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US considers visas for vulnerable Afghan women after military exit

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2021)

The Biden administration is considering offering an expedited visa path for vulnerable Afghans including women politicians, journalists, and activists who may become targets of the Taliban, U.S. officials say.

Rights groups have been asking the State Department and White House to add up to 2,000 visas specifically for vulnerable women and women’s advocates to a developing policy plan to evacuate thousands Afghans after the U.S. military pullout this month. The current plan includes translators who worked with foreign forces, Reuters reported.

One of the officials said the administration is looking not only at women who are under threat, but also men and minorities in high-risk professions.

Women who made gains during the two-decade U.S. occupation, and their supporters and advocates, should be part of any expedited list, rights groups have argued to the White House and State Department.

“Lives are at risk,” said Teresa Casale, advocacy director for Mina’s List, which advocates for women’s representation in governments around the world. “Women leaders are being actively targeted and killed by Taliban forces. They receive threats against their lives and safety every day.”

The group and others are recommending these visas be added to an expedited activation process for Afghan people most at risk, by creating a fast track program in State Department, and that U.S. officials actively pursue diplomacy to other countries as well to secure them, Reuters reported.

The White House declined to comment on the push to secure more visas for Afghan women’s rights advocates. President Joe Biden will speak Thursday afternoon about the U.S. military’s withdrawal, and is expected to mention women’s rights.

Women police officers, media workers, judges and medical workers have been assassinated in Afghanistan as foreign military left the country.

Women who appear on television and radio faced particular threats, Human Rights Watch wrote in April. “Female reporters may be targeted not only for issues they cover but also for challenging perceived social norms prohibiting women from being in a public role and working outside the home.”

Under the Taliban, women were barred from education or work, required to fully cover their bodies, and could not leave home without a male relative. “Moral offenses” were punished by flogging and stoning.

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Polio vaccination campaign rolls out in western Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

More than one million Afghan children are expected to be vaccinated over the next few days in the latest polio vaccination campaign that was launched in western Afghanistan on Sunday.

Officials said the campaign will run for four days and be conducted across four provinces in the western region.

Waheed Rahmani, head of the vaccination campaign, said that 1.1 million children under the age of five are expected to receive the polio drops, including 720,000 in Herat province.

He said that so far there are no obstacles in the way of rolling out the campaign.

Volunteers said that they hope to reach all the children who need to be vaccinated.

“I along with my team will work honestly to make Afghanistan free from polio virus,” said Fina Nezami, a volunteer.

“I hope that Afghanistan becomes polio-free and we are happy to go door to door for vaccinations,” said Yagana Nabizada, another volunteer.

Local health officials have assured the public that all areas will be covered by the campaign.

“We have not forgotten areas, and while planning vaccination programs, all the areas are reviewed and if any area is left out, it will be immediately covered,” said Mohammad Asif Kabir, provincial deputy health director.

Around 728,000 children received polio drops in the previous campaign in Herat. Around 5,000 volunteers are involved in the current campaign in Herat.

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China pledges over $7 million in aid for quake victims

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

China’s ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu met with Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and said his country would provide emergency aid worth 50 million Yuan ($7.5 million) for victims of last week’s earthquake. 

At a meeting on Saturday in Kabul, Wang also said that MCC Mes Aynak copper mining contractor would provide $200,000 in aid. 

Wang said on Twitter: “Chinese enterprises will definitely fulfill their social responsibilities. The friendship between 2 countries and peoples will be further strengthened.”

Muttaqi thanked the Chinese government and people for the timely assistance and assured Wang that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities would distribute the aid promptly, fairly and transparently, state-run Bakhtar news agency reported. 

Aid provided by China will include tents, sheets, fold up beds, and other items urgently needed by the Afghan people. The first batch of aid is scheduled to arrive by charter flight on Monday, Bakhtar reported.

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Thousands of earthquake victims in need of water and food, at risk of disease

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

Thousands affected by a deadly earthquake in eastern Afghanistan are in need of clean water and food and are at risk of disease, an Afghan Health Ministry official said on Sunday days after a United Nations agency warned of a cholera outbreak in the region.

At least 1,000 people were killed, 2,000 injured and 10,000 homes destroyed in last Wednesday’s earthquake, after which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that cholera outbreaks in the aftermath are of particular and serious concern.

“The people are extremely needy for food and clean water,” Afghanistan Health Ministry spokesperson Sharafat Zaman told Reuters, adding that officials had managed medicines for now but handling those who had lost their homes would be a challenge.

“We ask the international community, humanitarian organizations to help us for food and medicine, the survivor might catch diseases because they don’t have proper houses and shelters for living,” he said.

The UN and several countries have rushed aid to the affected areas, with more due to arrive over the coming days.

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