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Afghan Province, Squeezed by Taliban, Loses Access to Medical Care – New York Times

Officials in Oruzgan said that a rising Taliban threat in recent weeks had left the government no choice but to shut the clinics — all of them, according to some accounts, or 46 of the 49 operating in the province, other reports said — and then on Saturday the only remaining hospital. (Later in the day, the hospital’s emergency services branch was reopened.)

“The Taliban have closed all district health clinics and sent us threats to shut down the hospital, too, so the doctors decided to close it down for their own safety,” said Khan Agha Miakhel, director of the provincial health department in Oruzgan.

Mr. Miakhel said the Taliban were demanding that the government select only health officials recommended by their insurgent movement, and that they select the locations of any new clinics. Other officials said the Taliban also wanted the government to send surgeons and medical supplies to district clinics to care for wounded insurgents.

In the face of the Taliban pressure, the provincial government seemed helpless.

“We are working closely with elders and influential people around the province to convince the Taliban not to bring health affairs into politics,” said Dost Mohammad Nayab, a spokesman for the governor of Oruzgan.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, denied that the insurgents had made any threats and said that the clinics had “collapsed” because of government incompetence and corruption.

“All the clinics and the hospital in Oruzgan, they have no facilities — no medicine, no doctors, no personnel,” Mr. Mujahid said. “They just keep some guards and cleaners for salary. There is nothing medical.”

As the Afghan war continues to rage, with varying degrees of fighting in 20 of the country’s 34 provinces, health workers have found that the places where they can function are shrinking. They have repeatedly come under attack, forcing many clinics and aid groups to reduce their operations or limit their movements. This month, a physiotherapist working for the International Committee of the Red Cross was shot by a gunman in a wheelchair who had been treated for polio at the same orthopedic center in northern Afghanistan for 19 years.

In places like Oruzgan, where the government’s control has been reduced to the capital and areas just beyond it in recent years, residents are stuck between an administration that cannot protect its population and deliver services, and a violent insurgency that cannot meet even their most basic survival needs.

Although official statistics in Afghanistan are often unreliable, figures from the Central Statistics Organization in 2012-13 put Oruzgan’s population at about 333,500. Mr. Nayab, the governor’s spokesman, said the number could be more than double that.

Mr. Aslam, the father of the child who was turned back from the hospital, said that although the fighting in Oruzgan had forced his family to move 15 times in less than an year, he had put up with it. But watching his son suffer in his arms was too much.

“Now a minor illness can lead to death,” he said. “If the government is not able to secure the hospital, which is next to the governor’s house, how would they be able to secure us in the villages?”

A report by Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a New York-based advocacy group that works to protect children, said there had been more than 240 attacks on health workers or health facilities in 2015 and 2016.

Christine Monaghan, a research officer at Watchlist, said that the Taliban were closing hospitals “to intimidate the population.” Without a hospital in Oruzgan, “children who are already malnourished can’t get basic services,” Ms. Monaghan said, and “pregnant women can’t get any type of services that they need.”

The war not only threatens children who need immediate care, but also endangers those at risk of disease. Afghanistan remains one of the few countries still reporting cases of polio, and a crucial national campaign planned for this week to vaccinate children against the disease will have to be delayed in Oruzgan.

“The polio drive is postponed until the issue has been resolved with the Taliban,” said Amir Muhammad Barakzai, the leader of the provincial council.

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Exclusive – Front-runner Ekholm blocked as new Riksbank governor: sources – Reuters UK

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Karolina Ekholm, the front-runner and a Social Democrat top pick to take over as Swedish central bank chief, has been rejected by the opposition, raising the prospect of Stefan Ingves’s mandate as Riksbank governor being extended, sources told Reuters.

The central bank has come in for widespread criticism in recent years, first for raising interest rates too fast after the financial crisis and more recently for keeping negative rates and an ultra-expansionary policy despite a surging economy and the threat of a housing bubble.

Ingves’ second term as governor expires at the end of the year. The appointment of a new governor has been seen by many as an opportunity for rate-setters to reassess a policy that is closely associated with him.

But while the Social Democrats on the Riksbank General Council have pushed to install Ekholm, currently state secretary to Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and a long-time favourite for the post, the opposition has flatly refused to accept her nomination.

“That is totally out of the question. We can’t have an active Social Democratic politician as Riksbank governor,” a source with knowledge of the matter said.

A second source with knowledge of the discussions confirmed that a majority of the General Council would not back Ekholm as Riksbank governor. The Council is made up politicians and reflects the parties’ seats in parliament.

FILE PHOTO: Central Bank of Sweden’s Governor Stefan Ingves presents interest rates during a news conference at the headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Thommy Tengborg/ TT News Agency/File Photo

One of the sources said that the three most likely candidates left were therefore Ingves again as a compromise pick, Deputy Governor Per Jansson or Folksam CEO Jens Henriksson.

Analysts and economists have seen Ekholm as the front-runner for the post, with 55 percent of respondents to an SEB bank survey this month saying they expected her to get the job.

Karolina Ekholm, Sweden’s State Secretary to the Swedish finance minister, poses for a picture in Stockholm, Sweden November 11, 2014. Picture taken November 11, 2014. Kristian Pohl/Government Offices of Sweden/Handout via REUTERS

Ekholm served as a deputy governor at the Riksbank from 2009 to 2014. She left before her mandate had expired to take up her role as state secretary when the Social Democrats came to power in 2014.

Ekholm’s exclusion increases the chances that Ingves, 64, will have his mandate renewed, possibly for a shorter period than the usual six-year period, one of the sources said, despite the criticism of some of the policies he has presided over.

“The longer it takes, the more likely it is that other candidates get blocked, which speaks in favour of Ingves,” the source said.

Of the minority centre-left government, four Social Democrats and one Green Party member sit on the General Council. From the opposition there are four Moderate Party members, one from the Centre Party and one from the Sweden Democrats.

Writing by Johan Ahlander; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Hugh Lawson



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