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ICRC calls for restraint as health centers come under intense pressure

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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stated Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of people are at risk as fighting intensifies in and around the cities of Kunduz, Lashkargah, Kandahar and other cities in Afghanistan.

The ICRC has called on all parties to the conflict to exercise immediate restraint, protect civilians and protect critical infrastructure such as hospitals from attacks and casualties resulting from conflict in densely populated areas.

According to a statement issued by the ICRC, as of August 1, at least 4,042 people injured in the war have been treated at 15 health centers assisted by the ICRC, this indicating the severity of the recent violence.

“We are witnessing the destruction of homes, the endangerment of health workers and the sick, the damage to hospitals, as well as water and electricity infrastructure,” said Eloi Fillion, head of ICRC’s central office in Afghanistan.

“The use of explosive weapons in cities has far-reaching implications for civilians beyond their intended purpose. Mortar shells and rockets hit civilian homes without separation. Many families have no choice but to flee to find a safe place. This situation must end,” said Fillion.

Street clashes in Kunduz, Lashkargah and other cities have injured scores of civilians in recent days, while health centers are under intense pressure due to injuries and a lack of staff, the statement read.

Electricity has been cut off in several disputed cities, and water supply networks are struggling in some areas. Most families try to leave those areas, but they cannot because they do not find the vehicles or do not have the funds, the statement said.

The ICRC and its affiliate, the Afghan Red Crescent, are trying their best to evacuate the wounded and the bodies of those killed in the conflict. In July alone, the ICRC assisted with 13,000 war wounded across the country, a number that appears to be rising due to the escalation of fighting in populated areas of the country.

“Health care centers, health workers and ambulances must be safe at all costs. We continue to urge all parties involved to allow humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent Society to evacuate the wounded safely and to provide assistance to people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance,” Fillion said.

Meanwhile Doctors without Borders (MSF) said that a rocket exploded in the compound of MSF Boost hospital in Lashkargah city, capital of Helmand province on Monday.

The explosion was very close to our Emergency Room, and it could have been much worse, MSF tweeted.

According to MSF the Emergency-NGO hospital, next door to them was also hit by a rocket, but there were no injuries at either facility.

The organization stated: “MSF reminds all warring parties that MSF hospital is operational, saving patients’ lives & protected under international humanitarian law. Even during conflict medical facilities must be protected at all times.”

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Pakistan contradicts UNHCR chief’s remarks on Afghan migrants’ return plan

Grandi meanwhile said in a statement early this week that the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan had been suspended and sought assurances from Pakistan that it would remain on hold.

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Pakistan has contradicted a claim by UN refugees agency UNHCR that the program to repatriate illegal migrants, specifically Afghans, has been suspended, saying “this is not true”.

This week, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said during a visit to Pakistan, that the UNHCR appreciated Islamabad’s move to suspend the repatriation of Afghan refugees.

But, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch has since said: “this is not true. It may be noted that no such understanding has been given by Pakistan to the UNHCR, including in recent meetings with the High Commissioner for Refugees.”

“IFRP (repatriation program) remains in place and is being implemented in an orderly and phased manner”, she said.

Grandi meanwhile said in a statement early this week that the Illegal Foreigners Repatriation Plan had been suspended and sought assurances from Pakistan that it would remain on hold.

Pakistan has been hosting millions of Afghan refugees since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The latest influx started in August 2021 when the former government collapsed.

Between 600,000 and 800,000 Afghans sought refuge in Pakistan. But last November, Pakistan launched a widely criticized repatriation programme aimed at returning millions of Afghans, regardless of their legal status, to Afghanistan.

 

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Cherry yields have increased in Takhar province

Meanwhile, officials from Takhar’s Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock said that the prices have decreased due to the increase in yield.

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Farmers in Takhar say the harvest of cherries has increased in this province, but they are worried about the drop in prices and the lack of a market for sales.

Cherry farmers in Takhar said that the price earned from cultivating fruits has dropped, compared to previous years, and asked the government to help with the marketing of crops.

“Fruits are plentiful this year. It is Iranian cherries, it is domestic cherries. Unfortunately, compared to previous years, the price of cherries is very low,” said one Takhar cherry farmer.

“The price this year is very different from last year; last year the prices were very high, this year it is low,” said another farmer.

Fresh fruit sellers also said that Takhar’s fruit was exported to neighboring and central provinces in the past years, but this year they do not have customers outside their own province – which is a cause for concern among them.

Meanwhile, officials from Takhar’s Department of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock said that the prices have decreased due to the increase in yield.

“In the previous years, due to the drought, the prices of fruits and vegetables increased,” said Abdulalla Radmard, director for promotions at the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Takhar.

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Pakistan to offer 4,500 scholarships to Afghan students

Pakistan’s Ministry of Education stated in the past it had awarded scholarships to 6,000 Afghan students as part of phase one and two.

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Pakistan has announced it will provide 4,500 scholarships to Afghan students, as part of the Allama Iqbal Scholarship for Afghan Students program.

Asid Durrani, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a post on X that this is phase 3 of the program and that scholarships will be granted to Afghan students in natural sciences and social sciences across various universities in Pakistan.

However, Durani did not provide details regarding costs nor whether this would include female students.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Education stated in the past it had awarded scholarships to 6,000 Afghan students as part of phase one and two.

Following the suspension of education for girls in Afghanistan, several countries, including Germany, Japan, Iran, and Tajikistan, have also offered scholarships to Afghan girls.

 

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