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UN, aid agencies cut Afghanistan aid plan budget to $3.2 billion



(Last Updated On: June 6, 2023)

The United Nations and humanitarian agencies have revised the budget for Afghanistan’s aid plan for 2023 to $3.2 billion, down from $4.6 billion earlier in the year, the UN humanitarian office said on Monday.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that a “changing operating context” in the wake of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) restrictions on female aid workers had contributed to the revised plan, Reuters reported.

IEA authorities have issued several orders barring many Afghan female NGO and United Nations employees from being able to work, which aid agencies have warned would severely hamper delivery in the religiously conservative nation.

“The recent bans on Afghan women working for… NGOs and the U.N. have added yet another layer of complexity to what is already an incredibly challenging protection environment, and further constrained the operational capacity of partners,” the UN statement said.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, the statement added, with more than two-thirds of the population in need of humanitarian assistance.

Some humanitarian officials and diplomats have warned of a potential decline in funding to Afghanistan due to the IEA restrictions on female workers and donor governments assessing competing global crises and economic priorities.

It was not clear how much of the revised budget would be funded by foreign donors.

Global humanitarian appeals often fall short of the total amount requested. In 2022, the humanitarian response plan was budgeted at $4.4 billion and received around $3.2 billion. The UN says the number of people in need has grown since last year.

The United Nations’ development agency in April predicted Afghanistan’s economy would contract and inflation would rise if there were a 30% drop in aid.

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Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation falls by 85% under IEA rule



(Last Updated On: October 3, 2023)

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has reportedly dropped by 85% following the return to power of the Islamic Emirate, new analysis shows.

In April last year, the IEA’s supreme leader issued a decree prohibiting poppy farming across the country. Almost 18 months later, the ban is being described by experts as “the most successful counter-narcotics effort in human history”.

Nationwide poppy cultivation is below 30,000 hectares for 2023, compared to more than 210,000 hectares in 2022, according to satellite imagery analysis from Alcis, a geographic information services company, the UK-based Telegraph reported.

Helmand, Farah and Nimroz have recorded the greatest reductions in cultivation, at 99, 95 and 91 percent respectively, Alcis said.

“There is now little doubt that farmers across vast swathes of the country abandoned opium production this year,” the analysis said.

After a year-long ban, experts are waiting to see if the IEA’s edict will last for a second season, which starts each November with the planting of poppy seeds.

“We are in uncharted waters,” said Dr David Mansfield, a UK expert on illicit economies in Afghanistan, in comments that accompanied Alcis’ analysis, the Telegraph reported.

Graeme Smith, an Afghanistan expert at Crisis Group, told the Telegraph in July that the IEA’s crackdown has so far been “the most successful counter-narcotics effort in human history, according to the volume of drugs taken off the market”.

However, Mansfield said there “is already considerable evidence that the current ban has not been uniformly accepted by the rural population or by those within the Taliban’s own ranks responsible for implementing it.”

Alcis’ analysis shows that poppy cultivation increased from 13,803 hectares to 15,391 hectares in the mountainous Badakhshan province throughout 2023. It said there has also been “persistent cultivation in the upper reaches of the mountains of southern Nangarhar”.

“When the economic impact of a ban on poppy cultivation is felt collectively across a growing population, local resistance can quickly escalate, prompting those in the districts responsible for enforcement to retreat, unwilling to impose further losses on their own families, neighbours, and communities,” said Mansfield.

It’s estimated the Taliban’s poppy ban has wiped out the equivalent of 450,000 full-time jobs in agriculture – a major hit to an economy still reeling from drought, conflict and cuts to development programmes.

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Commerce and industry ministry suspends all expos in Afghanistan



(Last Updated On: October 3, 2023)

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement Tuesday that while no restrictions have been imposed on women participating at expos, they have suspended all trade shows until a new operating procedure has been finalized.

“In order to better regulate the holding of expos and provide the necessary facilities for holding domestic and foreign exhibitions, it is necessary to make a series of adjustments in the procedure for holding domestic and foreign expos,” read the statement.

Abdulsalam Jawad Akhundzadah, a spokesman for the MoIC, also said that expos have been stopped pending new regulations.

He said that a seven-day women’s expo will be held in the near future in Kabul.

“Soon, a women’s expo will be held in Kabul where about 800 entrepreneurial women from 34 provinces will participate for seven days,” said Akhundzadah.

Meanwhile, the private sector says if the suspension of holding expos continues, it will harm the country’s trade and investment process, and that the purchase of domestic products will be impacted.

Sakhi Ahmad Payman, deputy head of Afghanistan Chamber of Industries and Mines said the holding of expos was done haphazardly and he hoped that in future these events would be organized under the umbrella of the commerce and industry ministry.

A number of economic experts also said that in order for expos to have positive effects, they should be held based on principles and procedures.

“A specific mechanism should be put in place to hold expos in order to avoid abuses and opportunists in this area,” said Shabir Bashiri, an economic analyst.

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Deputy foreign minister meets UNAMA head



(Last Updated On: October 3, 2023)

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA, Roza Otunbayeva, met with the Political Deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, the ministry said.

According to the ministry during the meeting, Stanakzai requested international assistance in the areas of regional coordination, the fight against drugs, and ways to revitalize the business and banking sector.

The Political Deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said despite the difference of opinion in some areas, there is a need to work together on common issues and give Afghanistan the right to participate in various international forums, including the United Nations.

He also said that humanitarian affairs should be kept separate from politics and political differences should not be allowed to hinder interaction in humanitarian aid, drug fight, mine clearance and other areas.

Meanwhile, Roza Otunbayeva shared information about her recent visit to the United Nations and added that they are trying to fight against drugs, treat drug addicts, and promote legal crops in addition to making efforts around food security and are attempting to attract international aid.

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