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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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30,000-year-old baby mammoth found almost perfectly preserved in Canada

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

A gold miner found a mummified baby wooly mammoth that was almost perfectly preserved in the Trʼondëk Hwëchʼin Traditional Territory in Yukon, Canada. 

According to a press release from the local government, the female baby mammoth has been named Nun cho ga by the First Nation Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in elders, which translates to “big baby animal” in the Hän language. 

Nun cho ga is the most complete mummified mammoth discovered in North America, Science Alert reported.

Nun cho ga died and was frozen in permafrost during the ice age, over 30,000 years ago, said the press release. She would have roamed the Yukon alongside wild horses, cave lions, and giant steppe bison. 

The frozen mammoth was recovered by geologists after a young miner in the Klondike gold fields found the remains while digging up dirt.

Dr. Grant Zazula, the Yukon government’s paleontologist, said the miner had made the “most important discovery in paleontology in North America,” reported The Weather Channel.

The baby mammoth was probably with her mother when it ventured off a little too far and got stuck in the mud, Zazula told The Weather Channel.

Professor Dan Shugar, from the University of Calgary, part of the team who excavated the wooly mammoth, said that this discovery was the “most exciting scientific thing I have ever been part of.”

He described how immaculately the mammoth had been preserved, saying that it still had intact toenails, hide, hair, trunk, and even intestines, with its last meal of grass still present. 

According to the press release, Yukon is renowned for its store of ice age fossils, but rarely are such immaculate and well-preserved finds discovered. Zazula wrote in the press release that “as an ice age paleontologist, it has been one of my lifelong dreams to come face to face with a real wooly mammoth.”

“That dream came true today. Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world.”

The wooly mammoth, about the size of the African elephant, roamed the earth until about 4,000 years ago. Early humans hunted them for food and used mammoth bones and tusks for art, tools, and dwellings. Scientists are divided as to whether hunting or climate change drove them into extinction.

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2,000 hectares of land cleared of poppies in Herat: officials

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

Around 2,000 hectares of poppy fields have been cleared in recent months in Afghanistan’s western Herat province, officials said Monday.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in April announced a ban on the cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan.

“If anyone violates the decree the crop will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the sharia law,” a decree issued by IEA’s Supreme Leader Hebatullah Akhundzada read.

Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate World Drug Day, Hayatullah Rouhani, head of counter-narcotics unit of the provincial police in Herat, assured the public of a serious fight against the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics.

He also said rehabilitation programs for drug addicts in the province was ongoing.

“Experience shows that the drug addiction rate will not decrease unless we round up drug dealers,” Rouhani said. “We have carried out nearly 250 operations in which we rounded up a large number of drug dealers and referred them for prosecution.”

Syed Mohammad Sadat, a provincial health official, said that IEA was seeking to fundamentally include drug addiction rehabilitation in the country’s public health system.

Around 70,000 drug addicts are estimated to be in Herat, mostly living on the streets and in recreation parks.

“They have a wife and children. There is no one without a family. They are addicted due to unemployment. I studied for 12 years, but look I have been forced to live on the street,” said Nazir Ahmad, one drug addict in Herat.

Experts say poverty, unemployment and easy availability of drugs have contributed to the rise in drug addiction.

Counternarcotic police say more than 200 people have been arrested in Herat on charges of drug dealing during the past 10 months. Over 1,000 kilograms of drug have been seized from them.

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Red Crescent allocates 10 Million AFN for earthquake victims

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) has allocated 10 million AFN for the victims of last week’s massive quake in Khost and Paktika provinces. 

Speaking at a press conference Monday in Kabul, officials from ARCS said that they would distribute $100 to each affected family, providing thousands of families with cash.

“The donation will be delivered to the areas with survey teams, and we will distribute them in cash as the locals requested,” said Mullah Nooruddin Torabi, deputy director of the Afghan Red Crescent Society. 

In addition to distributing cash, this organization will also provide blankets, tents, and home and kitchen appliances to the victims.

In addition, Torabi called on national and international humanitarian organizations to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Paktika and Khost provinces in coordination with the Afghan Red Crescent Society.

Torabi said the aid already sent by neighboring countries and countries around the world has not been enough for the quake victims. 

“We need to establish shelters, clinics, and schools for those who are suffering in the areas where the incident took place,” he added.

He also said that in order to distribute the aid among victims in a transparent manner all domestic and international humanitarian organizations must collaborate with ARCS.

Last week a deadly earthquake in Paktika and Khost provinces killed at least 1,200 people and injured more than 2,000 others.

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