Mobile health clinics in Somaliland race to treat children as famine nears

Amongst the rugged terrain of the Somaliland desert, in the Horn of Africa hundreds of pastoralist families pack into the small village of Wacays Dhukur, west of the capital Hargeisa.

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The Omar family moved to the area five months ago. Drought has forced them to uproot 20 times in the past two years.

They started out with 300 goats, now they have just 50. Just two metres from their tent made of old clothes, carcasses litter the ground.

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Father, Omar Abi Abdi, says his family has never suffered like this before.

“I’ve never seen a drought like this in my life,” he said. “We moved around with the animals but when we came here they all died.”

Mother, Canab Muse Adan, struggles to feed six children. They share a couple of handfuls of dry rice between them all each day.

She says her three-year-old son is currently fighting for his life in hospital and her two-year-old daughter passed away late last year.

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“She had diarrhoea and died within three days,” Ms Adan said.

Luckily, the Red Cross mobile health clinic is in the area because overnight Canab’s youngest son, Abdi Omar Abi, fell sick.

He is screened by doctors for malnutrition.

Red Cross mobile health clinics travel to areas in Somaliland where there are no medical facilities available.Kirsty Johansen/SBS News

Australian Red Cross Response Manager, Jess Lees, says the clinics are saving lives in rural areas across Somaliland, by travelling to places where there’s no medical facilities available.

“Millions of people face the risk of famine. Australian Red Cross is supporting these mobile health units and are aiming to see them double over the next few months,” Ms Lees said.

At the mobile clinics, children’s height and weight are recorded and they are given basic medication if needed.

There are only 16 beds in the stabilisation centre, but five children are allowed to stay on mattresses on the floor.Kirsty Johansen/SBS News

Head Medical Practitioner, Doctor Saleean Ibrarhim, says the clinic’s main priority is to treat the most vulnerable – children and women.

“We do all kinds of different vaccinations like polio, measles and also tetanus,” Dr Ibrarhim said.

If necessary, doctors can refer patients to the closest hospital. But medical facilities across Somaliland are at breaking point.

We visited the biggest acute malnutrition clinic, situated in the capital Hargeisa, where the situation is so desperate.

There are only 16 beds in the stabilisation centre, but five children are allowed to stay on mattresses on the floor.

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Saynab Maxamed Ismaciil, aged 10 months, has been suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea for the past four months. She has lived off only milk since the day she was born.

It’s a race against the clock for doctors. 

She’s monitored closely, weighing in at just a mere 5kg. 

Her mother, Faadumo Ismail Dirie, says she’s worried she will die.

“At the beginning she got sick. She had vomiting and diarrhoea and now she’s anaemic. It depends on God. She might live or die,” Ms Dirie said.

Mothers travelled for days to reach this clinic, leaving behind dozens of other children.

Somaliland has been in drought for three years.

Faadumo Ismail Hussein arrived here with her daughter, Abdirashiid Mohamud Ahmed, just in time.

The eight-month-old’s been suffering from malnutrition for the past two months, with no food available at all in her home village.

She picked up pneumonia in the past week and almost didn’t make it.

“The first day I took her to the hospital she was about to die but now she’s feeling better and recovering,” Ms Hussein said.

Children are dying every week because there’s not enough space to treat everyone.

General Practitioner, Ahadar Omar, says the hospital’s capacity hasn’t increased since it was built in 1953 and only eight to 10 new patients can be admitted each day.

“If the situation continues like this an emergency situation may happen in the near future,” he said.

“Most of them will cope; we start management immediately and most of them improve and go back to their village. But some of them die because their health situation is very critical.”

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There are several doctors and nurses on hand, but there are no qualified paediatricians in the whole of Somaliland.

Somaliland Member of Parliament and a dual Australian citizen, Ibrahim Ahmed Reigal, says they desperately need help.

“Only god knows what will happen but as a human being it’s a worrying situation,” he said.

“I appeal to my fellow Australian people to join the effort and the people of Somaliland from this severe drought.”

The drought that appears to be worsening has lasted for three years and left more than 6.2 million people without enough food, if any at all.

Somalia is at risk of its third famine in 25 years and it could be declared as early as June if decent rain doesn’t fall.

It’s the wet season, but the land remains desolate brown.

SBS reporter Kirsty Johansen in Somaliland.SBS News

We saw it rain in some of the villages we visited but it only lasted for a couple of minutes. Small amounts of rain just making the situation worse, spreading disease even more.

Any drop of water people can find is highly contaminated.

A local businessman helped those suffering by filling a nearby well.

Pastoralist, Faadumo Ali, says she walked for hours to fill her jerry cans.

“We haven’t had water for the last three months,” Ms Ali said. “When I give the animals and the family this water it will run out immediately.”

Kirsty Johansen travelled to Somaliland with the Australian Red Cross as part of their East Africa Food Crisis Appeal.

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CFMEU robocalls Vic seats for timber jobs

One of Victoria’s most powerful unions has unleashed 150,000 robocalls on three marginal Labor seats in a bid to save 250 timber mill jobs.

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The CFMEU is also pushing out targeted ads on social media as it aims to keep the Heyfield timber mill open.

The Gippsland mill’s owners rejected the state government’s reduced wood supply offer in March, deciding to close the mill in 2018 instead of operating with fewer logs.

“Our members are being left hanging and we won’t cop it. It is soul destroying to leave people not knowing what the future will bring,” CFMEU Victorian district secretary Frank Vari said on Tuesday.

“The government needs to know that the union, our members and supporters will keep up the pressure to save these jobs, save the town of Heyfield and save the wider community that relies on these jobs.”

The CFMEU made 150,000 robocalls in the electorates of Monbulk, Mordialloc and Narre Warren South on Monday night.

Premier Daniel Andrews offered to buy the mill and keep it going if the owners didn’t believe they could make it work, but Australian Sustainable Hardwood said 200 jobs would be lost if the mill had to operate with reduced wood supply.

The CFMEU is strongly linked to former Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett, who quit cabinet after a showdown with Mr Andrews over a controversial firefighters pay deal.

Now a backbencher, Ms Garrett has refused to rule out a tilt at the Victorian Labor leadership in the future.

Deputy Labor leader James Merlino holds Monbulk by five per cent, Tim Richardson holds Mordialloc by two per cent, and Judith Graley holds Narre Warren South by five per cent.

Labor holds a two seat majority in the Victorian lower house.

Trump’s border wall threatens Mexico’s protected species

They are not “bad hombres,” as Donald Trump might say – or any kind of hombres at all.

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But like the human migrants targeted by the US president, the jaguars, bighorn sheep and deer-like Sonoran pronghorns of northern Mexico have a lot to lose from his planned border wall.

Such species currently roam at will back and forth across the border of Mexico and the United States in reserves specially protected by both countries’ governments.

Conservationists fear Trump’s vow to build a wall the length of the border to keep criminals out of the United States will doom the beasts to extinction.

It would stop them getting where they need to go to feed and mate.

‘Fauna crossing’

“Caution, fauna crossing,” reads a sign among the cactus and wild bushes in the northeastern desert, where deer, wild cats, coyotes and wolves crisscross the frontier.

The habitat spans the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona and the Pinacate and Gran Altar Desert over in the Mexican state of Sonora.

A metal fence along the border in Sonoyta, northern Mexico.AFP

The latter is certified as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The reserve is divided only by a simple fence with gaps big enough for the animals to pass through.

“It was designed specially so as not to hurt the animals and so they would have no problem crossing,” said Miguel Angel Grageda, head of natural resources at El Pinacate.

Food and water

Rain is scarce in the parched desert, where the heat soars as high as 55 degrees Celsius (131 Fahrenheit).

The animals have to trot long distances to look for water, food and shelter.

They must also be mobile to keep their numbers up when drought or sickness kill off the species in certain areas.

“If you just go and put a giant border wall between their habitat then you can cut movements off for some species which will prevent them from recolonizing their habitat,” said Aaron Flesch, an environmental specialist at the University of Arizona.

“When animals have trouble moving across the landscape to recolonize those places, the population in those places will never be restored.”

Need of a mate

Gerardo Ceballos of the Ecological Institute at Mexico’s National Autonomous University estimates there are only about five jaguars left on the US side. They rely on partners from the Mexican side to mate.

If the animal populations were split in two and each group left to reproduce only with the limited number of mates on its side, the species would degenerate.

“If we divide the population of the species in two, there will start to be crosses between related animals,” said Grageda.

“Later on we could have problems of inbreeding.”

Resistance to wall

It is not clear when the United States will start putting up Trump’s wall or how exactly its course might be plotted through protected zones such as this one.

But conservationists are imagining the worst.

(File Image) Donald Trump’s proposed US-Mexico border wall will threaten wildlife, according to conservationists.AP

“We don’t know exactly what the results are going to be,” said Flesch. “But we know they won’t to be good.”

Ceballos said various Mexican and US non-governmental groups are preparing a challenge to the wall plan.

“Over here it would require a political decision at the level of Congress” to block it, said Grageda.

“We may not be able to convince Donald Trump.”

Human impact

It is not just the animals who would suffer from a wall, experts say, but the whole desert ecosystem.

Desert mammals break up the sun-baked ground with their hoofs so that when it does rain, the water drains underground.

By tearing up the vegetation to eat it, they help spread the seeds so that desert flowers bloom anew.

A wall could have “a big impact” by blocking and shifting watercourses, Ceballos said.

That, and the untold impact on the soil and atmosphere, could affect humans too.

“When you put up a wall, you destroy everything,” he warned.

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Pauline Hanson announces boycott of ABC after Four Corners, Insiders

In a recent video posted on Facebook, Pauline Hanson has announced she will boycott the ABC following a Four Corners report on One Nation and a revelation on Insiders that the controversial senator planned to visit Iraq and Afghanistan.

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“I’ve been a little bit – you know – down lately, and that’s why you haven’t seen much of me doing much of the media,” she told followers. 

“To tell you the truth, I’ve had a gutful of the media.”

Hanson slammed the ABC’s new Political Correspondent, Andrew Probyn, for revealing the senator was planning to visit Australian troops Iraq and Afghanistan, forcing the trip’s cancellation over security concerns. 

“You know what I was really looking forward to, is spending Anzac Day with them,” she said.

“Good on you Andrew, great one mate.”

Mr Probyn revealed the upcoming trip in an episode of Insiders on Sunday March 26.

“Given Pauline Hanson’s comments about Islam and vaccination, I wonder how she’s going to go when she visits Afghanistan on a defence trip in coming weeks or months,” he said.

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Senator Hanson also criticised an investigative Four Corners report which aired criticisms from former candidates, allegations of intimidating behaviour from One Nation adviser James Ashby, and questions over party finances.

“What a stitch up that was,” Senator Hanson said, saying she would speak about the Four Corners report “in my own time”.

“I’ve got no time for them, I won’t be doing any interviews with the ABC – and they are actually really out to get my scalp, and so are other journalists,” she said.

“So to the ABC: Don’t bother ringing me up for any interviews, it’s not happening.”

It comes on the back of a troubling few weeks for the party, with the Labor Party referring One Nation to the Australian Electoral Commission over allegations it breached political donation laws in relation to a small aircraft used by Mr Ashby and Senator Hanson.

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Victoria braces for heavy rain, strong winds and flash flooding

The worst is yet to come for Melbourne and most of southern Victoria as authorities brace for damaging winds and flash flooding after a night of rain.

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Gusts of up to 110 km/h are expected in Victoria’s east on Sunday, while winds and heavy rain are expected to hit most of southern Victoria.

A run of warm days over the past week ended abruptly overnight as a deep, low-pressure system reached the state’s southwest on Sunday morning.

The SES say they received 140 calls for help between Saturday night and Sunday morning, but that number is expected to grow.

“We’re gearing up for another day of potentially strong winds,” a spokesman told AAP on Sunday.

The low pressure system is forecast to move across Melbourne and the high country on Sunday afternoon

Rainfall of up to 60mm is likely in Melbourne while totals approaching 80mm may be recorded in the state’s alpine region through Sunday night.

The Bureau of Meteorology say there is a possibility of flash flooding on Sunday night going into Monday in the state’s east.

A severe weather warning is in place for Victoria’s central and southwest, and the flood risk is expected to contract to the state’s east, particularly in East Gippsland.

Geelong, Ballarat, Kyneton, Kilmore and Falls Creek and Bacchus Marsh may also be affected by heavy rainfall and damaging winds.

As always, the SES is warning people to secure loose items and to stay out of floodwaters.

FLOOD WATCH AREAS

* East Gippsland – Mitchell, Tambo, Snowy, Cann and Genoa rivers and Gippsland Lakes

* Greater Melbourne – Werribee, Maribyrnong, Yarra, Dandenong and Bunyip

* West and South Gippsland – Latrobe, Thomson, Macalister, Avon and South Gippsland rivers and Gippsland Lakes

* Barwon – Barwon, Leigh and Moorabool Rivers and Otway Ranges.

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Lightning overcome Swifts in Super Netball

The Sunshine Coast Lightning have called on their vast experience to overturn a four-goal deficit at three-quarter-time to secure a hard-fought 55-50 win over the NSW Swifts at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre.

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In a fluctuating round 8 Super Netball contest on Sunday, the Swifts produced a 17-7 third quarter to snatch the lead at the final break after trailing 32-26 at halftime.

However, the star-studded Lightning turned the tide with a 16-7 final push to enter the bye week firmly entrenched in the top four.

“Knowing the statistics and what we’ve done in prep, we knew the Swifts come out really strong in the third quarter. It’s something they’re synonymous with. We actually were expecting it, to be honest,” Lightning coach Noeline Taurua said.

“We made a change defensively, went tight man-on-man, which puts the emphasis back on individual’s skill level. I think we were able to get the roll on once again, get momentum and were able to secure the ball.”

Despite a wholehearted effort by Swifts defensive duo Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner, Diamonds star Caitlin Bassett delivered another reliable performance at goal shooter, scoring 38 goals at 93 per cent accuracy and combining well with former Swifts player, Stephanie Wood, at goal attack.

At the other end, Swifts goal shooter Sam Wallace scored 33 goals in a tense clash with England international Geva Mentor.

The Swifts led 16-15 at the end of the first quarter, but the introduction of South Africa international defender Karla Mostert helped the visitors turn the tide to grab a comfortable halftime advantage.

Swifts coach Rob Wright switched up his midcourt for the third period, moving Paige Hadley to centre, taking Maddy Proud off and giving Australian junior representative Claire O’Brien an opportunity to work against Silver Ferns great Laura Langman.

Within 10 minutes the Swifts had mown down the Lightning’s advantage and completed perhaps their best quarter of the season.

However, the Lightning remained composed and finished off with a 16-7 final period to ensure the win.

“It’s definitely starting to become very frustrating for us, as players,” Swifts captain Abbey McCulloch said.

“We know we’ve got the goods to finish off games, especially when we’re four goals up. We know we need to put the games away.

“It’s like we get a bit panicked out there, even though we just played the last 45 minutes perfectly. Then all of a sudden we get to the last quarter and things go a bit haywire for us.”

Wright said his team left behind what had been working for them.

“You can almost see that we run on top of each other and we get quite long in attack and then our movement stops,” he said.

“They’re such a good side that they punish you.”

Moses not worth $850k a season: Kenny

Parramatta legend Brett Kenny believes Mitchell Moses isn’t worth the reported $850,000 a-year he’s getting to join the Eels.

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Four-time premiership winner and champion five-eighth Kenny is also against Wests Tigers No.6 Moses making an early-season switch to Parramatta.

Moses will play for the Tigers against the Eels in their Easter Monday NRL clash at ANZ Stadium, but is widely tipped to be granted an early release to join Parramatta.

Speaking at the club’s 70th anniversary jersey reveal on Tuesday, Kenny gave an honest assessment of Moses who he rates as a playmaker.

“I don’t know whether I would be giving him the amount of money that was mentioned in the paper a few weeks ago, $850,000, I don’t think he’s worth that much,” Kenny said.

“But he’s certainly a good young player. Obviously it would be a plus for Parramatta to have someone like that in the side. The only thing he might have to work on is his defence.

“His defence is not that strong, but his attacking skills are outstanding.”

Kenny is adamant Moses shouldn’t be allowed to switch clubs mid-season, avoiding the situation of playing against his future teammates.

He said the current system made contracts worthless.

“To me it’s getting more like you don’t need to sign a contract anymore because contracts mean nothing. I just think it’s wrong,” he said.

“I would rather him see out the season at the Tigers and come to Parra in 2018 and start the season fresh. That’s the way I’d like to see it done.”

Despite his criticisms, Kenny said the 22-year-old Moses would alleviate the pressure on main playmaker Corey Norman.

Halfback Norman has shouldered much of the Eels’ attack this season as the versatile Clint Gutherson spent the opening month of the competition developing as a five-eighth.

“(Gutherson is) playing on the wing the majority of the time, had a bit of a stint at fullback and then came into five-eighth. It’s always difficult to do that,” Kenny said.

“Having someone like Mitchell Moses, who’s been a regular five-eighth playing, it’s going to help Corey Norman. I think at the moment, there’s a lot of pressure on Corey Norman.

“It makes it easier for the defence as well, the opposition start to look at that and say we’ve only got to get him out of the game and Parramatta can’t do anything.

“Well if you’ve got someone like Mitchell Moses on the other side who’s very creative as well, suddenly there’s two sides they’ve got to worry about. I think it’ll be very beneficial for them.”

What happened in round three of the AFL

HIGHLIGHTS FROM ROUND THREE OF THE AFL

THEY SAID IT: “One swallow doesn’t make a summer, does it? (But) I thought there was a bit to like there.

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” – Fremantle coach Ross Lyon was cautiously optimistic about his team’s future prospects after the Dockers stunned reigning premiers Western Bulldogs at Subiaco on Saturday.

STATS THAT MATTER: 16 – the number of goals Geelong kicked in a row in their 29-point win over Melbourne. The Demons were the better side for large portions of the game but ultimately kicked themselves out of it with their horrendous conversion in front of goal.

MAN OF THE ROUND: Gary Ablett. The two-time Brownlow medallist responded to a week of intense criticism in fine fashion. After last week’s poor game in a 102-point belting by Greater Western Sydney, Ablett was a key factor in the Suns’ stunning upset win over Hawthorn.

KEY MOMENT: In a rain-affected match at the MCG, Carlton skipper Marc Murphy kicked an early contender for goal of the year in the Blues’ hard-fought win over Essendon. Murphy threaded the eye of the needle with a brilliant snap to inspire his team on to their first victory of 2017.

TALKING POINT: Did Leigh Montagna taunt the Lions before he scored a pivotal late goal in St Kilda’s first win of the season? The veteran stopped in the goal square and even bounced the ball before putting it through as a defender approached. There was still nearly 10 minutes left in the game, but Montagna maintains he was only trying to take time off the clock in the close contest.

TRIBUNAL WATCH: Paddy Ryder (Port Adelaide) will come under scrutiny by the match review panel after he was involved in an off-the-ball incident in the dying minutes of the Power’s loss to Adelaide. Young Crows forward Riley Knight was floored and indicated to a trainer he had been hit in the jaw. West Coast’s Shannon Hurn also faces a nervous wait after he cannoned into the back of Richmond’s Jason Castagna, as will North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell after he clattered into the Giants’ Phil Davis. Gold Coast’s Jarryd Lyons was reported for striking Hawthorn’s Liam Shiels.

KEY INJURIES: R Griffen (Giants, ankle), P Davis (Giants, shoulder), N Vlastuin (Tigers, broken nose), J Darling (Eagles, ankle), M LeCras (Eagles, head knock), M Gawn (Demons, hamstring), B Vince (Demons, toe), T Hawkins (Cats, thigh), M McGovern (Crows, hamstring), R Knight (Crows, jaw), L Picken (Bulldogs, concussion), J Weitering (Blues, head knock), S White (Blues, back).

WHAT’S NEXT: West Coast kick off a five-day round of AFL action when they host winless Sydney on Thursday night, but the big ticket item of the round is the first Good Friday clash between North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. League leaders Adelaide will host Essendon at Adelaide Oval on Saturday night.

Blues show true grit in upset AFL win

Sam Rowe and Patrick Cripps personified the heart and courage that drove Carlton to their outstanding 15-point AFL win over old rivals Essendon.

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The Blues posted their first win for the season in atrocious conditions on Sunday at the MCG, upsetting the Bombers 7.15 (57) to 6.6 (42).

While captain Marc Murphy was best afield, it was only a week ago that Rowe and Cripps suffered heavy knocks in incidents that led to two Melbourne suspensions.

On Sunday, Rowe shut down Essendon key forward Joe Daniher and Cripps racked up 24 possessions – half of them contested.

Rowe suffered concussion after a blow that cost Jesse Hogan a two-game ban, while Cripps played against Essendon with a jaw fracture, thanks to the hit that earned Jordan Lewis a three-game suspension.

Their spirit was contagious – Jacob Weitering’s head was split open in the second term after an accidental clash with Essendon defender Michael Hurley, but the No.1 draft pick from 2015 played out the game.

“Cripper comes from tough farming stock,” said coach Brendon Bolton.

“That sort of approach rubs off on people like Weitering – he got split open today, came back on and did a role for us up forward.

“We needed to play with grit and he did.”

Bolton said he was extremely proud of his developing team, which was expected to struggle this season.

But after being well-beaten by Richmond in round one – Bolton said their pride was dented – the Blues pushed Melbourne and now have the scalp of their fierce rivals.

“When you have conditions like that, it comes back to a little bit of old-school days – I felt like I was back in Tassie … with all the wet weather,” Bolton said.

“You just have to win the contested possession, win the tackle count – it’s not pretty, but it’s a bit about heart.”

Murphy’s game was punctuated by 10 tackles and a freakish snapped goal in the third term.

The Blues only led by four points at three quarter time, but it may as well have been four goals, and they sealed a memorable win with two goals to nil in the last term.

Carlton won all the crucial statistics in the wintery conditions – they had 22 scoring shots to 12, 111 tackles to 88 and 60 inside-50s to 37.

But what mattered most to Bolton was they trailed in contested possessions 85-67 at halftime, before winning that category 160-158.

Coach John Worsfold said after opening the season with two wins, Essendon’s loss highlighted areas of concern.

“There were no surprises in some of the things that happened today,” he said.

“Obviously Carlton just used the ball so much better early on and created their forward 50 entries.

“We were scrambling – we didn’t play anywhere near the way we’d like to play.”

Carlton host Gold Coast next Saturday, while Essendon have a massive interstate assignment against top side Adelaide.

NSW top cop takes Burn off counter-terror

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn has been moved on from her role as head of counter-terrorism by the force’s new boss.

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Just weeks after taking over from Andrew Scipione, Commissioner Mick Fuller has named Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson to lead the Investigations and Counter-Terrorism unit.

Ms Burn will remain deputy commissioner but will instead lead Specialist Support, Mr Fuller announced on Tuesday.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn has been shifted from head of counter-terrorism by the state’s newly minted Police Commissioner.

Within a fortnight of taking over from Andrew Scipione, Commissioner Mick Fuller has named Deputy Commissioner Dave Hudson to lead the Investigations and Counter-Terrorism unit and State Crime Command, which covers squads targeting major crimes including homicide and organised gangs.

Ms Burn will remain deputy commissioner but instead lead Specialist Support, Mr Fuller announced on Tuesday.

The reshuffle comes ahead of a pending report into the police response to the 2014 Lindt Cafe siege, in which two hostages and gunman Man Haron Monis were killed after a 17-hour stand-off.

Both Ms Burn, who has held the counter-terrrorism portfolio since 2012, and Mr Scipione have been criticised for their handling of their roles in the operation.

Ms Burn, who insisted she had no operational role during the siege, came under scrutiny over text messages she sent during and after the siege, which were deleted and haven’t been recovered.

Mr Scipione also stated he had no operational control at the siege either.

Mr Fuller was the first high-ranking officer to take command of the siege and he ordered a contain and negotiate approach rather than sending in armed officers.

Ms Burn will start her new role on May 1.

Until now, the specialist support role has overseen several units including PolAir, forensics, marine area command and highway patrol.

Both Ms Burn and Mr Hudson had thrown their hat into the ring for the top job to replace Mr Scipione but were passed over.

Mr Hudson will move from head of corporate services, which he’s held since 2013, to take on his new role also at the beginning of May.

Mr Fuller still needs to appoint three more deputy commissioner positions under the changes.