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Afghanistan on ‘countdown to catastrophe’ as winter looms

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The combined shocks of drought, conflict, COVID-19 and an economic crisis in Afghanistan, have left more than half the population facing a record level of acute hunger, according to a new UN assessment published on Monday.

The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), revealed that the lives, livelihoods and access to food for 22.8 million people will be severely impacted.

“It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to speed up and scale up our delivery in Afghanistan before winter cuts off a large part of the country, with millions of people – including farmers, women, young children and the elderly – going hungry in the freezing winter”, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “It is a matter of life or death”.

According to the report, more than one-in-two Afghans will face Phase 3 crisis or Phase 4 emergency levels of acute food insecurity from November through to March (winter) and will require an urgent international response to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

“We cannot wait and see humanitarian disasters unfolding in front of us – it is unacceptable”, he added.

This is the highest number of acutely food insecure people ever recorded by the UN, during 10 years of conducting IPC analyses in Afghanistan.

And globally, the country is home to one of the largest number of people facing acute hunger.

“Hunger is rising and children are dying”, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“We can’t feed people on promises – funding commitments must turn into hard cash, and the international community must come together to address this crisis, which is fast spinning out of control”.

Among those at risk are 3.2 million children under five, who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.

Last month, WFP and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that without immediate life-saving treatment, one million children risked dying from severe acute malnutrition.

And for the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities.

“Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst – and food security has all but collapsed”, said the WFP chief.

“This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance, and unless the economy can be resuscitated”.

To meet rising needs, the UN will need to mobilize resources at unprecedented levels, yet the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan remains only a third funded.

“We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands”, Beasley said.

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Turkish, US foreign ministers hold bilaterals on NATO summit sidelines

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his US counterpart Antony Blinken met on the sidelines of NATO summit in Latvian capital Riga on Wednesday Two foreign ministers held bilateral talks at the Atta Center, where the NATO Foreign Ministers summit was underway.

Before the meeting, Cavusoglu said Turkey is in contact with Ukraine and Russia to ease tensions, adding that sanctions on Moscow will not solve the crisis.

Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow has massed forces on the border with Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists who control part of its territory to the east, and Kyiv on Wednesday urged NATO to prepare sanctions on Russia.

Cavusoglu and Blinken were expected to discuss latest developments in the region, including Ukraine, Libya and Afghanistan.

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Three Russian aircraft with humanitarian aid arrive in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

Three Russian aircraft landed in Kabul on Wednesday carrying 36 tonnes of humanitarian aid, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

All three Russian Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft, involved in delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan would also evacuate Russian citizens, as well as citizens of the Collective Security Treaty Organization member states, Russia’s Defense Ministry, said in a statement.

“Some three Ilyushin Il-76 strategic airlifters of the Russian Defense Ministry have delivered humanitarian aid to the Kabul airport and are boarding evacuees for departure from Afghanistan,” the statement read.

A total of over 380 Russians, citizens of the CSTO member states (mainly Kyrgyzstan), and Afghan students from Russian universities will fly out on the departing planes, the ministry said.

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India considers re-opening mission in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

As countries slowly start reopening their embassies in Kabul, India is also reportedly considering the possibility of re-staffing its mission in Afghanistan.

So far, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan all have a diplomatic presence in the country.

Japan and the EU have also discussed the possibility of returning to Afghanistan.

One senior Indian official told The Hindu on Wednesday that “establishing a presence in Afghanistan has nothing to do with recognition [of the IEA government]. It simply means that you would like to have people on the ground dealing with the new regime, to continue engagement with the people.”

He said the Modi government is not convinced about the need to re-open its mission, but that discussions are continuing on what India’s strategy should be, The Hindu reported.

At present, the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which was evacuated within two days of the IEA talking control, is intact and being guarded by IEA forces.

While calls from within the country to reopen grow, officials told The Hindu that much depends on what India’s other partners and friendly countries choose to do.

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