UN relief agencies laud dedication of Iraqi health workers

The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to be extremely impressed by the level of dedication the Iraqi health staff bring to their work even in these circumstances, spokesperson Fadela Chaib told the daily briefing in Amman, Jordan, on UN humanitarian activities. This level of dedication by doctors, nurses, support staff including cleaners, cooks, maintenance workers and drivers was saving lives, she added.She said social and working conditions in many areas, including Baghdad, were extremely challenging. Public transportation was not functioning, basics such as electricity and water were in short supply, and security was unstable, making movement difficult and even dangerous. Food was not always available, and due to looting and dwindling stocks, health workers had to cope without the very basics – oxygen cylinders, surgical instruments and anaesthetics.But despite all this, they continued their commitment to support the public health system, Ms. Chaib said. In Baghdad, surgical staff who could not work in their own hospitals because they had been looted or damaged, travelled to other hospitals to carry out essential surgeries there.Based on an UN inter-sectoral assessment, Ms. Chaib cited the acute shortage of water in Nassiriyah in the south, both in the community and in the health facilities, as of special concern. Electricity, water and re-stocking drugs for chronic diseases were reported as the most urgent priorities. Due to lack of water and difficulty with sanitation, the risk of diarrhoea remained high. But considering that Nassiriyah was badly affected during the war, the health sector continued to operate very well even at the peak of the conflict, she added. Health staff ensured basic care was maintained throughout the period, illustrating the dedication of staff to maintaining services for the Iraqi people. The World Food Programme (WFP) said the arrival of its first convoy in Baghdad yesterday afternoon highlighted the complexity of the operation. A trip that should take only two days took four due to the lack of security and the need to prepare a secured warehouse in the city. The convoy had 1,400 tons of food, enough for half the population of Baghdad for just one day.“In a very short time we will need to send more than six times this quantity every day from Jordan,” spokesman Khaled Mansour said. To reach the target of having enough food for 27 million Iraqis as of May, more warehouses needed to be secured, more mills and silos needed to be functioning, thus requiring a regular supply of water, electricity and the return of the skilled staff of the Ministry of Trade, he added. For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said there had been a huge increase in child diarrhoeal cases in Baghdad, where some hospitals experienced shortages of water, anti-diarrhoeal drugs and injectable and oral antibiotics.The UN High Commissioner for the Refugees (UNHCR) said another 100 people had reached the border with Jordan, bringing the total in a makeshift frontier encampment to more than 1,050. The agency again called on the occupying powers to ensure security for civilians inside Iraq and the equitable distribution of aid. read more

Commentary BCS National Championship game shows brilliance of college football

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher celebrates after the BCS National Championship against Auburn Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl. Florida State won, 34-31.Credit: Courtesy of MCTThe empty sense of disappointment that arrived in the wake of Ohio State’s 2014 Discover Orange Bowl loss Friday night stayed with me throughout the entire weekend. There was no consoling, nothing to make me truly forget about it.I didn’t think watching Monday night’s BCS National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn could possibly make me feel any better. That was the game I wanted the Buckeyes to play in, the one they were so tantalizingly close to. It could only remind me how their season ended, right?Wrong.Instead of making me think back on OSU’s shortcomings in South Florida, the 2014 National Championship Game lifted the dark cloud from above my head, and gave us 60 minutes of college football at its very best.It didn’t seem like it at first, though. Auburn’s backfield duo of junior quarterback Nick Marshall and junior running back Tre Mason spent the first half seemingly confirming the national suspicion that Florida State’s impressive record was just the result of a weak schedule. An SEC blowout — not unlike last year — was on the cards.The SEC had dominated for so long, and it looked like it was going to continue. In a season that had seen countless pundits write off teams like Florida State and OSU because they didn’t play in a certain conference, the Buckeyes had lost their chance to silence those doubters, and now it looked like the Seminoles had too.But things changed, dramatically. Auburn couldn’t pull away, and the result was a fourth quarter for the ages. After a Tigers field goal, the Seminoles took their first lead in nearly 45 minutes with an electrifying kickoff return from freshman wide receiver Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield. Then Auburn hit right back through the unstoppable Mason. A little more than a minute remained, and again Florida State’s time had almost run out.Cue a seven-play, 80-yard drive, defined by this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, redshirt-freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. His beautiful touchdown pass to the leaping redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin with only 13 seconds left put the proper exclamation on an exhilarating 34-31 Seminole victory.It was everything a championship game should be: heavyweight fight, chess match, and epic drama all rolled into one. It wasn’t so much about two teams as much as it was about the sport as a whole, a one-of-the-kind sight that could only take place on the gridiron.All the hits, touchdowns and cheers that populate a college football season led to this. From the comfortable Saturdays in late summer to the frigid temperatures of the past few weeks, everything from the past four months built up to make Monday’s game what it was.So rather than dwell on those two losses that some might say defined this season’s Buckeye squad, the beauty of the National Championship game allowed to me to remember that one single moment can’t sum up a team’s season, because so much goes into it.But what happened in the Rose Bowl Stadium certainly came closest to defining that one thing we all love: college football. read more