UN agency readies for health crisis in northwest Pakistan

13 May 2009The United Nations health agency said today it is bracing itself for a humanitarian health crisis in north-west Pakistan as fighting between government forces and militants threatens to uproot a further 800,000 people taking the total number of displaced to well over a million. The World Health Organization (WHO) has received over $514,000 from the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to meet the health needs of almost 550,000 people who had already been displaced by violence and natural disasters in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) between August 2008 and March 2009 before the current counterinsurgency operation started two weeks ago.The CERF money will support projects targeting the prevention and control of communicable diseases, the strengthening of health systems, and the provision of clean water and hygienic conditions. The agency reported some 22 disease outbreaks of varying severity since August, including acute watery diarrhoea, bloody diarrhoea, measles, malaria, chicken pox and mumps. Fatalities related to waterborne diseases had also been recorded.WHO also reported that over 4,000 of the 20,000 children under the age of five that they had surveyed in NWFP suffered from acute malnutrition.Underfed children and women with low immunity are more likely to contract communicable diseases, especially in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and districts with compromised water and sanitation systems, WHO warned.Meanwhile, a cargo jet charted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday delivered 120 tonnes of additional relief supplies for immediate distribution to those fleeing the fighting. The supplies were taken to the agency’s warehouse in Peshawar, and then distributed to various sites hosting displaced people. read more

Closing Bell Markets end lower amid disappointing Canadian jobs data strong Chinese

TORONTO — North American markets ended in the red Friday amid a mixed bag of quarterly financial reports and signs that Canada’s private sector added jobs last month even as the overall unemployment rate rose in June.The S&P/TSX composite index dipped 10.79 points to 12,542.13. The Canadian dollar was up 0.28 of a cent to 97.14 cents US.On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials index dropped 72.81 points to 15,425.51, the Nasdaq dipped 9.02 points to 3,660.11, while the S&P pulled back 6.06 points to 1,691.42.An onslaught of positive economic data from China was not enough to lift the markets, as figures showed that Chinese inflation in July was steady at an annual rate of 2.7% — slightly below an expected modest increase to 2.8%. Chinese industrial production also rose 9.7% in the year to June, ahead of expectations for a 9% increase and retail sales grew 13.2% in July from a year earlier, slightly slower than June’s growth rate.Overall, analysts said the figures added weight to the argument that the recent soft patch in the economic powerhouse may have come to an end. However, market reaction was fairly muted, as stocks had rallied already on Thursday after strong Chinese trade numbers.“I think the market is unwilling to jump in with both feet simply because a number of good numbers came in overnight from China,” said Andrew Pyle, associate director of wealth management for Scotia MacLeod.“You have a market now that is tired. We’ve been through the second quarter of the U.S. earnings seasona You have a market now that is searching for the next reason to stay positive and I think you’re starting to see some of that fatigue.”Meanwhile, a double-dose of economic news was also released in Canada, potentially indicating that the economy wasn’t faring at a pace that some have come to expect.Statistics Canada reported a net loss of 39,400 last month, with public sector workers and youth taking on the biggest share of the losses. On a positive note, however, Canada’s private sector employers added 31,400 jobs.The official unemployment rate is now 7.2%, one-tenth of a point higher than in June.The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. also reported that total housing starts continued to be relatively stable in July.The federal agency estimated there were 17,993 actual starts in July which, extrapolated over 12 months, totals a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 192,853 starts. That was slightly down from June’s adjusted annual rate of 193,797.On the TSX, BlackBerry (TSX:BB) shares rose more than seven%, or 68 cents, to $10.05 on a report that the smartphone-maker’s chief executive and board of directors are warming to the idea of taking the company private.The reports by Reuters said no decision was imminent and BlackBerry issued a brief statement saying it doesn’t comment on rumours or speculation.Meanwhile, autoparts giant Magna International Inc. (TSX:MG) reported a US$415 million profit and record-high second-quarter sales, which were up 16% from the same time last year and well above analyst estimates.Magna also said it now expects between $33.3 billion and $34.7 billion of sales in 2013 — about $700 million higher than Magna’s outlook in May. Its shares were ahead $2.15 to $82.30.Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (TSX:BAM.A) reported a profit of US$802 million, up from US$379 million a year ago. Despite the positive earnings, its shares dipped 59 cents to $37.99.The TSX gold sector ended ahead 1.68% as December gold bullion gained $2.30 to US$1,312.20 an ounce. Shares in Centerra Gold (TSX:CG) climbed more than 10%, or 44 cents, to $4.74, while Barrick Gold (TSX:ABX) shares were ahead 40 cents to $18.00.The energy sector fell 0.09% as September crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange moved up $2.57 to US$105.97 a barrel.The metals and mining sector was the leading advancer in the market, climbing 4.05% as copper added four cents to $3.31.Shares in First Quantum Minerals (TSX:FM) were up 81 cents to $17.93, while Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) saw an uptick of $1.02 to $27.33.The Canadian Press read more