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Exclusive-Baby handed to U.S. soldiers in chaos of Afghanistan airlift still missing

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It was a split second decision. Mirza Ali Ahmadi and his wife Suraya found themselves and their five children on Aug. 19 in a chaotic crowd outside the gates of the Kabul airport in Afghanistan when a U.S. soldier, from over the tall fence, asked if they needed help.

Fearing their two-month old baby Sohail would get crushed in the melee, they handed him to the soldier, thinking they would soon get to the entrance, which was only about 16 feet (5 meters) away.

But at that moment, Mirza Ali said, the Taliban – which had swiftly taken over the country as U.S. troops withdrew – began pushing back hundreds of hopeful evacuees. It took the rest of the family more than a half hour to get to the other side of the airport fence.

Once they were inside, Sohail was nowhere to be found.

Mirza Ali, who said he worked as a security guard at the U.S embassy for 10 years, began desperately asking every official he encountered about his baby’s whereabouts. He said a military commander told him the airport was too dangerous for a baby and that he might have been taken to a special area for children. But when they got there it was empty.

“He walked with me all around the airport to search everywhere,” Mirza Ali said in an interview through a translator. He said he never got the commander’s name, as he didn’t speak English and was relying on Afghan colleagues from the embassy to help communicate. Three days went by.

“I spoke to maybe more than 20 people,” he said. “Every officer – military or civilian – I came across I was asking about my baby.”

He said one of the civilian officials he spoke to told him Sohail might have been evacuated by himself. “They said ‘we don’t have resources to keep the baby here.'”

Mirza Ali, 35, Suraya, 32, and their other children, 17, 9, 6 and 3 years old, were put on an evacuation flight to Qatar and then to Germany and eventually landed in the United States. The family is now at Fort Bliss in Texas with other Afghan refugees waiting to be resettled somewhere in the United States. They have no relatives here.

Mirza Ali said he saw other families handing their babies over the Kabul airport fence to soldiers at the same time. One video clip https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/the-only-way-out-scenes-from-the-kabul-a-idUSRTXFVLJR of a small baby in a diaper being hoisted by her arm over razor wire went viral on social media. She was later reunited with her parents.

Ever since his baby went missing dates are a blur, Mirza Ali said. Every person he comes across – aid workers, U.S. officials – he tells them about Sohail. “Everyone promises they will do their best, but they are just promises,” he said.

An Afghan refugee support group created a “Missing Baby” sign with Sohail’s picture on it and are circulating it among their networks in the hopes that someone will recognize him.

A U.S. government official familiar with the situation said the case had been flagged for all the agencies involved, including the U.S. bases and overseas locations. The child was last seen being handed to a U.S. soldier during the chaos at the Kabul airport but “unfortunately no one can find the child,” the official said.

A Department of Defense spokesperson and a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which is overseeing resettlement efforts, referred queries on the matter to the State Department, since the separation took place overseas.

A State Department spokesperson said the government is working with international partners and the international community “to explore every avenue to locate the child, which includes an international amber alert that was issued through the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

Suraya, who also spoke through a translator, said she cries most of the time and that her other children are distraught.

“All I am doing is thinking about my child,” Suraya said. “Everyone that is calling me, my mother, my father, my sister, they all comfort me and say ‘don’t worry, God is kind, your son will be found.'”

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco and Jonathan Landay in Washington;Editing by Mary Milliken and Rosalba O’Brien)

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First cases of COVID-19 discovered in Canadian wildlife – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
The first cases of COVID-19 in Canadian wildlife have been discovered in three white-tailed deer, a press release from Environment and Climate Change Canada reports.

The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease confirmed the detections on Nov. 29 but the deer were sampled between Nov. 6 to 8 in the Estrie region of Quebec. The deer showed no evidence of clinical signs of disease and were “all apparently healthy.”

“As this is the first detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife in Canada, information on the impacts and spread of the virus in wild deer populations is currently limited,” the press release states.

“The finding emphasizes the importance of ongoing surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 in wildlife to increase our understanding about SARS-CoV-2 on the human-animal interface.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health was notified about the discovery on Dec. 1.

The department is urging added precaution – like wearing a well-fitted mask – when exposed to “respiratory tissues and fluids from deer.”

The virus has been found in multiple animal species globally including farmed mink, cats, dogs, ferrets, and zoo animals such as tigers, lions, gorillas, cougars, otters and others.

“Recent reports in the United States have revealed evidence of spillover of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to wild white-tailed deer, with subsequent spread of the virus among deer. There has been no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from deer to humans at this time,” the release reads.

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U.N. seeks record $41 billion for aid to hotspots led by Afghanistan, Ethiopia

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The United Nations appealed on Thursday for a record $41 billion to provide life-saving assistance next year to 183 million people worldwide caught up in conflict and poverty, led by a tripling of its programme in Afghanistan.

Famine remains a “terrifying prospect” for 45 million people living in 43 countries, as extreme weather caused by climate change shrinks food supplies, the U.N. said in the annual appeal, which reflected a 17% rise in annual funding needs.

“The drivers of needs are ones which are familiar to all of us. Tragically, it includes protracted conflicts, political instability, failing economies … the climate crisis, not a new crisis, but one which urges more attention and of course the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.

In a report to donors, the world body said: “Without sustained and immediate action, 2022 could be catastrophic.”

Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan are the five major crises requiring the most funding, topped by $4.5 billion sought for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan where “needs are skyrocketing”, it said.

In Afghanistan, more than 24 million people require life-saving assistance, a dramatic increase driven by political tumult, repeated economic shocks, and severe food insecurity caused by the worst drought in 27 years.

“We are in the business in the U.N. of trying to urgently establish with support from the World Bank as well as the U.N. system, a currency swap initiative which will allow liquidity to go into the economy,” Griffiths said.

“The absence of cash in Afghanistan is a major impediment to any delivery of services,” he said. “I am hoping that we get it up and running before the end of this month.”

In Ethiopia, where a year-old conflict between government and Tigrayan forces has spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, thousands have been displaced, while fighting, drought and locusts push more to the brink, the U.N. said.

Nearly 26 million Ethiopians require aid, including more than 9 million who depend on food rations, including 5 million in Tigray, amid rising malnutrition rates, it said.

“Ethiopia is the most alarming probably almost certainly in terms of immediate emergency need,” Griffiths said, adding that 400,000 people had been deemed at risk of famine already in May.

Noting that heavy fighting continued, with government forces battling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front forces who have moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa, he added: “But capacity to respond to an imploded Ethiopia is almost impossible to imagine.”

 

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Richard Pullin)

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Doug Ford applauds new COVID-19 travel restrictions, says more discussions with feds to be held – Globalnews.ca

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford thanked the federal government for implementing new travel restrictions in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant and said more discussions will be held about possibly expanding new testing rules to travellers from the United States.

Ford made the remarks at an unrelated press conference in Mississauga Wednesday morning.

Several Omicron variant cases have already been confirmed in Ontario, and Ford said while it is a “cause for concern” it is “not cause for panic.”

“Every day we hold off more cases entering our country, the more time we have to learn and prepare,” Ford said.

Read more:

Canada expands travel ban, seeks booster guidance

“So the best thing we can do right now is fortify our borders. Our best defence is keeping the variant out of our country. We welcome the actions from the federal government and I want to thank the feds for taking action to date.

“We implored them last week to act quickly and be decisive on the borders and they did.”

In a statement last Friday, Ford called on the federal government to enact travel bans on “countries of concern” and the feds followed through just hours later.

On Tuesday, they expanded that ban to three additional countries.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said foreign nationals from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt who have been to those countries over the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. This added to the seven other African countries barred by Canada on Friday: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.


Click to play video: 'Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions'



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Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions


Egypt, Malawi and Nigeria added to Canada‘s travel ban amid more restrictions

Canadians and permanent residents, as well as all those who have the right to return to Canada, who have transited through these countries over the past two weeks, will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport, and await their test results before exiting quarantine, Duclos said.

It was also announced that all air travellers entering Canada — excluding those coming from the United States — would have to get tested when they arrive and isolate until they receive a negative result. That measure applies to all travellers, regardless of vaccination status.

Duclos said Wednesday that it will take time to implement the new measure.

In his statement last week, Ford also called for point-of-arrival testing to be put in place.

He also said he advised the province’s chief medical officer and Public Health Ontario to “immediately implement expanded surveillance” and update planning to “ensure we are ready for any outcome.”

The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world, including, as of Wednesday, the United States.

Ford was asked if he would support expanding the new testing rules to those arriving from the States.

“I would always support anything that can be cautious to prevent this variant coming into our country. So, again we’ll have a discussion with the federal government. That’s their jurisdiction, it’s not ours,” Ford said.

“They work collaboratively with all the provinces and territories and I’m always for going the cautious route as I think people have seen over the last 20 months.”

The premier added that “it doesn’t take much to get a test at the airport.”

Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Wednesday that it’s too early to say whether Canada’s latest requirement to test arriving air travellers will be extended to include those coming from the United States.

“We need to be prepared and ready if we need to adjust that decision to include travellers from the U.S. We haven’t made that decision yet,” he said.

Read more:

Feds, provinces considering expanding COVID-19 tests for U.S. travellers amid Omicron

When asked what provincial measures are being considered in response to the Omicron variant, Ford said they will make sure there is expanded testing capacity and contact tracing.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is still much that isn’t known about the variant, including how effective vaccines are against it.

She said the province is “continuing with all of our precautions” and said it’s important to keep border restrictions in place until more is known about the variant.

Elliott also said more information will be released in the coming days “with respect to age categories” on booster shots.

— With files from Saba Aziz and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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