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MINGORA, Pakistan — When Malala Yousufzai left her hometown in 2012 it was with a Taliban bullet wound to her head. But the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner was greeted with cheers and tears on Saturday as she finally returned to Mingora despite the ongoing threat to her life.
The 20-year-old global advocate for girls’ education arrived with her family in the Swat Valley town in a helicopter provided by the Pakistani military.
It is part of her first return visit to Pakistan; she flew into the capital, Islamabad, before dawn on Thursday flanked by heavy security and plans to return on Monday to Britain where she has been receiving long-term treatment and education.
Malala won international acclaim after she was shot by the Taliban for her campaign to improve education for women. She was riding home in her school van.
On Saturday, she returned to her childhood home accompanied by her father, mother and younger brother. She sobbed upon entering the home where relatives, former classmates and friends had been anxiously waiting since morning to welcome her with flowers and hugs.
Malala said she waited for the moment for more than five years and said she often looked at Pakistan on the map, hoping one day to return. She said she plans to permanently return to Pakistan after completing her studies in Britain.
“It is still like a dream for me, am I among you? Is it a dream or reality,” she said.
A relative told NBC News on condition of anonymity that Malala wanted to visit her hometown during this week’s trip “at any cost.”
“There are extraordinary security arrangements,” the relative added.
Security was visibly increased in Mingora on Friday. The Pakistani Taliban had warned that it would target Malala again if they got the chance.
She had asked authorities to allow her to go to Mingora and to Shangla village, where a school has been built with aid from her Malala Fund.
Malala has delighted in telling the Taliban, that instead of silencing her, they have amplified her campaign voice. She has also written a book, spoken at the United Nations and met with refugees.
She received initial treatment in Pakistan and later was taken to England for further care. She stayed on to continue her education and became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Malala is nonetheless a polarizing figure in Pakistan, where some critics on social media have tried to undermine her efforts to promote girls’ education. She told reporters Friday that she expected criticism from militants, who had a particular mindset, but doesn’t understand why some educated Pakistanis oppose her.
“Those who do criticize have an absurd kind of criticism that doesn’t make any sense,” she said in an interview publuished Saturday in Pakistan’s English-language newspaper, The News.
“What I want is for people to support my purpose of education and think about the daughters of Pakistan who need an education,” she said. “Don’t think about me. I don’t want any favor or I don’t want everyone to accept me. All I care about is that they accept education as an issue.”
Nevertheless, Malala is proud of her country and elated to be home. “I had never been so excited for anything. I’ve never been so happy before,” she told Reuters.
“I miss everything about Pakistan … right from the rivers, the mountains, to even the dirty streets and the garbage around our house, and my friends and how we used to have gossip and talk about our school life, to how we used to fight with our neighbors.”
Mushtaq Yusufzai reported from Pakistan, Alice Tidey reported from London.
China’s president Xi Jinping says the world must co-operate on climate change | World News
China’s president has said the world needs to work together to balance economic development and the destruction of the natural world.
In another landmark speech, he told the UN biodiversity summit: “At present there exists an acceleration of the global extinction of species.
“The loss of biodiversity and degradation of the ecosystem pose a major risk to human survival and development.
“It falls to all of us to act together. We need to respect nature, follow its laws and protect it. We need to find a way for man and nature to live in harmony and balance and coordinate economic development and ecological protection.”
It came as a new study by the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in London collated the findings of 210 scientists from 42 countries.
They estimated forty per cent of plant species are at risk of extinction, hundreds of medicinal plants are threatened and only a tiny fraction of plants are being used for food and fuel.
Professor Phil Stevenson told Sky News: “The attention that is being drawn to biodiversity loss at high levels around the world I think is a really positive thing.
“This report will provide those decision makers, and also individuals at home, with new information and more information on making better decisions about conserving the diversity of plants and funghi.”
It seems hard to re-imagine China as a champion of climate change and biodiversity given the environmental devastation caused by its break-neck speed of economic transformation. So has China really turned over a new leaf?
Isabel Hilton, CEO of China Dialogue, said: “On the analogy of the prodigal son, isn’t it better that China has got to the point of understanding how damaging its previous policies were, and is now exerting leadership in a number of ways.”
It’s easy to make promises but the world will be watching to see whether those with the power actually make a difference on biodiversity and climate change.
US presidential debate: ‘A wild ride’ for Pennsylvania viewers | World News
Much of America stayed at home to watch the big debate.
“The home schooling’s keeping them in,” explained Mike McCloskey, owner of the Railroad Street Bar & Grill in Linfield, Pennsylvania. “Teaching kids in the morning is even harder after a hard night.”
It didn’t prevent a sprinkling of the politically-attuned gathering in this self-styled “upbeat hub for brews,” by the Norfolk Southern rail line that runs freight through their swing state.
In the United States, they say if you don’t win Pennsylvania, you don’t win the country.
After an hour and a half of watching the debate, the verdict in Linfield favoured Donald Trump, albeit not unanimously.
Colleen Dougherty told Sky News: “I think that Donald Trump owned this. I don’t think that Joe Biden really had anything to really bring to the table. I was really hoping that he would. And we didn’t really have anything.”
John Lappin saw Mr Trump as the victor. He said: “One came with a piece of paper in front of them that can only read from that. The other one is a leader of our country. It really isn’t much more difficult than that.
Others didn’t declare a clear winner, but did see a loser – the voting public.
Meredith Warren said: “This is terrible, all around. This is very upsetting to watch, but this is the best representation for our country right now. I think they’re both little kids going back and forth to each other. They didn’t answer any questions.”
Mr McCloskey added: “It was a wild ride, it went right, it went left. There was a lot going on, there was a lot of interruption.
“Right now, watching that, I would feel really bad for the American people. Because there was no order. It was all over the place. And I understand why people look at us as a laughing stock. I don’t believe anybody won that debate.”
Democratic Republic of Congo: More than 50 women allege abuse by Ebola aid workers | UK News
More than 50 women have alleged that they have been sexually abused or exploited in the Democratic Republic of Congo by Ebola aid workers who said they were from some of the world’s top humanitarian organisations.
The allegations centre around the town of Beni, one of the epicentres of the country’s 10th and most deadly Ebola outbreak which started in 2018.
In an interview, 51 women recounted multiple incidents of abuse and claimed the men who exploited them identified themselves as being with the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, World Vision, medical charity Alima and the UN’s migration agency, IOM.
The allegations follow a joint investigation by The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The majority of women said they were plied with drinks, others ambushed in offices and hospitals, and some locked in rooms by men who promised jobs or threatened to fire them if they did not comply.
“So many women were affected by this,” said one 44-year-old woman, who explained that to get a job she had to have sex with a man who said he was a WHO worker.
She and the other women spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
“I can’t think of someone who worked in the response who didn’t have to offer something,” she added.
Some women were cooks, cleaners and community outreach workers hired on short-term contracts, earning $50 to $100 (£40 to £80) a month – more than twice the normal wage.
At least two women said they became pregnant and others said the abuse occurred as recently as March.
The number and similarity of many of the accounts from women in the eastern city of Beni suggest the practice was widespread, with three organisations vowing to investigate the accusations.
UN secretary-general António Guterres called for the allegations to be “investigated fully”.
The WHO said it was investigating the allegations, affirming that it had a “zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse”.
“The actions allegedly perpetrated by individuals identifying themselves as working for WHO are unacceptable and will be robustly investigated,” it said in a statement.
“The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible and we do not tolerate such behaviour in any of our staff, contractors or partners.
“Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.”
Following the allegations against WHO, a Foreign Office spokesperson, said: “Sexual exploitation and abuse are completely abhorrent. We regularly assess all of our partners against the highest safeguarding standards and expect thorough investigations whenever allegations are made.
“The World Health Organisation has confirmed it is urgently investigating these allegations. We will scrutinise their findings closely.”
Spokespeople for IOM, MSF, UNICEF and DRC’s health ministry told both agencies in mid-September they did not know about the accusations before they were presented to them and several said they would need more information to take action.
Oxfam said it does “everything in our power to prevent misconduct and to investigate and act on allegations when they arise, including supporting survivors”.
Meanwhile, an Alima spokesperson said that after investigations earlier this year, two employees were dismissed for sexual harassment and that they had launched a new investigation after the recent reporting.
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