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Afghan female doctor wins Nansen refugee award

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(Last Updated On: October 1, 2021)

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced on Wednesday that a 29-year-old Afghan refugee doctor, serving local communities and refugees in Pakistan, has won this year’s regional Nansen Refugee Award in the Asian region.

UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award has been given to Dr Saleema Rehman in recognition of her outstanding service and commitment to Pakistanis and refugees in the country.

It also acknowledges her contributions as a refugee to Pakistan, particularly the unwavering dedication towards her patients during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The award highlights the powerful example that Dr Rehman has set for other Afghan refugee women and girls, the UNHCR said.

“Access to education is very important in our lives. Investing in the education of a woman is an investment in a whole next generation,” Dr Rehman said at a ceremony held in her honour at the Swiss Embassy in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Her father, Abdul, swore to himself that if the infant lived, he would make sure that he or she received an education and became a doctor, read UNHCR statement.

He stayed true to that promise and supported his daughter through years of schooling, despite facing criticism from his own community. Many among them frowned upon the idea of a girl having aspirations outside the home and marriage.

“In the early days, I was often the only girl on school benches,” recalls Saleema. “I remember how my community disapproved of my father’s decision to send a girl to school. That’s when I began to understand how important it was to make something of myself, set an example and dare young girls in my community to dream.”

Saleema fulfilled her own lifelong dream earlier this year when she opened a private clinic in Attock in order to serve refugee and local women who struggle to access affordable health care.

Ambassador of Switzerland Benedict de Cerjat and Charge d’Affaires of Norway Elin Kylvåg presented the award to Dr Rehman.

According to the UNHCR statement in 2020, the last year of Saleema’s training as a gynecologist, Holy Family Hospital was declared a COVID-19 response hospital, and she found herself on the frontlines of the pandemic, treating women with the virus who were giving birth. Many of her patients were refugees and locals who had contracted the virus because they relied on daily wage work outside the home and could not afford to isolate.

The Swiss ambassador described her as an inspirational young Afghan woman. “She is a bright example on how valuable it is for the international community to support countries hosting refugees with inclusive policies like Pakistan.”

Chief Commissioner for Afghan Refugees Saleem Khan welcomed the award for Dr Rehman and said “we feel proud of Dr Rehman. She’s a wonderful example of her community. Pakistan can take pride in producing such a fine doctor — countless young Afghans have benefited from Pakistan’s progressive policies”.

The UNHCR representative in Pakistan and other dignitaries representing a range of countries and organisations attended the ceremony.

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Nangarhar residents get essential food aid from Bayat Foundation

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2021)

Afghan charity organization, the Bayat Foundation, has distributed food supplies to hundreds of deserving families in eastern Nangarhar province as part of their ongoing campaign to help reach as many people as possible.

The food parcels that include flour, rice, and cooking oil, were donated to families who had been displaced due to poverty and conflict in the province.

Bayat Foundation officials stated they had so far distributed essential food supplies to vulnerable people in Ghazni, Kunduz, Kandahar, Bamiyan, Herat, Balkh, and Khost provinces.

Every year the foundation provides needy families with essential food supplies ahead of Afghanistan’s harsh winters. This year, more people are being reached in different provinces due to the current humanitarian crisis gripping the country.

Haji Mohammad Ismail, Deputy Head of the Bayat Foundation, said: “Through its continued winter aid program, that the Bayat Foundation distributes every year, the assistance is now fortunately being distributed to other provinces.”

He said: “Today we came to Jalalabad city in Nangarhar province to distribute food supplies including flour, rice, and oil to a number of deserving people that were identified by the Bayat Foundation’s team in Nangarhar.”

The foundation stated it will continue its winter aid campaign, adding that further assistance will be sent to desperate families in other provinces.

Grateful recipients of the food aid and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials thanked the Bayat Foundation for their initiative and called on other charity organizations to step in to help at-risk families during the winter season.

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IEA welcomes Jakarta’s move to consider reopening Kabul embassy

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has welcomed Indonesia’s move to consider reopening its embassy in Kabul after withdrawing all staff in August.

On Tuesday, an Indonesian foreign ministry official said Jakarta may soon reopen its embassy in Kabul and initiate “constructive engagement” with the IEA.

Hamdullah Wasiq, the IEA’s deputy spokesman on Wednesday said: “We welcome the move by the Indonesian government, which will further strengthen the positive relations between the two countries.”

The Indonesian mission in Afghanistan has been run by its embassy in Pakistan since the chaotic withdrawal of the US military and the collapse of the former government, the Jakarta Globe reported.

“Our goal is to conduct constructive engagement, primarily in the context of humanitarian assistance, including assistance for women, academic scholarship, et cetera,” said Abdul Kadir Jailani, the ministry’s director-general for Asia, the Pacific, and Africa affairs.

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UNICEF launches historic $2 billion appeal to save the lives of millions of Afghans

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2021)

UNICEF launched its largest ever single-country appeal on Tuesday to urgently respond to the humanitarian needs of over 24 million people in Afghanistan, half of whom are children.

UNICEF said in a statement issued Tuesday that the appeal for US$2 billion will help to avert the imminent collapse of health, nutrition, WASH, education and other vital social services for children and families.

This comes amid a continuing humanitarian crisis. According to UNICEF there are alarming disruptions in health and nutrition services, a disastrous food crisis, drought, outbreaks of measles, acute watery diarrhea, polio and other preventable diseases, as well as the crippling onset of winter.

“The current humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is dire, especially for children. Winter has already set in and, without additional funding, UNICEF and partners will be unable to reach the children and families that need us the most,” said Alice Akunga, UNICEF Afghanistan Representative.

“As families struggle to put nutritious food on the table and health systems are further strained, millions of Afghan children are at risk of starvation and death. Others struggle to access water and sanitation, are cut off from their schools and at heightened risk of violence. As the desperation of families and children increases, UNICEF is doing everything possible to save and protect children,” she said.

UNICEF estimates that 1 in 2 children under five will be acutely malnourished and that outbreaks of life-threatening diseases continue, with over 60,000 cases of measles reported in 2021.

An estimated 8 of 10 Afghans drink bacteriologically contaminated water and 10 million children are at risk of dropping out of school if teacher salaries are not paid and crippling poverty levels continue.

According to UNICEF, the organization will prioritize life-saving interventions to treat children and provide other vital services.

UNICEF plans to use the funds to scale up services to treat one million children with severe acute malnutrition; vaccinate 10.5 million children against measles; provide safe water to 11.5 million people; and ensure that 7.5 million children are accessing education. The organization will also expand the use of humanitarian cash transfers to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable families and children.

“UNICEF is strongly urging donors to support Afghanistan’s children through its humanitarian appeal,” added Akunga.

“We need to call to mind our common humanity and do everything it takes to keep children alive, well-fed, safe and learning. It won’t be easy but with the lives and wellbeing of so many children at stake, we must rise to the challenge. We appeal to the international community to stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, so that the children of Afghanistan can have the life and future that is their right.”

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