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Deadly earthquake rocks Afghanistan and Pakistan

Pictures from Ghazni, south-west of Kabul, showed damage to buildings

More than 150 people have died, mostly in Pakistan, after a magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit north-eastern Afghanistan.

Tremors from the quake were also felt in northern India and Tajikistan.

At least 12 of the victims were Afghan schoolgirls killed in a crush as they tried to get out of their building.

The earthquake was centred in the mountainous Hindu Kush region, 76km (45 miles) south of Faizabad, the US Geological Survey reported.

Buildings have been evacuated and communications disrupted in many areas.

However as the earthquake originated more than 200km (125 miles) below the earth's surface, the damage is less than that which a similarly powerful but shallow tremor might cause.

In Pakistan, the military said 123 people were known to have died in the north of the country.

Most of those fatalities were in the Malakand region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is cutting short a visit abroad and returning home.

Sunnatullah Timour, a spokesman for the governor of the Afghan province of Takhar, told the BBC that as well as the fatalities at the girls' school, another 25 students were injured in the stampede.

Deaths and injuries have also been reported in the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Badakhshan and Kunar, with at least 35 killed in total.

Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah tweeted that the government had asked aid agencies to work with it to help those in need.

In the city of Karimabad, in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan, a witness who gave his name as Anas told the BBC that the quake had sent a landslide crashing into the Hunza river.

"At first it was as if someone was shaking us. There were about 20 of us and we just held on to each other," he said.

"Right after that we saw a major landslide. Some people say it was a glacier that came down, some people say it was a hill. It fell right in front of our eyes."

Pakistan Geological Survey head Imran Khan told the BBC there were reports of landslides disrupting the Karakoram highway between Gilgit and Baltistan. However, he said it was too early to say if any glaciers were destabilised by the quake.

Even at its revised magnitude of 7.5, this was a powerful tremor. Around the world only about 20 quakes each year, on average, measure greater than 7.0.

But its focus was deep – much further below the surface than the 7.8 quake which brought widespread destruction to eastern Nepal in April. That event was only 8km deep and was followed in early May by an aftershock with magnitude 7.3.

Similarly, the devastating 2005 Kashmir earthquake was magnitude 7.6 and just 26km deep. Today's quake, at a depth of more than 200km, appears to have caused widespread but less severe ground shaking.

People in the Indian capital Delhi ran into the streets after the tremor struck, and schools and offices were evacuated. The Delhi metro was also briefly halted.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he had ordered an urgent assessment of any damage.

"We stand ready for assistance where required, including Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

Catherine Bhatti, from Durham in the UK, was visiting relatives in Sarghoda, Pakistan, when the quake struck.

"It came out of the blue, everything started to move slightly then it became stronger. We made our way downstairs and gathered outside on the lawn," she told the BBC.

"My in-laws, who have lived here all their lives, say they have never experienced anything like this before."

Buildings in the Tajik capital Dushanbe were damaged by the tremors.

Local media report that a staircase at a school in Tajikistan's Yavan district collapsed, injuring 14 children.

There are also reports of injuries in a stampede at Khorog state university in Tajikistan, as a building was evacuated.

The region has a history of powerful earthquakes caused by the northward collision of India with Eurasia. The two plates are moving towards each other at a rate of 4-5cm per year.

In 2005, a magnitude 7.6 quake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir left more than 75,000 people dead.

In April this year, Nepal suffered its worst earthquake on record with 9,000 people killed and about 900,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

BBC

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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