New Delhi: Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Sunday sought External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s intervention to ensure the safe return of about 200 Keralites stranded in Yemen.
Chandy, who arrived here on Saturday night to take part in a farmers rally of the Congress, conveyed his concerns about the safety of the Keralites, mostly male and female nurses, to the central government.
His office told IANS that Chandy was in touch with the external affairs ministry.
“The problem is the Indian embassy has shut in Yemen and it now operates from Djibouti. People who wish to return say that fighting has intensified in Yemen,” an official said.
“The stranded people will be able to return only through diplomatic efforts at the highest level,” it said.
A Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been bombing Houthi group across Yemen since March 26 when Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi fled to Riyadh.
The Houthis control much of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.
Living through years of Yemen’s devastating war has been a constant struggle for Afaf Mohammed al-Adwar, who uses a wheelchair because of congenital spinal damage.
But she is now determined to demonstrate her ability to cope by participating in a women’s wheelchair basketball championship.
The 16-year-old sportswoman joined dozens of other girls and women with mobility impairment in a wheelchair basketball tournament that was held in Sanaa this month.
She told VOA that her participation was “the first step” toward showing the plight of Yemen’s women and girls with disabilities during four years of civil war between the government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
“We are trying to show people that we are not just disabled, but we are able to do whatever we aspire to,” al-Adwar said.
She said that women and girls with disabilities in Yemen are on the margins of society, excluded from basic humanitarian assistance, while at the same time facing gender-based discrimination.
“The society frowns upon letting girls leave their houses, let alone allowing them to play sports. It was hard for my family at first to let me play, but when they saw me in the games, they started encouraging and supporting me,” she told VOA, adding that she was grateful to be a part of an attempt to change the common mentality of a rather conservative society going through conflict.
Five teams competed in a weeklong championship that started on December 7 and was sponsored by the Red Cross and other organizations in Yemen working to benefit people with disabilities.
The winners will compete in a regional championship next year in Beirut.
Al-Adwar’s team, al-Tahadi Organization for Supporting Women with Disabilities, came in fourth place and received a special award for their “sport spirit.”
Jihad Hammoud Ahmed Jaber, a spokesperson for the al-Tahadi Organization, told VOA such activities will empower girls and women with disabilities to become active members of their communities. At the same time, they will help change societal perceptions by creating a more inclusive atmosphere for everyone.
“The goal of having a women’s basketball championship was to make the women get out from their isolation, especially amid the ongoing war in the country,” Jaber said. “Those who didn’t allow their daughters to play a sport, we wanted to show them how this can help their daughters physically and mentally and how it can give their daughters strength and empowerment.”
The conflict in Yemen escalated after Iran-backed Houthis overran Sanaa in September 2014. In 2015, the conflict turned into a proxy war when an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched a military and economic campaign against the Houthis.
The United Nations calls the situation in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It has warned that people with disabilities are the country’s most vulnerable, facing immense hardship to get much medical aid or to move from battlefield zones to safer refuges.
Rights group Amnesty International estimates that the devastating conflict has left 4.5 million Yemenis, or 15% of the country’s population, with some form of disability. In a 50-page report published this month, the organization concluded that the conflict has limited health services for Yemenis with disabilities and taken away their rights to education and employment opportunities, while adding risks from violence and living in displacement.
It said some people with disabilities were separated from their families and left behind as people fled war “because the trip was too difficult for the person with a disability to undertake.”
“Yemen’s war has been characterized by unlawful bombings, displacement and a dearth of basic services, leaving many struggling to survive. The humanitarian response is overstretched, but people with disabilities — who are already among those most at risk in armed conflict — should not face even greater challenges in accessing essential aid,” said Rawya Rageh, the group’s crisis adviser. (VOA)
This holiday season, treat the traveller inside you with offbeat destinations nestled in the lap of refreshing natural landscapes.
1. Ponmudi Hill Station, Kerala
Ponmudi offers so much to travelers who love to explore the winding paths and surely have a thing for long drives. Set in the Western Ghats of Kerala, it is a picturesque hill station that is surrounded by lush greenery and a sheen blanket of mist. Trekking is one of the most adventurous activities that one may wish to delve in, here.
The place has started getting traction in recent years, which has resulted in the creation of cottages and resorts in the hilly area. A hill so close to the city, Ponmudi hills makes it a perfect choice for travelers who look for small weekend getaways.
Those planning to visit Ponmudi, the time between November and March is highly recommendable.
2. Silent Valley National Park, Kerala
Another natural piece of wonder located in the godly lands of Kerala, Silent Valley National Park is the finest destination for every nature lover, ever existed. It offers the opportunity to be exposed to wild jungles and its wilderness enveloped by numerous adventurous activities.
Apart from the purest marvels of nature, this place offers rich history and grandeur and remains the largest tract of evergreen rain forests in the North-eastern corner of Palakkad district. The flow of river Kunthi that descends from the Nilgiri hills makes it a natural splendor and one may want to keep watching it, forever.
It is recommended to visit this park between December and April, as heavy rains from June till November makes it difficult to explore the beauty of this place.
3. Sandakphu, West Bengal
Situated at the peak of West Bengal, Sandakphu is the highest point of the Singalila Ridge where tourists can enjoy the dazzling peaks of Everest and Kanchenjunga as the first sunlight strikes the surface. River Teesta that flows through this place makes it a perfect destination for water-sport aficionados.
To enjoy all of these, one must trek around 8-10 km from Maneybhanjan. It will take around 12 hours to reach the finishing line. Although it sounds tiring, the activity will certainly make you feel refreshed when you finally reach the peak – the beautiful vantage point from where you can clearly view the natural wonders.
Best is to visit this place between October and January.
4. Jawai Hills, Rajasthan
Also known as the Leopard hills, Jawai is located in the Pali district of Rajasthan and is home to leopards and other wild animals such as chinkaras, jackals, hyenas, etc. It is also a place where you will find migratory birds aplenty. Apart from these, there is a Kalka Devi temple, where one can find the maximum leopards roaming around the caves and stairs.
Here one gets amazing options of Safari rides to relish the inner view of the wilderness and also peek into the lives of local people who live there. A wonderful place to find solitude, Jawai is a perfect destination for tourists who wish to chill and adventure, away from the hustle-bustle of the cities.
The best time to visit Jawai is between October and April to avoid humidity and enjoy chilly nights.
5. Sar Pass, Himachal Pradesh
When speaking of winter breaks, it is the thought of hill stations that first crosses our mind. One such hill station that meets all your trekking desires is Sar Pass. Perfectly nestled in the Pir Panjal mountain range, Sar Pass is completely surrounded by high-rise mountains, waterfalls, and lush green forest.
Although very tough, it is still one of the best routes and longest treks (5-7 days) in Himachal Pradesh that offers great campsites with views never-seen-before. You can start the trek from Kasol, also known as Mini Switzerland, and relish the nature all across the way till you reach the zenith.
October is the best time to visit Sar Pass, but since it’s a winter trek, there is no harm in planning for the later months. (IANS)
The U.N. says over 460,000 suspected cholera cases have been recorded in war-battered Yemen so far this year — a sharp rise from the 380,000 cases for all of 2018. U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq says 705 suspected cholera deaths have been recorded since January — a dramatic increase from the 75 deaths in the same period last year.
Haq says the spread of cholera has been accelerated by recent flash flooding, poor maintenance of waste management systems and lack of access to clean water.
The U.N. and its partners are operating nearly 1,200 cholera treatment facilities across Yemen, but Haq says “funding remains an urgent issue.” The U.N.’s $4.2 billion humanitarian appeal to help over 20 million Yemenis this year is only 32 percent funded. (VOA)