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UN sends in millions to pay Afghan health workers

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(Last Updated On: November 10, 2021)

The United Nations has paid nearly $8 million in salaries to some 23,500 health workers across Afghanistan over the past month, bypassing the health ministry in a test case to inject much-needed liquidity into a dire Afghan economy.

The U.N. development agency UNDP and the Global Fund health aid organization teamed up to resurrect a program that had been funded by the World Bank until it suspended assistance when the Western-backed Afghan government collapsed and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) took control in August.

The United Nations has been struggling to get enough cash into Afghanistan to help deliver humanitarian aid to millions of people on the brink of famine and prevent the collapse of the economy and health and education services, Reuters reported.

“Someone had to step in. We were confronted not just with a health system that was collapsing, but also a financial system that was collapsing,” UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja, told Reuters.

“Global Fund took the financial risk, we took the implementation risk to make these payments happen,” she said. “We’ve shown it’s possible, it can work … it goes a huge long way to saving at least the people’s economy in the country.”

The Global Fund provided $15 million, of which nearly $8 million was used for salaries, while much of the rest was spent on providing basic medical equipment, essential drugs and supplies, Reuters reported. UNDP worked out how to get the funds into the country and into the hands of health workers in 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Wignaraja said UNDP wired some of the money to the Afghanistan International Bank and then used a large money service provider, which UNDP declined to identify for security reasons, to distribute the rest.

The health workers paid so far – working in nearly 2,200 health facilities – had money deposited into bank accounts, while another 2,500 health workers will shortly be paid in cash because they are in remote areas.

“It’s given hope to these families. It’s reignited healthcare services,” said Wignaraja, adding that the program would now be run by the World Health Organization and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF for the next three months.

“Without this, you literally would have all the Afghan doctors, nurses, technicians, heading across borders,” she added.

During that time Wignaraja said the United Nations would talk to the World Bank to see if it was then able to take over the program again or find a hybrid solution if the bank is unable to get any approvals needed to do so.

Wignaraja said the payment of health workers salaries over the past month had helped spark the re-opening of some banks.

“The minute you start the local community economic activity and people are able to deposit money and take money these banks are able to open their local branches,” she said.

After showing it could work, the United Nations would continue using the formal banking system and money service providers to get cash into Afghanistan for the next few months, Wignaraja said, although she added that U.N. agencies were also considering a need to bring U.S. dollars into the country.

“This has been for us a pretty crazy test run of the system,” she said of the payments to health workers, adding that she hoped international donors were “watching it really closely.”

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Afghan weather services issues flash flood warning

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

The Afghanistan Meteorological Department issued a flash flood warning on Thursday, stating that heavy rain and high wind gusts can be expected across a wide section of the country on Friday and Saturday.

The provinces likely to be affected are Badakhshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Panjshir, Takhar, Baghlan, Parwan, Bamiyan, Samangan, Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Ghazni, Zabul, Uruzgan, Daikundi, Ghor, Kandahar and Helmand.

According to the department, between 15 and 70 mm of rain can be expected in parts of the country over the next two days.

Thunderstorms can also be expected in some provinces, including Kabul.

On Thursday, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said in a statement that in the past week – between August 11 and 15 – heavy rainfall caused floods and flash floods across several provinces across the eastern, southern, south-eastern, and central regions of Afghanistan, leading to numerous fatalities.

The latest UNOCHA report states that the number of fatalities has increased to 41 people (11 in Parwan province, 11 in Nangarhar province, and nine in Logar province), while 17 individuals were injured.

Across the impacted areas, heavy rainfall destroyed or damaged almost 790 houses (434 in Nangarhar), affecting more than 3,720 families in total.

Floods have destroyed crops, agricultural land, and the local transportation infrastructure, isolating several communities, UNOCHA stated.

A number of international humanitarian organizations are assisting the local affected population with food, emergency shelter and non-food items, as well as conducting inter-agency impact and needs assessments.

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PACF hands over 25 tons of food items to support Afghans

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

The Pak Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) on Thursday handed over 25 tons of food items to Afghan authorities as part of its ongoing support to the people of war-hit Afghanistan.

The truckload of the food items, arranged by the PACF, were handed over to the Afghan authorities at the Chaman crossing, app reported.

The handing-over ceremony was attended by Deputy Commissioner of Chaman Hameed Zahri and senior officers of the Afghan Foreign Office including Maulwi Waheedullah and Mullah Hikmatullah.

According to the report since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), takeover in Afghanistan last year, Pakistan had sent over a total of 15,390 tons worth Rs2, 650 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The humanitarian assistance had been sent to Afghanistan via 83 convoys, including 743 trucks and four C-130 flights, till August 5, read the report.

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A group of 9/11 victims call for frozen funds to be given back to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

Families of 9/11 victims have called on US President Joe Biden to release billions of dollars belonging to Afghanistan.

In a letter sent to Biden this week, 77 family members of 9/11 victims called on the president to modify an executive order from February which froze the Afghan central bank’s $7 billion of assets being held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“Any use of the $7 billion to pay off 9/11 family member judgments is legally suspect and morally wrong,” the family members wrote in a letter first reported by Politico.

The letter came amid a report in the Wall Street Journal that the US had ruled out releasing the funds following the US killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul earlier this month.

The US froze the money after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) swept to power following the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The IEA and US had been engaged in talks about releasing the funds.

Biden planned to give $3.5 billion to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes and the balance to families of 9/11 victims.

But the revelation that the al-Qaeda leader was living in Kabul derailed talks between the US and the IEA on a compromise over the funds.

The 9/11 victims’ families said that, while they had filed lawsuits seeking justice for their loss, they didn’t intend for the compensation “to take money away from starving Afghans”.

“This money is theirs, not ours,” the letter said. “Simply put, this money belongs to the Afghan people, not 9/11 family members – and they need it more.”

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