‘Our Bonds have Been Strong’

first_imgPresident Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has stated that the diplomatic bonds that bind Liberia and the state of Israel have been strong since the formation of the Middle-eastern nation, most especially in 1954 when actual diplomatic exchanges began.President Sirleaf indicated that the bonds have been cemented with visits of both President William V. S. Tubman and the then Prime Minister Moshe Sharett of Israel during the Tubman era coupled with the construction of the Executive Mansion, humanitarian assistance, support to Liberia at the level of the United Nations and Israeli investment in Liberia.The Liberian leader made these assertions when she received the Letters of Credence from Israeli new Ambassador to Liberia, Sharon Barli.Speaking during the presentation ceremony at her Office on Wednesday April 30,the President emphasized how much Liberia values the long, historic relationship with the State of Israel.President Sirleaf said the relations between the two countries have transcended ordinary friendship since 1948 when that nation was established under the auspice of the United Nations.She spoke of her fond experiences she had when she visited the State of Israel back in 2007, which she said was very fruitful.In 1954 both countries formalized diplomatic relations that led to the historic visit of Israel’s founding mother and then Foreign Minister, Honorable Golda Meir, to Liberia, during which she was crowned as a Queen Mother by the Gola tribe.Again in 1962, the second President of the State of Israel, His Excellency Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, paid an official visit to Liberia.President Sirleaf expressed deepest appreciation for the strong support of Israel to Liberia and hoped Ambassador Barli will ensure the strengthening and consolidation of ties during her tenure.“I stand ready to work with you to raise and resolve all outstanding bilateral issues,” the Liberian leader said.While there are enormous challenges, the President went on to say, her government has made considerable progress, thanks to the support of partners such as the State of Israel. She made mention of the launch of a national framework, Vision 2030.It is a framework that is to see Liberia becomes a middle-income country in 2030.She also mentioned the government’s Agenda for Transformation – a five-year program aimed at supporting nearly all the pillars of Vision 2030.The new Israeli diplomat, Sharon Barli, in a remark praised the relations between both countries, which she said are long-standing and excellent.“Our relations are based on friendship, mutual understanding and common views on many international issues.”“Development cooperation will continue to form an important part in the relations between State of Israel and Liberia,” Ambassador Barli noted.She expressed her excitement to be in Liberia as a female diplomat and conveyed warm greetings from the President and Prime Minister of Israel from Jerusalem.Ambassador Sharon Barli thanked President Sirleaf for accepting her Letters of Credence and pointed out that Israel has a strong attachment to Liberia.Beyond bilateral development cooperation, Ambassador Barli said the relations between Liberia and Israel have widened and deepened and are now in a process of dynamic development, extending to many sectors of both societies.She said Israel was ready to provide technical assistance to Liberia in sectors such as agriculture, education, health, security, and is also committed to human development and capacity building intervention in Liberia.Though she won’t be residing in Liberia, but the Israel diplomat committed herself to making regular and constant visits to Liberia as Israel’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. She is based in Accra, Ghana, a nation in addition to Liberia that her jurisdictions cover.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Brothers tortured, shot dead in Region 1

first_imgThe lifeless bodies of two brothers were discovered on Thursday morning at Father’s Beach, North West District (NWD), with several gunshot and chop wounds about their bodies.The men have been identified as Eon and Rakesh Mathias. Based on reports received, the two brothers left home on Wednesday to go fishing.Region One Police Divisional Commander Wendell BlanhumHowever, between 14:00h and 14:30h, residents in close proximity to the location (including the brothers’ relatives) heard the sound of rapid gunfire. As a result, the father of the two men raised an alarm since it was an unusual occurrence.A report was made to the Police, who in turn contacted the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guards, for assistance. The area was searched but there were no signs of the two brothers and the vessel they were using to fish.Fearing for the worst, the father returned to his community to update other relatives and friends that the young men had disappeared.It was on Thursday morning that persons in the area noticed the bodies of the two brothers lying along Father’s Beach foreshore. Without hesitation, the Police were contacted and the ranks immediately cordoned off the area.Speaking with Guyana Times after the discovery, Divisional Commander in that area, Wendell Blanhum, related that there were several gunshots wounds about the brothers’ bodies.In addition, he noted that one of the men sustained chops wounds, which meant that the two brothers might have been tortured before they were shot and killed.He confirmed that up to late Thursday afternoon, the detectives were continuing their investigations. The bodies are expected to be transported to the Mabaruma Hospital Mortuary awaiting post-mortem.last_img read more

LAPD goes to war

first_imgMAYBE the protesters started it. Maybe Los Angeles police officers were just responding to rocks thrown Tuesday night when they turned their batons and rubber bullets on people hanging around after the otherwise peaceful immigration reform rally at MacArthur Park on Tuesday evening. Maybe the reporters who were hit and shoved, and the television camera crews, were getting in the way of cops trying to restore law and order. It doesn’t really matter. The reality is that the LAPD is the force charged with protecting and maintaining the peace of the city. And on Tuesday, it failed to do that. That’s what is so disturbing. If the incidents were isolated and involved known troublemakers, why did the cops come down so hard on working journalists just doing their jobs? Several were hit, pushed, thrown to the ground, even kicked – videos show that all too clearly. The idea that any officer would imagine that it’s acceptable to suppress the gathering of news ought to concern us all. The LAPD has done a lot in recent years to repair its relationship with communities that have felt victimized by the police. The ranks are more diverse. Community policing is a priority. This incident doesn’t have to set back that relationship. Whether it does will depend on how city leaders follow through with the investigation, and whether they hold people accountable. For too long, L.A. has not properly disciplined unacceptable behavior among public safety personnel, leading to a destructive us- versus-them attitude. This tradition has cost taxpayers millions in settlements and cost the good men and women of the LAPD the respect they deserve. This incident requires more than a cursory look at what happened. We need to know why some officers were in a frame of mind to use force which, from the visual evidence, wasn’t needed at all.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The images of what took place don’t look good. They suggest that the old LAPD was on duty at the rally, not the modern force we hope we have, one that responds appropriately instead of overreacting with violence. The outcry from the media and protesters was predictable, and the calls for a full investigation from the mayor and City Council are appropriate. And Chief William Bratton has done the right thing by immediately ordering an investigation into what happened, and promising to deal with any officers who acted inappropriately. Now there must be follow-up with a full and transparent investigation, with the full involvement of the community. The consensus of both the police and protest organizers is that the scuffles were instigated by a small group of agitators who were not part of the larger demonstrations. The “vast majority” of protesters were acting appropriately, Bratton said. last_img read more


first_imgThe Donegal Live Register has dropped by 17.04% according to the latest figures released.Dole queues are dropping in Donegal.Dinny McGinley TD has welcomed the news that the Live Register has fallen for the 33rd consecutive month with a drop of 17.04% in the number of people signing on in Donegal.And he said that while he understands that not everyone is felling it quite yet, the Government does has a plan for major economic recovery. “Today’s CSO figures show that the Live Register in Donegal has dropped by 17.04% since the launch of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs in February 2012. The economic recovery has really taken hold now, and is starting to be felt in Donegal.“I know not everyone is feeling it quite yet, and that not everybody has regained the job they lost in the crisis, but the Government has a comprehensive plan to achieve full employment by 2018.“With the success of Minister Richard Bruton’s Action Plan for Jobs so far, I am sure we can achieve this target and that Donegal will really feel the benefits.“What is really promising in this month’s CSO figures is the fact that over the last year, the number of under 25’s signing on the Live Register has dropped by 20.1%. While we’ll always have a number of young people who want to go away to experience new cultures and opportunities, it is so important that we are providing opportunities for young people here in Ireland, so that the majority of them have the choice to stay here and make a good life for themselves close to their families. “Regional job creation is a key focus of the Action Plan for Jobs 2015 and the Regional Enterprise Strategy, is well underway, exploring the ways that communities all around Ireland can see the fruits of the economic recovery.”DOLE FIGURES DROP BY 17% IN DONEGAL AS TD PLEADS FOR JOBLESS TO BE PATIENT was last modified: April 2nd, 2015 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:DEPUTY DINNY MCGINLEYdoledonegalGovernmentJOBLESSlast_img read more

STUNNING REPORT! Real Madrid tell Man United they can have Ronaldo back for £48m

first_img Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring for Real Madrid 1 Real Madrid are ready to sell Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United for 60million euros (£48.2m), according to reports in Spain.The Spanish giants are said to have decided to let the Portuguese superstar go at the end of this season and have offered United the chance to re-sign him.With Ronaldo’s contract expiring in 2018, Real are keen to cash in on the 31-year-old this summer to avoid his value plummeting next year.Real president Florentino Perez believes 60million euros is a fair price for the three-time World Player of the Year and is hopeful that could tempt United into doing a deal for their former star man.Ronaldo is adored by the Old Trafford faithful and sealing his return would be a stunning coup for the club.He spent six years at United after arriving aged 18 year  from Sporting Lisbon and helped the club claim a hatful of major honours.Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked with a move for Ronaldo but are understood to have made Barcelona’s Neymar their top target, leaving United clear frontrunners for the Portugal international’s  signature.last_img read more


first_imgKarl Griffin pictured here in the yellow jersey, was crowned as the Irish Junior Athlete of the year.Donegal athlete Karl Griffin was crowned the Junior Athlete of the Year at the National Athletic Awards ceremony in Dublin.The Donegal Town native enjoyed a superb season and his performances reiterated why he’s considered one of the brightest prospects in current Irish athletics.Griffin reached the 800m semi-finals at the World Junior Championships, running a personal best of 1.47.44. That superb and accomplished performance singled out Griffin as a athlete that could make a serious impact if he keeps developing over the next few years.With Mark English winning the overall athlete of the year it was a great night for Donegal athletics.Well done to both Karl Griffin and Mark English on their wonderful achievements.KARL GRIFFIN CROWNED JUNIOR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AFTER SUPERB SEASON was last modified: November 28th, 2014 by Mark ForkerShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:athleticskarl griffinnewsSportlast_img read more

Neil’s race comes to an end with brilliant cheque for Alzheimer’s Association

first_imgCongratulations to Neil Sweeney who participated in the Donegal Ultra 555km challenge and raised an amazing €2,382 for Donegal’s Alzheimer’s Association.Neil presented his cheque to the Alzheimer’s Society at a special function at Maggie’s Tavern in St Johnston last weekend.On what was a thoroughly enjoyable night, Neil extended his thanks to everyone who helped him during his 555 Cycle, and to all those who sponsored and supported him in any way.At the presentation, pictured from left to right – back row: Gerard Mc Glinchey, Brian McNamee, Tony Rodgers, Jackie Corcoran, Vincent McGrath, Stephen Crawford, Kieran Porter, Peter McBrearty, Raymond Mc Gowan, Pauric Mc Dermott, Marie Mc Dermott, Danny Gallagher, Catherine Peoples. Missing from the photograph John Doherty, JoeMcKean, Martin McNulty and Gerald Crawford.Sitting, front Row are Maura Sweeney, Alice Lynch Neil Sweeney, Catherine Sweeney, Stephàn Mc Cullagh (cheque received by Stephan on behalf of Donegal’s Alzeheimer’s Association) Denis Kelly, Bridget Kelly.Also pictured below are (left to right) Alice Lynch, Neil Sweeney, Kathleen Sweeney, Stephen McCullagh and Maura Sweeney.Neil’s race comes to an end with brilliant cheque for Alzheimer’s Association was last modified: October 15th, 2019 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:Alzheimer’s AssociationdonegalNeil SweeneyUltra 555last_img read more

QPR, Newcastle, Sunderland and Villa chasing Crewe midfielder – report

first_imgQPR are interested Crewe’s Luke Murphy, according to The Sun on Sunday. Newcastle, Sunderland and Aston Villa are also said to keeping tabs on the 23-year-old midfielder.Rafael Benitez would be Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s ideal choice for the manager’s job at Stamford Bridge next season, according to the Sunday Telegraph.It is claimed that former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is keen to return but Abramovich has not been convinced to re-appoint him.Abramovich is said to be largely happy with the job Benitez has done as interim manager and has even sounded players out to see how they would feel about the Spaniard staying on.But with fans opposed to Benitez, Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini has apparently emerged as the favourite for the role.The Sunday Mirror, on the other hand, say Mourinho is set to turn his back on a return to Chelsea and instead stay at Real Madrid.Meanwhile, Chelsea stalwart Frank Lampard has been offered an improved deal to join LA Galaxy, according to the Sunday People.He is said to have been offered a two-year contract worth £3.9m a year, plus a lucrative image rights deal.The Sun on Sunday say Manchester United with not be joining Chelsea and Manchester City in the race to sign striker Radamel Falcao from Atletico Madrid.And the Mail on Sunday tip Chelsea to sign Falcao and Bayer Leverkusen’s Andre Schurrle.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 Follow West London Sport on TwitterFind us on Facebooklast_img read more

Maropeng unearths ancient tools

first_img7 September 2005South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind World Heritage site has thrown new light on humanity’s ancient history, with one-million-year-old stone age tools recently unearthed during construction of the site’s visitor centre.The finds were announced at a renaming ceremony for the centre on 1 September. Rising from the dust of the Magaliesberg in Gauteng, the half-built centre’s name has been changed from Mohale’s Gate – which honoured a chief who once ruled the area – to Maropeng, a Setswana word meaning “the place where we once lived”.Two of the tools, well-preserved carved hand axes, were shown at the renaming ceremony. Their chipped edges, blunted by water erosion, are clearly discernible. Three boxes of tools were excavated from the site.The artefacts were found along a bank in a layer of pebbles and stones some 50cm below the surface. The construction workers who discovered them have subsequently been trained to recognise such implements. An earlier impact assessment study predicted there was only a 2% chance of finding anything significant.Present at the ceremony were Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa, Wits University vice-chancellor Professor Loyiso Nongxa and Mogale mayor Lentswe Mokgatle.A living monument“This is why the Cradle of Humankind is such a wonderful place,” said Nongxa, holding up one of the tools. “Wits is proud to be working at this site. It is a living monument to the past, to the present, and to the future.” The university manages all the excavation sites in the broader 47 000-acre Cradle of Humankind site.Shilowa explained that the area was once a large lake. “It is hard to believe but this is where our ancestors once roamed,” he said. “The discovery . proves beyond reasonable doubt that even beyond the periods of the early formations of humankind, our ancestors were living in this place.“If we want to make sense of where we are going as a nation, and what our future holds, we need to make sense of where we come from. We need to make sense of our heritage – hence the name Maropeng,” Shilowa said.He stressed that the construction of the site was also about economic development, job creation and poverty alleviation – and, of course, tourism. The Cradle developments will create 1 800 temporary and 600 permanent jobs.“The site is about human development – about issues of hunger, poverty, jobs and shelter,” he said. Since the cradle developments in the area, many hospitality sites have sprung up, creating jobs.Shilowa acknowledged the contribution others had made to the development: Wits University, Standard Bank and its 100-hectare donation of land, Mogale City, and the private sector.Exploring humanity’s historyMaropeng will consist of an interpretation centre, where visitors will explore, by means of zones, the history of the earth and humankind. It lies on the side of a koppie, where ancient rocky outcrops will mark the setting of a huge tear-shaped burial mound, referred to as a “tumulus”: a partly disguised grassy mound 20m high and 35m wide, currently under construction.The site is visible from the road with seven tall concrete pillars, representing the seven daughters of Eve. After the visitor has parked, entrance to the site will be via an excavated marketplace containing stalls, a restaurant and a curio store. This is where the tools were found, and where further excavations will be made.A walkway will lead to the entrance into the tumulus, an exploration area with a boat ride on an underground lake exploring the different forms of water. From there the visitor will take a walk down an underground spine, exploring through interactive displays the discovery of fire, bipedalism, extinction and DNA, among other things.It is hoped that there’ll be real fossils, such as Little Foot and Lucy, on display in a high-security room.Once through this area, the visitor will exit at the crest of the koppie and relax with a picnic basket, taking in the view of the Magaliesberg.At this point there’ll be a children’s cave where the kids can set up their own dig. The cave is built with local stone in a jagged wall, representing shards of broken bone.A 24-room boutique hotel and a hostel for schoolchildren are also being built on the site.The complex will be officially opened in early December. Some 3 000 people are expected to visit the centre every day. The site will be managed by Maropeng a’Afrika Leisure. The development is a R347-million Blue IQ project.“This development is not only part of our national pride, but to the world,” said Rob King, CEO of Maropeng a’Afrika. “It denotes the universal relevance of the Cradle of Humankind as the ancestral home to all, no matter what colour, culture or creed.”Source: City of Johannesburg Want to use this article in your publication or on your website?See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

Eyes to the island: Car Nicobar’s victory over hyperendemic trachoma

first_img The Andaman and Nicobar Islands endure severe inadequacies in intra-island transport, telecom, electricity, potable water and garbage disposal. Healthcare infrastructure is far from perfect. Nevertheless, a measure of confidence is inspired by the bustling sprawl of the G.B. Pant Medical College and Hospital in Port Blair, the referral medical institution for all the islands. This is where Dr. Shah is Deputy Director-Ophthalmology. The airy and clean B.J.R. Hospital in Car Nicobar, which she visits regularly, is one of two such district-level facilities.Dr. Shah had to tenaciously follow up for over two years to mobilise support for the ‘Trachoma Rapid Assessment (TRA) in Nicobar 2010’ survey by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences’ (AIIMS), Dr. R. P. Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences (RPCOS), New Delhi, and the Directorate of Health Services (DHS), Port Blair, with backing from the NPCB, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. “Islands are easily forgotten,” she says matter-of-factly.In a far cornerThe Nicobar archipelago is separated from the Andaman cluster by the Ten Degree Channel, a minor international shipping route named so for its latitude north of the equator. The Indian Ocean tsunami arrived here at 7 a.m., roughly 40 minutes after the earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, and two hours before it reached the subcontinent’s southeastern coast. Car Nicobar, part of the Nicobar and Andaman Tribal Reserve Area and ringed by 51 km of silvery beaches, is approximately 1,450 km from mainland India.In Car Nicobar, the disused iron bridge in Kimious stands as forlorn evidence of the devastation. As a percentage of the total population, in India, the Nicobar Islands lost the most lives in the tsunami. The villages of Malaka and Kakana had the highest casualties. Mus was cut off by a subsidence of land and the pooling of backwater in several places. Tribespeople from Sawai, Arong and Teatop were pushed into the forests at the centre of the island, where they survived for a week without food or water before evacuation. They were moved out of overcrowded relief camps in Port Blair and elsewhere in the islands and resettled in Car Nicobar nearly two years after the tsunami. Dr. Shah’s surgical outreach began after their return.Two teams investigated Dr. Shah’s concerns by examining 7,277 inhabitants of 10 clusters selected for the highest risk of developing trachoma. The TRA found a very active trachoma infection rate of 50.8% in children aged 1-9 years, with the proportion of infected children in the surveyed villages ranging from 37.5% to 73%.“We were shocked and surprised by the magnitude of the trachoma burden in Car Nicobar,” says Dr. Praveen Vashist, Professor and Head, Community Ophthalmology Department, RPCOS, AIIMS, who made four trips to the island over the course of the project. “I did not realise that the location was so difficult to reach. An MDA covering an entire tribal population in a remote location was a first for India. It was a different experience for us. Active trachoma infections in children occur without any symptoms. If they are not treated, they lead to irreversible blindness in adulthood. We found that, due to the tsunami, there were no children under the age of six in Kimious village.”Trachoma occurs upon repeated infections from the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It thrives in congested living conditions among populations that have limited access to water and healthcare. It is transmitted by flies, and aided by poor personal hygiene and fomites (shared objects such as towels, utensils and bedding, which are likely to carry the infection). The 2010 TRA also notes, “Co-habitation of Nicobari people with animals like pigs, hens, goats, dogs, cats etc. could be a contributory risk factor.”Going the distanceDoctors travelled for the MDA by helicopters with few seats. Services were often called off in uncertain weather. There is no scheduled ferry to Car Nicobar and administrative personnel posted here face frequent shortages in the supply of basic groceries, including vegetables, which come from Port Blair. Dosage had to be measured individually (20 mg per kilo of body weight). Dispersed neighbourhoods were covered simultaneously to prevent the recurrence of infections. It was tedious and tiring work.Dr. Vashist says: “The local team led by Dr. Shah was exceptional. Our work was made easier by the friendly Nicobarese people. We only had to explain to the chiefs, and the villagers would follow the instructions.” Each of the 15 villages in Car Nicobar, distributed over 127 sq. km, elects a ‘Captain’ for a five-year term. Blair is the head of their council for his lifetime. The operation to treat trachoma is quick and is performed under local anaesthesia as a day-case procedure. Patients can get back to work very quickly (a point emphasised before surgery, since lost working time is a major concern for them). The risk of wound infection is relatively low because of the good blood supply of the eyelid and therefore surgery can be performed in patients’ own villages.The medical team set up slide shows on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) SAFE (Surgery for trichiasis, Antibiotics for infections, Facial cleanliness, and Environmental improvement) guidelines in schools and community halls, and at venues near churches, such as the rebuilt chapel in Mus, a pilgrimage site that has the grave of Bishop John Richardson, after whom the district hospital in Car Nicobar is named.The late Padma Bhushan awardee was the first Nicobarese to be ordained an Anglican priest. He’s credited with establishing the village councils and authoring a primer on the Car language, into which he also translated the Bible. Blair has Bishop Richardson’s laminated photo in his living room.“Public health initiatives cannot succeed without the support of local communities,” says Dr. Promila Gupta, Deputy Director General, NPCB, adding that blindness comes with considerable economic costs in terms of livelihoods lost.Blind curveWell over half a century ago, from 1959 to 1963, trachoma was a major public health problem in three States — Punjab (79.1% occurrence), Rajasthan (74.2%) and Uttar Pradesh (68.1%) — show data from NPCB. The National Programme for Control of Blindness was launched in 1976. The flagship Central government initiative emanated from what was originally the Trachoma Control Programme of 1963. It no longer lists the disease as among the leading causes of blindness in India, which today are cataract (62.6%) and refractive error (19.70%). The trachoma outbreak in Car Nicobar has been the only recent exception.“On the days we had asked everyone in a village to be present, we would sometimes work till 9 in the night,” says Yashumeri, 34, a cheerful staff nurse at the B.J.R. Hospital. Team members recall being welcomed with sweet tender coconut water everywhere they went. The Nicobarese call themselves holchu (friend), although the term can be used pejoratively by the islands’ settlers.Yashumeri’s familiarity with the area came in handy when refrigerators had to be commandeered to maintain the tricky cold chain for liquid azithromycin, a broad-spectrum antibiotic that had to be transported from mainland India to Car Nicobar. A tablet substitute was eventually found for the second round of the MDA programme in 2011.Meticulously maintained registers list absentee and sick residents (for follow-ups), pregnant women (who were not included), and deaths. “If someone missed a dosage, we would return to make sure they took it,” says John James, 44, the first Nicobarese ophthalmic assistant on the island.“I was so nervous when a prevalence survey was conducted in 2013, after the third round of MDA,” admits Dr. Shah, who was hugely relieved to find that the active trachoma infection in children was down to 6.8% from the 50.8% that it was in 2010. This was, however, still above the 5% allowed by the WHO. Meanwhile, patients who had got their vision back and were free from pain began asking for eye drops. They took delight in how big their eyes suddenly appeared. ICE (information, communication, education) outreach and eyelid correction surgeries continue even now.Trachoma is “hyperendemic in many of the poorest and most rural areas of 41 countries of Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East,” says the WHO, which has been pushing the GET 2020 (Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020) alliance since 1996. India is a partner. When Car Nicobar was again assessed in February 2017, trachoma prevalence was down to 1.6%.India moved to apply for ‘trachoma-free’ status over a meeting with WHO officials on January 11, 2018, after the release of the National Trachoma Prevalence Survey 2014-17 by Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J. P. Nadda in Delhi on December 8, 2017. The survey covered 10 districts from seven States and Union Territories, among them East Delhi, Bikaner, Banaskantha and Car Nicobar. It shows that the overall prevalence of active infection among children below nine years is only 0.7%. “We expect to meet the 2020 target,” Dr. Vashist says.Eye on the futureTime moves differently on Car Nicobar. The roar of the ocean is audible as a small group of men and women work silently. They are preparing the soil outside an (also prefabricated) elpanam or ‘death house’, next to a modest cemetery with a handful of crosses on cement platforms. The community gets involved in funerary tasks as it does with wedding festivities and shared parenting, the latter a custom known as haruk, which ensures that no child is orphaned. Access to Car Nicobar is highly restricted under the Andaman and Nicobar (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes) Regulation, 1956, and provides some protection to indigenous ways of life.The 2004 tsunami was not the first to devastate the islands: patchy records exist for major earthquakes in 1847, 1881 and 1941, and another tsunami that originated in Sumatra in 1861. But the last one has altered life here.The Central government adopted a one-size-fits-all rehabilitation policy to build nearly 10,000 twin (instead of freestanding) homes across 11 islands. Reinforced cement concrete, aero-con blocks and corrugated galvanised iron sheets imported by large contractors from mainland India at an average cost of ₹10 lakh per unit replaced locally sourced, natural building materials. Not enough thought was given to subsistence-specific locations, gender-sensitive land rights, natural ventilation suited to the tropical weather, and the ability to effect repairs with local materials.On the white-sands Malaka beach, named for the strategic strait near Aceh in Indonesia, a lush jungle has already claimed what used to be, before the tsunami, beachfront residential quarters for Indian Air Force officers. The island is no longer a family station for them. Nicobarese leader Edward Kutchat, it is said, granted land for this airbase in exchange for the coat that Jawaharlal Nehru was wearing when they met sometime in the early 1960s.The sun rises as early as quarter past five even on a January morning, and lights up the pristine coastline. The scattered debris of plastic garbage washed up by the waves is not immediately obvious, quite like its environmental implications. Even the twinkle in Aberdeen Blair’s eyes will only hint at them. Dr. Shah, who appreciates his gentle way of speaking, never fails to visit the elder on her trips to the island.Blair’s ‘Prototype twin unit designed and constructed by Central Public Works Department’ is one of the 3,941 ‘permanent shelters’ allotted to Car Nicobar in 2006. Rendered frail by age, Blair is mostly confined indoors these days. He credits the doctors at B.J.R. Hospital with treating a fracture of the tibia and saving his life when he had a stroke, some years after his close call with trachoma and blindness. “Oh, I am very lucky,” he adds, his hand making a sweeping gesture that included his sofa, TV, Nicobarese Bible, and polite grandson serving tea in ceramic cups. “At least I have a place to live, you see?” The first woman ophthalmologist in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dr. Anita Shah, led a Mass Drug Administration project in Car Nicobar following the discovery of trachoma on the island.  | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement center_img A narrow road winds past dense vegetation, idyllic beaches and rain-soaked villages glistening in sunshine. Along the way, profusely blooming pinwheelflowers frame prefab homes built on stilts in a likeness of their lost predecessors, the prized patis, which were handwoven with palm leaves, rattan and lalang grass.Goats bleat, pigs grunt and hens squawk around the dwellings that were once closer to the shore but were flattened, like nearly everything else here, on December 26, 2004. Local memory divides Car Nicobar’s long and sometimes violent history more simply now: before and after the tsunami.Aberdeen Blair (89), chief of the Car Nicobar Tribal Council, remembers more. “When I was small, we had no money, sugar or rice. We only had coconuts. My parents did not wear clothes like this,” he says, pointing to his lungi and T-shirt. Blair smiles as easily and often as he shifts between Nicobari, Hindi and English, and goes on to add, “I have jeans, too. Everything has changed.” The laminated certificates and photographs on the wall behind him document the highlights of such a lifetime.Nicobar is India’s southernmost district. Car Nicobar is its northernmost island and headquarters. The Nicobarese are the largest (numbering 27,186 in the 2011 Census), most urbanised, and most influential among the six better-known tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Their indigenous peers survive tenuously in the hundreds (Jarawas and Shompen) and tens (Great Andamanese, Onge and Sentinelese).Preventable blindnessOther numbers appear in fading paint on the walls of the houses here. ‘MDA’, it says, followed by a date, for three consecutive years — 2010, 2011 and 2012. Mass Drug Administration is the medical response to a public health concern that entails treating the entire population of a specified area with a prescribed dosage of pharmaceuticals.The first woman ophthalmologist in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dr. Anita Shah (55), led such a project in Car Nicobar following the discovery of a hyperendemic and active infection of trachoma on the island. Trachoma is a contagious and preventable cause of blindness, rarely seen in India since the 1950s and 1960s. Blair and his 21-member tu-het (extended matrilineal family units of up to 100 people) were among the over 1,500 recipients of the MDA programme in the village of Sawai (Öt-ka-sip in Nicobarese), west of the island.“When I held eye camps in 2008, I noticed a steady stream of trachomatous trichiasis [sight-threatening conjunctival scarring, for which Blair was later treated] cases in Car Nicobar. My generation of ophthalmologists has hardly ever seen trachoma, let alone treat it. Yet I kept meeting young people in their twenties who had their lashes growing inward and eyelids fused. They lived in great pain, in darkened homes because they couldn’t bear sunlight. I am a surgeon, not a community medicine specialist, but I knew a survey had to be taken up immediately,” says Dr. Shah, Joint Secretary in the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) since 2008. She is a diminutive woman in the habit of providing precise instructions to her team, essential given the problems her location poses.last_img read more