Italian farmers bring sheep to Rome to protest quake response

A sheep is seen in front of the Montecitorio Palace during a protest held by farmers from the earthquake zones of Amatrice, in Rome, Italy March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi

ROME (Reuters) – Italian farmers from regions ravaged by earthquakes brought sheep to central Rome on Tuesday to protest what they say are serious delays in reconstruction efforts.

More than 10,000 farm animals have been killed or injured by quake damage and subsequent freezing weather, farmers’ association Coldiretti said.

Outside parliament, a makeshift paddock housed three sheep rescued from areas struck by tremors while farmers waved flags and banners reading “Bureaucracy is more deadly than earthquakes”.

Thousands of farming businesses are housed in the central regions of Lazio, Marche, Abruzzo and Umbria where tremors have rumbled since August.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has approved a draft law to help people affected by the quakes, including 35 million euros ($37 million) to compensate farmers for lost income.

The law also aims to make it easier for regional governments to buy temporary stalls. Farmers say about 85 percent of their livestock need shelter.

“Breeders still don’t know where to put their surviving cows, pigs and sheep, which are either stuck out in the cold, at risk of death and disease, or in derelict buildings,” the farm association said.

Stress caused by cold and fear has reduced milk production in the region by 30 percent. Local crops like lentils are also at risk as seeds cannot be sown on fractured land, it added.

The agriculture ministry said the process of releasing emergency funds to farmers was under way.

($1 = 0.9458 euros)

(Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Julia Glover)

Nepal quake survivors struggle with debt, raising trafficking fears

By Rina Chandran

KATHMANDU (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Hundreds of Nepalis who had borrowed money to rebuild their lives after two earthquakes left them homeless are at risk of being trafficked or duped into selling their kidneys to pay off their debts, an international development organization said.

Nepal received $4.1 billion in pledges from donors for reconstruction after quakes last April and May killed 9,000 people, injured at least 22,000 and damaged or destroyed more than 900,000 houses in the Himalayan nation.

More than a year on, reconstruction has been slow with unrest over a new constitution adding to the delays. Unable to find work, hundreds of Nepalis are deep in debt, the Asia Foundation said on Tuesday.

“Their ability to pay is very limited and indebtedness makes them more vulnerable to exploitation,” said Nandita Baruah, Asia Foundation’s deputy country representative in Kathmandu.

“Their desperation makes them take greater risks, such as sending their children away for what they think are better lives, or even selling their kidneys,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

“We’re going to see an uptick in people moving out to earn money as their debts become due. Some of them will be trafficked,” Baruah added.

Nepal’s economy is highly dependent on remittances sent back by its migrant workers, which make up about 30 percent of its gross domestic product.

Following the earthquakes, hundreds of migrant workers returned to Nepal to help their families.

Many are likely to have paid their employers to be allowed to return home, going without wages for several months while spending money on rebuilding, Baruah said.

“These are workers who pay 200,000-500,000 rupees ($1,850-$4,640) to go abroad in the first place, and are very likely still paying off that debt,” she said.

“The quakes exacerbated their indebtedness,” she said.


Activists say there are signs of an increase in the number of Nepali women and children being trafficked after last year’s disaster.

Anti-trafficking charity Maiti Nepal said it stopped 745 women and children – suspected victims of human trafficking – at the Nepal-India border in the three months following the earthquakes.

That compares with 615 such interceptions in the three months before the quakes, their data showed.

Nepal is both a source and a destination country for victims of human trafficking with some 8,500 Nepalis trafficked every year, according to the country’s human rights commission.

Women are typically trafficked for sex work, domestic work and forced marriages to India, the Middle East, China and South Korea – while men are made to work in construction, as drivers and in hotels in India, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Some victims are duped into selling their kidneys and brought to India, where a chronic organ shortage has fueled a black-market trade in illegal transplants, activists say.

Nepal’s economy is forecast by the Asian Development Bank to have grown only about 1.5 percent in the fiscal year to mid-July after reconstruction delays and trade disruptions. A recovery is dependent on the pace of reconstruction, it said.

“Now, the aid will also stop flowing. We’re going to see more migration, more trafficking,” said Baruah.

“Those who have taken on debt don’t have options,” she said.

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit to see more stories.)

Huge Research Breakthrough For Skin Cancer Patients

Skin cancer patients may be able to have parts of their body reconstructed using cartilage grown from their very own tissue.

Swiss researchers reconstructed the noses of five skin cancer patients using laboratory-grown cartilage that was shaped to fit the patient’s individual noses.  The scientists at the University of Basel were able to create the tissue using only a very small sample of the patients’ cartilage.

The technique is called “tissue engineering” and is aimed at facial surgery for skin cancer that causes large parts of the skin to be removed that had to be replaced with cartilage from other parts of the patient’s body.  This caused other parts of the body to be deformed and also expose them to infection from additional surgeries.

“The same surgical procedure is continued, and the patient is allowed to breath normally,” Dr. Ivan Martin told FoxNews. “The outcome of the procedure was to determine safety and feasibility, which is measured in terms of adverse events and in terms of stability.  In all the five cases, there were no adverse events, and the patients could breathe as well in both nostrils, indicating complete satisfaction.”

The scientists say a practical application of the process is still a long way off because of multiple government approvals that will be necessary.