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Afghanistan’s 4 million IDPs need urgent support amid pandemic

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(Last Updated On: March 31, 2021)

Amnesty International has called on the Afghan government and the international community to step up assistance to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and provide urgent access to adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, and health.

“The Afghan government and the international community must urgently scale up efforts to support the country’s four million internally displaced people (IDPs), who have been left badly exposed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amnesty International in a new briefing published on Tuesday.

The briefing, “We survived the virus, but may not survive the hunger” looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Afghanistan’s internally displaced,and details how the pandemic has made an already dire situation for IDPs even more precarious.

Living in overcrowded conditions, with insufficient access to water, sanitation, and health facilities, IDPs have little or no means of protecting themselves from contracting, spreading, and recovering from COVID-19, Amnesty International said.

The briefing also addressed the dire conditions in camps and the inadequacy of aid efforts targeted at IDPs.

Camps are cramped, unsanitary and lack even the most basic medical facilities.

According to Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for South Asia, “Afghanistan’s four million displaced people live in conditions perfectly suited to the rapid transmission of a virus like COVID-19.

“The camps are cramped, unsanitary and lack even the most basic medical facilities. Despite this deadly combination, IDPs have been provided with precious little support to mitigate their situation,” said Hamidi.

“With the number of IDPs increasing daily due to ongoing conflict and the danger of a further wave of COVID infections still present, the Afghan government and international community must do more to protect IDPs.”

“Amnesty International is calling on the Afghan government and the international community to abide by their obligations to IDPs under international law, and allocate specific funding and resources targeted at IDPs to meet their urgent need to access adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, and health,” Amnesty International stated.

Amnesty International spoke to IDPs in settlements in Kabul, Herat and Nangarhar, and found in most cases basic services such as access to water and sanitation have not been provided, and with cramped living spaces, social distancing is not possible, leaving IDPs unable to maintain the hygiene required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Amnesty International also found that IDPs have not been provided with access to adequate medical facilities in the camps.

A 45-year-old woman living in a camp in Nangarhar said: “Most families had the signs of coronavirus, but they were not able to do any test to find out whether they were affected or not. At least seven people who were believed to have contracted coronavirus died in the settlement but again we could not verify due to lack of tests and access to health facilities”.

According to the IDPs interviewed by Amnesty International, there has not been any targeted assistance to women or children by government agencies or international humanitarian organizations during the lockdown.

An IDP in Nangarhar said: “We are living with nothing honestly, we don’t have work, we don’t have money and we don’t have anywhere to live. All I want from the Afghan government and the international community is to help us return to our own villages, help us to rebuild our lives, and live in dignity.”

“COVID-19 clearly presented an enormous challenge to the Afghan government. Though unintended, measures aimed at tackling the pandemic have had a disproportionately damaging impact on IDPs – the country’s most vulnerable group. Dedicated resources and greater support from the international community must be forthcoming to mitigate that impact to the furthest extent possible,” said Hamidi.

Escalating conflict in Afghanistan over the past year has resulted in a rise in the numbers being displaced, with thousands of new cases being registered each week.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, around 327,000 people were displaced in 2020, 80 percent of whom were women and children.

The Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan, which envisioned much improved living conditions for Afghans by 2021, remains severely under-funded, with only 23 percent of requirements having been funded as of 24 July 2020.

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IEA accuse Tajikistan of interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2021)

Tajikistan is interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting deputy head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Sunday.

“Tajikistan interferes in our affairs, for every action there is a reaction,” Baradar said in an interview with al Jazeera TV channel.

A day earlier, IEA spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter that the IEA had sent thousands of fighters to the Afghan province of Takhar, which borders Tajikistan. According to Mujahid, this was needed to counter security threats.

Earlier this month, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon suggested creating “a security belt” around Afghanistan to prevent the potential expansion of terrorist groups. Rahmon was speaking at a joint summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which was focused on the recent developments in Afghanistan.

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India’s Modi tells UNGA Afghanistan cannot be used to spread terrorism

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

At the United Nations General Assembly annual meeting Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was crucial that Afghanistan not be used to spread terrorism globally, and he called on world leaders to help minorities in the country, including women and children.

“It is important to ensure that the land of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and perpetuate terrorist attacks,” Modi said.

“We also have to be alert that no nation should be able to misuse the delicate situation in Afghanistan for their own selfish motives like a tool,” Modi added in an apparent reference to Pakistan, locked between Afghanistan and India.

His comments came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the international community to help the people of Afghanistan in a pre-recorded message to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

“There’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere if a destabilized, chaotic Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it for the sake of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that Afghanistan is on “the verge of a dramatic humanitarian disaster” and has decided to engage the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in order to help the country’s people.

Khan said Guterres had “taken bold steps. I urge you to mobilize the international community and move in this direction.”

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UN agency warns of ‘imminent’ famine in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

Afghanistan is at risk of “imminent hunger” with winter approaching and services disrupted by the return to power of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), a UN official warned in an interview with AFP.

Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said via video that the situation in the country was dire.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say” that at least a third of Afghanistan’s population of around 33 million is affected by “imminent hunger,” Kanem warned.

Harsh winters, disrupting the ability to transport supplies to isolated areas of the mountainous country, plus the coronavirus pandemic will aggravate an already complicated situation, she added.

“There is a lot of anxiety over how we’re going to deliver health care, where the next meal is going to come from,” Kanem said.

She also warned that women and girls would bear the worst of it.

“It is urgent, for women and girls in particular who were already suffering. This is one of the countries with the highest death during childbirth and pregnancy rates.

“We cannot underscore enough that even during a transitional period, women and girls have human rights and these are to be respected,” she said.

Kanem repeated calls made by the international community to the IEA and said: “The women of Afghanistan have made clear over years that they want their education, they want their health care, and that they’re also ready, willing and able to design programs and to be able to lead in their communities,” she said.

IEA leaders have assured the international community that they are more moderate than when they ruled previously.

They have promised to change, saying they will respect women’s rights within the framework of Sharia law.

Kanem pointed out that in a country ravaged by decades of conflict, many women, particularly in areas most affected by violence, are the sole breadwinners.

“We’re all anxiously hoping that there will be regularity and ability of delivery of goods” to people in small communities where many of the UNPFA’s staff are women, she said.

“We have said that we want to be able to maintain a functioning health system.

“(It’s) pretty challenging right now with the airport having been closed, with certain professionals who have left the country,” Kanem added.

She warned that if the health system breaks down, that’s going to spell “complete disaster,” but added that for the most part the agency’s family health centers have remained open.

The UN on Wednesday released $45 million in emergency aid to support Afghanistan’s health system.

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