” the statement added.

However, the Sri Lankan government has rejected the ceasefire offer, insisting that the LTTE must lay down arms and surrender.

Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse, the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapakse, was quoted by the media assaying that the offer “is a joke” as the LTTE “were not fighting with us, they were running from us.”

He said there is no need of a ceasefire and the LTTE must surrender.

Lakshman Hulugalle, director general of the government’s Media Center for National Security told Xinhua by telephone that the LTTE “have to lay down arms and surrender. We will definitely carry on with our humanitarian operation.”

Hulugalle said actually there is no formal response from the government because there is no way for the LTTE to officially inform the government about their decision.

The LTTE said in the statement that over 165,000 people living within the coastal area still under the LTTE control in the northern Mullaittivu district are subject to continuous attacks by Sri Lankan Navy, Air Force and Infantry.

“Those who were moved out of the war zone have been detained and are held in concentration camps where they are subjected to torture in violation of all international conventions. These IDP (Internal Displaced Person) population are not permitted to return to their homes. Instead, some are being used as human shields by the Sri Lankan forces,” said the LTTE statement.

The LTTE said it welcomed the attempts by the UN and its agencies to assist the civilian population and are ready to engage and cooperate with them to address the humanitarian needs of the population.

A photograph of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa hangs above defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella (C), who is flanked by military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara (L) and Media Centre for National Security Director General Lakshman Hulugalle, as he speaks during a news conference at the media centre for national security in central Colombo April 22, 2009.(Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

“We are in full agreement that the humanitarian crisis can only be overcome by the declaration of an immediate ceasefire. As the first step we have now announced this unilateral ceasefire and call upon the international community to pressure the Sri Lankan Government to reciprocate it,” the statement added.

 The LTTE’s announcement came as the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes is making a three-day visit to Sri Lanka assessing the government’s humanitarian effort.

Some 50,000 civilians are still believed to be trapped in the conflict between the government troops and the LTTE in the remaining 10-sq-km area safety zone in Puttumatalan, a small town around 400 km northeast of the capital Colombo.

The military said they have secured some 110,000 civilians trapped in the safety zone since Monday when the troops broke the defense lines of the LTTE and entered the area.

This has put pressure on the government’s relief mechanism amid reports of large civilian casualties in the process.

The government said it is on the verge of totally crushing the LTTE as almost all of the 15,000-sq-km territory held by the LTTE has been captured by the government in a military offensive launched in 2006.

Claiming discrimination at the hands of the majority Sinhalese-dominated governments, the LTTE began to fight for an independent Tamil homeland in the north and east since the mid-1980s, resulting in the killing of more than 70,000 people.

source:  http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-04/26/content_11261197.htm

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Swine flu pandemic concern grows after outbreaks in N America

Anybody who went to Mexico last week should report to Ministry of Health and share with them what you did there…
 
www.chinaview.cn  
 

·The WHO on Saturday urged all countries to be alert for unusual swine flu outbreaks.
·Mexico City has closed schools, museums and other public gathering places.
·The H1N1, a mixture of swine, human and avian flu viruses, is still poorly understood by scientists.

 

BEIJING, April 26 (Xinhua) — The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday urged countries to be alert for unusual flu outbreaks after a deadly swine flu virus has claimed dozens of lives in Mexico and infected at least 11 people in the United States.     

NORTH AMERICA: DOZENS KILLED

On Saturday, Mexican Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova raised the probable death toll from the outbreak of the swine flu to 81, including 20 already confirmed, and said more than 1,324 had been suspected to be infected since April 13.

Mexico City has closed schools, museums and other public gathering places, and the Army has been distributing face masks to the population. The health minister said classes in the capital, the neighboring Mexico state and the northern state of San Luis Potosi will resume on May 6.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has issued an emergency decree giving the government special powers to run tests on sick people and order them to be isolated.

In the U.S., two more cases of swine flu were confirmed on Saturday in the state of Kansas and one case in California, bringing the total number of people infected to 11. Eight more cases have been reported in Texas and California.

Eight schoolchildren in New York City were found to be infected with a type A influenza virus that was likely to be the swine flu.     

WHO ISSUES ALERT

WHO says the virus from 12 of the Mexican patients is genetically the same as a new strain of swine flu, designated H1N1, which is also seen in eight people in California and Texas.

The H1N1, a mixture of swine, human and avian flu viruses, is still poorly understood by scientists.

Based on the advice of a WHO emergency committee, Director-General Margaret Chan “has determined that the current events constitute a public health emergency of international concern,” the UN agency said in a statement on Saturday.

WHO urged all countries to boost their surveillance for any unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia.

But the Geneva-based UN agency left the alert status at “Phase 3” denoting none or very limited human-to-human transmission on its scale of one to six. The alert status “Phase 4” would indicate evidence of an increase in human-to-human infection.

“It has pandemic potential because it is infecting people,” Chan said in Geneva. “However, we cannot say on the basis of currently available laboratory, epidemiological and clinical evidence whether or not it will indeed cause a pandemic.”     

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES

Precautionary measures have been taken around the world against a possible global flu pandemic which could deal another blow to the world economy already knocked into a deep downturn by the financial turmoil.

According to WHO, no other countries have reported suspicious cases so far.

Up to now, no countries or global bodies have issued travel bans to Mexico, but some countries alerted travelers to learn about the information on the flu outbreak.

Costa Rica’s Health Minister Maria Luisa Avila said Saturday that her country has issued a flu alert throughout the country and asked the Pan American Health Organization for a supply of antiviral drugs, especially Oseltamivir by the brand name of Tami flu, to combat a possible outbreak spread from neighboring Mexico.

In Honduras, Health Minister Carlos Aguilar said Saturday it may quarantine passengers with flu-like symptoms. The capital Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, two main port cities in the country, will be the main area of surveillance, the minister said.

Chile ordered a sanitary alert that included airport screening of passengers arriving from Mexico. Those showing symptoms will be sent to a hospital for tests.

In Peru, authorities will monitor travelers arriving from Mexico and the U.S., and people with flu-like symptoms will be evaluated by health teams, Peru’s health ministry said.

Brazil will “intensify its health surveillance in all points of entry into the country,” the Health Ministry said in a statement. Measures will also be put in place to inspect cargo and luggage, and to clean and disinfect aircraft and ships at ports of entry.

The Stockholm-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control on Saturday expressed concerns about the swine flu cases, saying it stood ready to lend support in any way possible.

A British Airways cabin crew member was taken to a London hospital after developing flu-like symptoms on a flight from Mexico City, which was the first such reported precautionary measure in Britain.

In France, a government crisis group began operating Saturday. The government has already closed the French school in Mexico City and provided French citizens there with detailed instructions on precautions.

The Netherlands has advised any traveler who returned from Mexico since April 17 and develops a fever over 38.5 Celsius degrees within four days of arriving in the country to stay at home.

The Polish Foreign Ministry has recommended that Poles postpone any travel plans to regions where the outbreak has occurred until it is totally contained.

Some Asian countries and regions have also stepped up checks on passengers with flu-like symptoms.

Japan has stepped up health surveillance in its international airports, while the Philippines said it will quarantine travelers with fevers who have been to Mexico. Health authorities in Thailand and China’s Hong Kong said they were closely monitoring the situation.

Health experts have advised people to wash hands frequently, stay away from people with flu-like symptoms and avoid large gatherings.

http://www.chinaview.cn/index.htm

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Sri Lanka: Risks to civilians still “extremely high” – top UN official

BANGKOK, 24 April 2009 (IRIN) – UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told IRIN there were still tens of thousands trapped in a pocket of fighting in northeastern Sri Lanka: “There may be as many as 50,000 or possibly even more people still left there,” adding that heavy weapons were still being used by both sides.

“The risks to these people are extremely high. That is our main concern.”

To address that, efforts are now under way to dispatch a humanitarian team to the combat area to assess the situation and enable more aid to get in.

“We have an agreement in principle with the government of Sri Lanka, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Holmes said. “The conditions need to be created to make that possible,” he said.

Since 20 April, about 140,000 Tamil civilians have fled combat areas in the north, government sources say, leaving international and Sri Lankan relief agencies in government-controlled areas struggling to cope.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 80,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were already being accommodated in various sites, primarily schools, in and around Vavuniya, Mannar and Jaffna districts.

Meanwhile, fighting was being reported in the village of Valayanmadam in Mullaitivu District, with civilians being moved to the south of the conflict zone,” OCHA said.

Appeal shortfall

As aid workers grapple with the growing number of displaced, OCHA reports that aid agencies have received less than one third of the US$155 million appealed for in February to meet an anticipated increase in the number of people fleeing the conflict.

Although food is relatively well-funded, other sectors such as health, water and sanitation, shelter and education are significantly under-funded.

“I think that donors will respond now,” Holmes said, noting, however, that funding was also connected to conditions inside the camps or sites where those who have fled are now staying.

“We have to be sure that the camps and the conditions in which people are being held over time correspond properly to international standards and principles in order for the funding for us to be there,” he said.

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said on 24 April that the government was expecting another 15,000-20,000 civilians still in the conflict area to come out.

ds/cb/bp

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