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20 children die in Balkh amid surge in pneumonia cases

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2021)

More than 20 children in Balkh province died from pneumonia last month, which provincial health officials attribute to the extremely cold weather.

Officials noted a marked increase in pneumonia cases among children this winter, stating that 326 had been hospitalized in December.

“1,679 children were hospitalized in Qaws (December 2020) of which 326 patients suffered from pneumonia; that shows a 20 percent increase in cases,” said Nawroz Seberi, the head of the Children’s Department of the Balkh Public Health Directorate.

Late last month, Save the Children warned that more than 300,000 Afghan children face freezing winter conditions that could lead to illness, in the worst case death, without proper winter clothing and heating.

The organization’s country director in Afghanistan, Chris Nyamandi, said in a statement that while schools are closed until March in the coldest parts of the country, this is a serious blow because often the classroom is the only source of warmth for children during winter – where temperatures can plummet to below minus 27 degrees Celsius in parts of the country.

“The situation is bleak for children forced to live in camps in places like Balkh province. It is already very cold in this northern province with overnight temperatures as low as minus ten. But it will get much colder before March,” said Nyamandi last month.

“Here, and in camps in other parts of Afghanistan, plastic sheeting and the clothes they wear are often all that separates them from the freezing temperatures.

“For thousands of children the Afghan winter is a time of grim survival,” he added.

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Pakistan wants political solution to Afghanistan issue: Qureshi

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday that the establishment of peace in Afghanistan is essential for peace in Pakistan and the entire region.

Qureshi said this during discussions with the President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Representative Muhammad Umar Daudzai who arrived in Islamabad on Thursday.

During the meeting, Afghan peace talks, the regional situation and matters of mutual interest were discussed.

Qureshi said Pakistan wants a political solution to the Afghanistan issue through a comprehensive dialogue process.

He said Pakistan sees the process as a shared responsibility and will continue to play a conciliatory role.

“Pakistan has deep concerns over the increase of violence in Afghanistan,” Qureshi said.

Expressing concern over the high levels of violence, Qureshi emphasized the need for all parties to play a positive role in furthering the process of negotiations while reducing the levels of violence.

Qureshi said after the restoration of peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan will continue its role in helping to rebuild and develop the war-torn country.

Daudzai thanked Pakistan for its efforts in the peace process.

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Thousands of Afghans fleeing the country daily: Ministry

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations said Thursday that everyday about one thousand Afghan citizens leave the country illegally.

Ministry officials attributed this to poverty, unemployment and insecurity for most Afghan citizens, especially young people.

“About a thousand people migrate daily through Herat and Nimroz illegally, and then about a thousand return, and this migration and return is due to the economic situation or getting work,” said Reza Bahir, the ministry’s spokesman.

Insecurity and poverty are becoming more and more prevalent among the people of Afghanistan, so most of the country’s citizens, especially the youth, are migrating illegally to other countries by tackling difficult and even treacherous asylum routes, officials said.

Issa Mohammad, who wants to immigrate to Iran illegally through Nimroz province due to insecurity and unemployment, says the lack of work and the escalation of violence in the country has caused him to risk his life and leave his homeland.

“I am going to Iran illegally, it has problems. A few days ago, our friends were wounded and killed on the way,” said Issa.

Estimates currently indicate at least 6.7 million Afghans are currently refugees or asylum seekers around the world. Of this, three million are in Iran, two million are in Pakistan, 790,000 in Europe and 500,000 have applied for asylum in Australia.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice says that the United States will impose sanctions on Afghanistan if human trafficking is not stopped abroad.

“Efforts are underway to curb human trafficking and illegal migration so that migration can take place within a defined framework,” said Aman Reyazat, the ministry’s spokesman.
With the new solar year, in April, approaching, concerns have been raised that a large wave of Afghans will leave the country during this period over rising fears of violence.

The Afghan passport office meanwhile confirmed an increase in applications and stated it is currently issuing around 5,000 passports a day.

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US blames Taliban for high level of violence in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

US Central Command chief, General Kenneth F. McKenzie on Thursday said the United States and NATO’s decision to withdraw troops will depend on conditions on the ground.

McKenzie also said that US and NATO in Afghanistan continue to support a negotiated settlement as the best possible outcome between the government and the Taliban going forward.

Speaking at a virtual Beirut Institute summit McKenzie said that the US still continues to see levels of violence that are way too high.

“I place a large measure of the blame on the Taliban who have continued to mount offensive operations and targeted killings of Afghan officials but the excessive violence has led the government to launch their own defensive operations to protect themselves – the violence while too high on both sides,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie also stressed that there is no sign that the Taliban had severed ties with al-Qaeda.

“In my clear judgment rests largely on the Taliban; we also continue to … look for signs of a Taliban break with al-Qaeda and I have not at this point seen any definitive signs that would lead to believe they’re prepared to or able to honor their obligations,” McKenzie added.

Meanwhile, a member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan said the path to peace in Afghanistan is difficult because the Taliban have always relied on war and violence and see it as an effective way to gain power.

“Taliban strategy is still focused on war, targeted killings and assassinations take place in cities as part of the same strategy,” said Amin Ahmadi, member of the Republic’s negotiating team.

On the other hand the German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported Thursday that the new draft mandate still needs the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

“The people of Afghanistan and the government are committed to peace, only those who are not committed to peace are fighting, the Taliban want to come to power through explosions and suicide,” said Shah Mahmood Miakhil, defense deputy minister.

However, the Interior Minister said the only way left for the Taliban is peace, otherwise they will be suppressed.

“The only way left for the Taliban is to make peace, otherwise they will be suppressed everywhere in the country,” said Massoud Andarabi, the interior minister.

Although talks between Afghans have resumed over the last three days, no results have been achieved so far.

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