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UN relief chief urges G20 to step up support to avert crises in fragile countries

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession are set to trigger the first increase in global poverty in three decades, pushing 265 million people to the point of starvation by the end of the year, the UN’s top humanitarian official warned on Friday.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, called on the world’s leading industrial nations, the G20, to step up support, as he released an updated US$10.3 billion appeal to fight coronavirus spread in 63 low-income countries.

“The pandemic and associated global recession are about to wreak havoc in fragile and low-income countries”, he said. 

“The response of wealthy nations so far has been grossly inadequate and dangerously short-sighted. Failure to act now will leave the free to circle round the globe, undo decades of development, and create a generation’s worth of tragic and exportable problems.”

“It doesn’t have to be like this – this is a problem that can be fixed with money from wealthy nations and fresh thinking from the shareholders of international financial institutions and supporters of UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and NGOs,” he said.

As of Thursday, there were more than 13 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and nearly 580,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Lowcock fears that unless G20 countries act now, they will face a series of human tragedies more brutal and destructive than the direct health impacts of the pandemic.

“Rich countries have thrown out the rulebook when it comes to protecting their own economies. They must apply the same exceptional measures to countries that need help”, he declared.

“The prospect of cascading crises more brutal and destructive than anything the virus alone can do must jolt us all out of our comfort zone.”

UN agencies estimate that due to disruptions to health systems caused by the pandemic, some 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes, while annual deaths from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, could double.

Meanwhile, humanitarians said the first confirmed case of the disease was reported in Idlib, Syria, last week, sparking fears of a devastating outbreak in crowded camps housing millions of people displaced by the country’s nearly decade-long conflict.

The COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan addresses the humanitarian impacts of the pandemic in 63 low- and middle-income countries and supports their efforts to combat it.

The plan prioritizes the world’s most vulnerable citizens, including older persons, people with disabilities, displaced people, and women and girls.

It was initially launched in late March, shortly after WHO declared the global pandemic.

While $1.7 billion has been raised since then, the update includes a supplementary $300 million, to bolster rapid response from NGOs, $500 million for famine prevention, and a sharper focus on preventing gender-based violence.

This comes after two Rome-based UN agencies sounded the alarm in a joint report published on Friday stating that hunger threatens to soar to devastating levels in 25 countries in the coming months due to the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned the greatest concentration of need is in Africa, but countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia – including middle-income nations – are also being ravaged by crippling levels of food insecurity.

WFP announced that it is scaling up food assistance to an unprecedented 138 million people who face desperate levels of hunger as COVID-19 tightens its grip on some of the world’s most fragile countries.

“Three months ago at the UN Security Council, I told world leaders that we ran the risk of a famine of biblical proportions”, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“Today, our latest data tell us that, since then, millions of the world’s very poorest families have been forced even closer to the abyss”, Beasley said.

“Livelihoods are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate and now their lives are in imminent danger from starvation”, he said.

“Make no mistake – if we do not act now to end this pandemic of human suffering, many people will die.”

Most of the 25 “hotspots” named in the report stretch from West Africa and across the Sahel (north Africa) to East Africa, including the Sahel, as well the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

It also identifies, in the Middle East, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen; in Asia, Bangladesh; and in Latin America and the Caribbean, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Citing some examples, the report says that COVID-19 is compounding a raft of existing problems in South Sudan, making the prospect of famine loom ever larger in areas where inter-communal fighting makes humanitarian access tough or impossible.

In the Middle East, the pandemic is exacerbating Lebanon’s worst-ever economic crisis, where food insecurity is growing fast not only among citizens but also 1.5 million Syrians and other refugees.

Hardest hit in Latin America are more than five million Venezuelan migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in neighboring countries, the report says, adding that worsening economic conditions in host countries could well make matters worse.

According to WFP estimates, the number of people living in acute food insecurity in countries affected by conflict, disasters or economic crises could jump from 149 million before the pandemic took hold to 270 million by year’s end if assistance is not provided urgently.

 

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Continued enforcement of travel ban on senior IEA officials is ‘unjust’

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) describes the international community’s continued travel ban against senior officials as “a cruel and unjust act”.

Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman of the IEA, says the problems in the country are the result of unfair sanctions imposed by the United States and the international community against the new government of Afghanistan and emphasized that if the world intends to interact with the Islamic Emirate, it should lift all sanctions.

Three months ago, an exemption on the travel ban against 13 senior IEA officials ended, however, the UN Security Council has still not extended it. This has prevented the officials from leaving the country.

“Political isolation had no results before, and it will not have any results now; the Afghan people and us want good relations with countries based on mutual respect,” said Karimi.

When the travel ban exemption expired, the UN Security Council held two meetings in order to decide on whether to continue with the exemption but security council members failed to reach a decision at either of the meetings.

The international community has stood by calls for the formation of an inclusive government, the upholding of human rights and the removal of terrorist threats from Afghanistan as its basic conditions for the recognition of the Islamic Emirate and the end of sanctions.

The Islamic Emirate, however, emphasizes that it has met all conditions for recognition.

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Hamid Karzai left country out of necessity: IEA

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2022)

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai left the country out of necessity, deputy spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said on Sunday.

Karzai left on Saturday for the United Arab Emirates on his first trip out of the country since the IEA takeover in August last year.

“A necessity was created for him and he left,” Bilal Karimi said.

Karzai is expected to travel to Germany from the UAE. Omar Zakhilwal, a former finance minister, who accompanied him on the flight to the UAE said they will soon return to Afghanistan.
Karzai left the country on the same day Defense Minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid headed to the UAE. IEA says the trips are not connected.

Experts meanwhile say allowing Karzai to travel abroad increases the level of trust between politicians and the IEA.

Karzai was among only a few former senior government officials who remained in the country after the IEA takeover.

While Abdullah Abdullah, former reconciliation council chief, has had couple of foreign trips, Karzai was reportedly facing travel restrictions.

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Six injured in Saturday’s blast in Jalalabad city

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2022)

Local officials have confirmed that six people were wounded in an explosion on Saturday in Nangarhar’s Jalalabad city.

This is in addition to the major losses to shops in the area that sustained serious damage.

One of the damaged shops was that of Gul Charan – the city’s only Sikh resident.

According to local officials, the incident is being investigated. The blast reportedly occurred in District 1, in Jalalabad city.

The security officials of Jalalabad meanwhile say the explosion was caused by an IED embedded in a flowerpot.

The residents of the city have called on the Islamic Emirate to prevent such events in the future.

So far, no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the explosion.

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