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300,000 Afghan children face illness, even death, in freezing conditions

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(Last Updated On: January 2, 2021)

More than 300,000 Afghan children face freezing winter conditions that could lead to illness, in the worst cases death, without proper winter clothing and heating, Save the Children warned this week. 

The organization’s country director in Afghanistan, Chris Nyamandi, said in a statement on Thursday that while schools are closed until March in the coldest parts of the country, this is a serious blow because often the classroom is the only source of warmth for children during winter – where temperatures can plummet to below minus 27 degrees Celcius. 

Concern has been raised following an early onset of harsh weather conditions – and heavy snowfalls. 

“The early snow in the northern parts of Afghanistan where we work has impacted children particularly badly. The most vulnerable children are those whose schools have shut because of the worsening winter conditions. 

“Their families don’t have the money to buy winter clothing. Instead children are forced to huddle at home to escape the bitter cold.

“It also means it is more difficult for us to reach these children to provide them with winter clothing. We must go from home to home to deliver thick coats and blankets,” Nyamandi said.

According to Save the Children, ongoing conflict has also destroyed many homes and forced thousands of children, along with their families, to shelter in camps for the homeless. There they risk hunger, disease, including COVD-19, even death from freezing temperatures.

“The situation is bleak for children forced to live in camps in places like Balkh province. It is already very cold in this northern province with overnight temperatures as low as minus ten. But it will get much colder before March,” said Nyamandi.

“Here, and in camps in other parts of Afghanistan, plastic sheeting and the clothes they wear are often all that separates them from the freezing temperatures.

“For thousands of children the Afghan winter is a time of grim survival,” he added.

In light of this, Save the Children plan to provide winter kits to more than 100,000 families in 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. 

These winter kits include fuel and a heater, blankets and winter clothes for children including coats, socks, shoes, hats and Vaseline.

Shelter repair kits will also be provided to for people made homeless by the fighting and in some cases, 12 weeks rent for families at risk of homelessness

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IEA, US meet in Doha to discuss freeing of Afghanistan’s frozen assets

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

A senior Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) delegation, led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, headed to Qatar on Wednesday to hold talks with US officials to release some of the $9 billion of frozen reserves. 

According to a Washington Post report, US officials have tried to set up a system for assets to be managed, while simultaneously erecting safeguards to ensure the funds are not siphoned off for misuse by the IEA.

One option discussed by those close to the talks involves having a third party trust fund administer the money, according to the report.

Bloomberg also reported that the discussion will center around “creating a mechanism for releasing the frozen Afghan reserves.” 

Ahmad Wali Haqmal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s finance ministry told Bloomberg: “We’re expecting this would be a serious round of talks.”

US officials have expressed optimism about the progress on talks but cautioned that several obstacles to the deal remain.

“It would be accurate to say negotiations are underway,” said Shah Mehrabi, an economics professor at Montgomery College in Maryland and a senior member of  Afghanistan’s central bank board since 2002. 

“We are in the process of trying to come up with a mechanism that will allow the transfer of reserves to the central bank of Afghanistan,” he said.

Mehrabi said food costs have skyrocketed by 18 percent in the past several months. Basic household goods rose in cost by 35 percent during the first few months of the year; in May, inflation for household goods hit 42 percent, Mehrabi said.

“These reserves belong to the Afghan people; they are needed to stabilize prices,” he said. “The faster it is delivered to the central bank of Afghanistan, the sooner we will see the impact of the reduction in prices that are critical to enable ordinary Afghans to afford food, cooking oil, and sugar and fuel. Now, they can’t do that.”

The delegation includes central bank Governor Mohammad Idris and Deputy Finance Minister Nazir Kabiri. They will meet with the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West and officials from the treasury department, Haqmal said.

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‘If Putin was a woman’ he would not have invaded Ukraine: UK PM

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if he were a woman, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.

“If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn’t, but if he were, I really don’t think he would’ve embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has,” Johnson said in an interview to German broadcaster ZDF.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is “a perfect example of toxic masculinity”, he said, calling for better education for girls around the world and for “more women in positions of power”.

The British prime minister acknowledged that “of course people want the war to end”, but for the moment “there’s no deal available. Putin isn’t making an offer of peace”.

Johnson’s comments come ahead of a NATO meeting where allies will discuss how to respond to future threats.

Western allies must support Ukraine to enable it to be in the best possible strategic position in the event that peace negotiations with Moscow do become possible, Johnson said.

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Grand assembly to discuss ways to improve economic, social conditions: Hanafi

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

The grand assembly of religious scholars, scheduled to begin Thursday, is expected to discuss ways to improve economic and social conditions, Abdul Salam Hanafi, deputy prime minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Wednesday.

Hanafi said people from various ethnic groups and with different views will sit for discussion, which is a positive step in maintaining stability and strengthening national unity in the country.

 “After years, Afghans from various sections and ethnic groups and with different views sit with each other for discussion without foreign interference,” Hanafi said in an interview to RTA. “It is in itself a positive and valuable step for maintaining stability and strengthening national unity.”

He said that more than 3,000 people will participate in the gathering under the mega Loya Jirga tent in Kabul.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the IEA, also said that the gathering will be held under tight security measures.

He said that all technical preparations have been finalized and there will be several committees discussing key issues.

It will be the largest gathering in Kabul after the IEA took over in August last year. 

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