At an emergency conference this week, the European Union pledged more than 1 billion dollars in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and neighboring countries, as the United Nations warns millions of Afghans are facing famine. But the United States has been cautious, saying it is sending humanitarian aid, but cannot provide funds directly to the Taliban-led government until they start respecting human rights and women’s rights. VOA’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.
The United States announced Friday an additional 9.6 million doses of Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are being shipped to Pakistan through the global vaccine-sharing COVAX initiative.
The shipment brings to more than 25 million the total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by Washington to the Pakistani people, said the American Embassy in Islamabad.
“The United States is proud to partner with Pakistan to get effective, life-saving Pfizer vaccinations into the arms of Pakistanis, and Pakistan has done a great job of distributing our donated vaccines,” U.S. Chargé d’affaires Angela Aggeler was quoted as saying. “This donation comes just in time for young Pakistanis over age 12 to get their first jabs.”
COVID-19 infections are decreasing in Pakistan, with fewer than 1,000 new daily cases reported on average. The government last week eased restrictions on almost all public movement, education activities and businesses across the country of roughly 220 million people.
The latest government data show there have been 1,262,771 confirmed cases of infections, 39,953 of them active, and 28,228 COVID-19-related deaths since the pandemic hit Pakistan.
Officials reported Friday that more than 95 million doses have been administered to Pakistanis, including roughly 1 million in last 24 hours alone, since the national vaccination drive was rolled out in February.
The vaccination campaign has largely relied on Chinese vaccine, but the U.S. donations are helping officials overcome critical shortages of Western-developed anti-coronavirus shots.
“These Pfizer vaccines are part of the 500 million Pfizer doses the United States purchased this summer to deliver to 92 countries worldwide, including Pakistan, to fulfill President [Joe] Biden’s commitment to provide safe and effective vaccines around the world and supercharge the global fight against the pandemic,” the U.S. Embassy noted in its statement.
Washington has also delivered $63 million in COVID-19 assistance to Islamabad.
The COVAX program is co-led by Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), the WHO (World Health Organization) and CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness). The United States is the single largest contributor supporting the initiative toward global COVID-19 vaccine access.
Kenyan authorities say the economic losses caused by COVID are driving more people to fish illegally. Poaching has tripled since last year and caused the daily catch to drop from an estimated 600 tons to 200 tons, according to Kenya’s Maritime Fisheries Research Institute. As a result, the Coast Guard has been deployed to protect lakes from poachers. Victoria Amunga reports from Naivasha.
Scammers have long preyed upon the economically vulnerable. But in Indonesia, economic hardship and increased online activity during the COVID pandemic have led to a boom in predatory loan apps, as VOA’s Rendy Wicaksana reports.
The Biden administration is taking steps to address the economic risks from climate change, issuing a 40-page report Friday on government-wide plans to protect the financial, insurance and housing markets and the savings of American families.
Under the report, the mortgage process, stock market disclosures, retirement plans, federal procurement and government budgeting are all being reconsidered so the country could price in the risks being created by climate change. The report is a follow-up to a May executive order by President Joe Biden that essentially calls on the government to analyze how extreme heat, flooding, storms, wildfires and broader adjustments to address climate change could affect the world’s largest economy.
“If this year has shown us anything, it’s that climate change poses an ongoing urgent and systemic risk to our economy and to the lives and livelihoods of everyday Americans, and we must act now,” Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate adviser, told reporters.
February storm in Texas led to widespread power outages, 210 deaths and severe property damage. Wildfires raged in Western states. The heat dome in the Pacific Northwest caused record temperatures in Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana in August and caused deadly flooding in the Northeast.
The actions being recommended by the Biden administration reflect a significant shift in the broader discussion about climate change, suggesting that the nation must prepare for the costs that families, investors and governments will bear.
The report is also an effort to showcase to the world how serious the U.S. government is about tackling climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Among the steps outlined is the government’s Financial Stability Oversight Council developing the tools to identify and lessen climate-related risks to the economy. The Treasury Department plans to address the risks to the insurance sector and availability of coverage. The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking at mandatory disclosure rules about the opportunities and risks generated by climate change.
The Labor Department on Wednesday proposed a rule for investment managers to factor environmental decisions into the choices made for pensions and retirement savings. The Office of Management and Budget announced the government will begin the process of asking federal agencies to consider greenhouse gas emissions from the companies providing supplies. Biden’s budget proposal for fiscal 2023 will feature an assessment of climate risks.
Federal agencies involved in lending and mortgages for homes are looking for the impact on the housing market, with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and its partners developing disclosures for homebuyers and flood and climate-related risks. The Department of Veterans Affairs will also look at climate risks for its home lending program.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is updating the standards for its National Flood Insurance Program, potentially revising guidelines that go back to 1976.
“We now do recognize that climate change is a systemic risk,” McCarthy said. “We have to look fundamentally at the way the federal government does its job and how we look at the finance system and its stability.”