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ICRC director ‘livid’ over dire ‘man-made’ situation in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2021)

Dominik Stillhart, the director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross expressed his anger on Monday at the world for plunging Afghanistan into the grips of starvation on the back of economic sanctions.

In a statement released after a six-day visit to the country, Stillhart said: “I am livid. Pictures viewed from afar of bone-thin children rightly elicit gasps of horror. When you’re standing in the pediatric ward in Kandahar’s largest hospital, looking into the empty eyes of hungry children and the anguished faces of desperate parents, the situation is absolutely infuriating.”

He said “it’s so infuriating because this suffering is man-made.”

Economic sanctions meant to punish those in power in Kabul are instead freezing millions of people across Afghanistan out of the basics they need to survive, he said adding that “the international community is turning its back as the country teeters on the precipice of man-made catastrophe”.

He stated that sanctions on banking services are sending the economy into free-fall and holding up bilateral aid, and that government staff who haven’t been paid in five months walk up to two hours to work instead of taking public transport. He said they have no money to buy food; their children go hungry, get dangerously thin, and then die.

During his trip to Afghanistan, Stillhart visited the paediatric intensive care unit at Mirwais Regional Hospital in Kandahar and painted an extremely bleak picture.

He said the number of children suffering from malnutrition, pneumonia and dehydration has more than doubled from mid-August to September.

Stillhart said that on Monday, the ICRC began supporting 18 regional and provincial hospitals and the 5,100 staff who work in them to help prevent the total collapse of the public health system in Afghanistan.

He said this support, slated to last six months, includes funding for running costs and medical supplies and will ensure the continuity of nearly half a million medical consultations per month.

However, this was not enough, he stated.

“Drought, failed harvests, and the economic collapse are all driving the increase in malnutrition. Rising food costs are pushing proteins and other staples out of reach,” he said adding that as the harsh winter sets in with temperatures well below freezing, the suffering will be immense as people lack the cash to heat their homes.

Stillhart called for countries to engage with Afghanistan.

“This is the only way to prevent a total collapse of essential services like health care and education. Political considerations should not interfere with humanitarian action. A political solution must be found to avoid irreparable humanitarian consequences,” he said.

He also appealed to foreign donors that have stopped helping Afghanistan to work through entities such as the ICRC so as to stop denying Afghans life-saving assistance.

Stillhart said while everyone knows it will be a tragic winter for Afghans, the ICRC will step up its response to help meet the most urgent humanitarian needs.

But, he said, this assistance is only part of the solution. “The existing and projected needs are beyond any humanitarian organization’s capacity to deal with or solve.”

In his appeal for the international community to step up its efforts to find a solution to the crisis, he said the desperation among Afghans can be seen in the huge crowds lining up in front of banks at 5 am in the hope that they can withdraw a little bit of cash – and in
“the empty eyes of hungry children” – which he said is something one will not soon forget.

“It makes my plea to the international community even more urgent: that it rapidly finds creative solutions to save millions of Afghans from deprivation and despair. Ultimately, this is in everybody’s interest as it will help prevent Afghanistan from slipping back into conflict and violence, and help give Afghans more means to remain in their country.”

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Otunbayeva meets acting head of TVET in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) emphasized the need for the inclusion of women and girls in vocational education on Monday in a meeting with Ghulam Haider Shahamat, acting head of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

In this meeting, Roza Otunbayeva said that vocational training is necessary for the economic development of Afghanistan and women and girls should be included.

Shahamat also expressed that technical and vocational education is effective for poverty alleviation and the growth of the country’s economy.

“The Technical Vocational Education and Training has 383 institutes and high schools all over Afghanistan, which operate in 250 districts and have 6850 staff,” said Shahamat.

Meanwhile, some experts say that Afghanistan needs to develop and create job opportunities for everyone, especially women and girls, and all international institutions play a constructive role for Afghanistan’s progress.

“All organizations which work under the framework of the United Nations can have positive roles in Afghanistan,” said Sarah Rahmani, women rights activist.

In this meeting, the head of the United Nations Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) was also present and emphasized on signing an agreement and creating a joint working group between both institutions.

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Afghanistan’s central bank to auction $17 million this week

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) has announced that it will auction $17 million on Wednesday as part of the efforts to stabilize the value of the Afghan currency against foreign currencies.

In a series of tweets on Monday, the Central Bank of Afghanistan asked qualified private banks and exchange companies to participate in the auction.

The winners of the auction are obliged to settle their accounts by the end of the day. As per the announcement, partial settlement of transactions is not allowed and the winners of the auction are obliged to transfer the payable amount to the central bank in cash within a certain time.

This is the second time in a week the central bank is auctioning US dollars to keep the value of Afghani stable.

The exchange rate was 90 AFN to the US dollar on Monday, February 6, 2023. The central bank sold $16 million on Sunday.

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Russia has no plans to close its embassy in Afghanistan, says envoy

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2023)

Russia has no plans to close its diplomatic mission in Kabul, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Zamir Kabulov told TASS on Monday.

Earlier, the Al-Arabiya TV channel reported that the authorities of several Arab and Western countries decided to close their diplomatic missions in Kabul because of security threats.

“Such thoughts have not even occurred,” Kabulov said, when asked whether Russia had such plans.

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