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Attacks on healthcare sector a matter of grave concern: UN Report

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2020)

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Sunday issued a report stating it was gravely concerned by recent deliberate attacks on healthcare personnel and facilities, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new special report, released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), details findings of its monitoring of all incidents of the armed conflict affecting healthcare from 11 March, the date the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a global pandemic, to 23 May, the start of a three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The report titled “Attacks on Healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic,” documents the harm to healthcare workers, damage to healthcare facilities and other ways in which parties to the conflict have “interfered” with necessary healthcare, both as a result of targeted attacks as well as from ongoing fighting, a statement issued Sunday by UNAMA read.

 

According to UNAMA, they had already raised concerns about such incidents in their report for the first quarter of 2020.

“Since then, the situation deteriorated: the Taliban continued abducting healthcare workers and attacked a pharmacy; the Afghan national security forces carried out deliberate acts of violence and intimidation affecting a healthcare facility, workers and the delivery of medical supplies; and unknown gunmen perpetrated an attack on a maternity ward in a hospital in Kabul, resulting in dozens of civilian casualties,” the statement read.

Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, meanwhile said: “At a time when an urgent humanitarian response was required to protect every life in Afghanistan, both the Taliban and Afghan national security forces carried out deliberate acts of violence that undermined healthcare operations.”

“There is no excuse for such actions; the safety and well-being of the civilian population must be a priority,” she said.

The report documents 15 incidents affecting healthcare provision, where 12 were deliberate attacks, and the remaining incidents involved incidental harm.

UNAMA said most of these healthcare-related incidents – eight of the targeted attacks and two of the incidents with incidental harm – were attributed to the Taliban but added Afghan national security forces were responsible for three targeted attacks against healthcare.

“One instance of incidental harm to healthcare occurred in the context of clashes between Afghan national security forces and the Taliban. The most abhorrent attack, on a maternity ward in a Kabul hospital, remains unattributed,” the statement read.

The report emphasized that deliberate acts of violence against healthcare facilities, including hospitals and related personnel, are prohibited under international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes.

“Perpetrating targeted attacks on healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when health resources are already stretched and of critical importance to the civilian population, is particularly reprehensible,” said Fiona Frazer, UNAMA Chief of Human Rights.

The report also stated that the harm caused by attacks on healthcare, particularly during a health pandemic, extends well beyond the direct victims of those incidents and stressed that even with ongoing conflict, the people of Afghanistan have the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health under international human rights law.

The UN stated that it condemns all deliberate attacks, threats, abductions, and other intentional acts against healthcare facilities and personnel, as outlined in the report.

“In a situation in which the entire population in Afghanistan is at risk from COVID-19, there can be no greater priority than ensuring that health services can continue to operate without interference, interruption, and with sufficient resources,” the organization stated.

The UN also reiterated calls to all parties to heed the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire so all attention and resources can be directed toward fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent further harm being caused to the people of Afghanistan.

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Abdullah introduces list of cabinet nominees to Presidential Palace

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Abdullah Abdullah, the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation has introduced a list of cabinet nominees to the Presidential Palace.

Sources close to Abdullah, however, say that there are still differences over the proposed list between Abdullah front-rows over seat distribution.

Figures listed as candidates for the designated-ministers; Massoud Andarabi for the Ministry of Interior Affairs, Fazl Ahmad Manavi for Ministry of Justice, Anwar al-Haq Ahadi for Ministry of Agriculture, Noor Rahman Akhlaqi for Ministry of Immigration, Mohebullah Samim for Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs, Mostafa Mastoor for Ministry of Peace, Masoumah Khavari for Ministry of Communications, Nisar Ahmad Ghoriani for Ministry of Commerce, Mansour Saadat Naderi for Ministry of Economy, Bashir Ahmad Tahianj for Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Kanishka Turkestani for Ministry of Higher Education, Abbas Basir for Ministry of Transport and Najib Agha Fahim, Candidate for Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled.

The list of ministerial nominees for Abdullah Abdullah’s share, however, has clashed within his party members.

Sources close to Abdullah say that the National Movement Party wants three ministries from Abdullah’s share and does not agree with this list.

According to sources, the National Movement has nominated Bashir Ahmad Tahianj for the Ministry of Agriculture, Qudratullah Zaki for the Ministry of Transportation and Kanishka Turkestani for the Ministry of Immigration.

But some other figures close to Abdullah deny the disagreements within the group.

On the other hand, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance says that 11 new provincial governors have been nominated by the president so far and that this process will continue. Abdullah Abdullah, according to the power-sharing agreement between him and Ghani, can introduce 50% of the Afghan cabinet members.

Arg and Sapidar Palace have not officially commented on the matter.

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Afghanistan customs revenue lost to ’embezzlement’

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Although taxpayers pay customs duties at the Afghan customs, not all of the revenue being collected in the Afghan government’s account, local officials said.

The ports of Torkham in Nangarhar, Islam Qala in Herat, Hairatan in Balkh, Aqina in Faryab, Spin Boldak in Kandahar, Shirkhan Bandar in Kunduz, Angur Ada in Paktika and several other ports in the north and south of the country have witnessed widespread corruption.

In these ports, although custom fees are paid by taxpayers, little money is raised in government reserves, most of the ports are said to be in the hands of gunmen and the powerful.

Local officials in the provinces where the ports are located say that corruption in customs has recently peaked.

On the other hand, the Integrity Watch of Afghanistan criticizes the lack of administrative reforms, adding that unreasonable appointments have increased corruption in the country’s customs and that the government has not yet taken any steps to reform the process. According to the head of the institution, the current situation has led to organized corruption in customs.

The Ministry of Finance also promises to bring transparency to the country’s customs.

Finance Ministry spokesman Shamrooz Khan Masjidi said customs revenues are being closely monitored to prevent corruption.

Earlier, the governor of Herat said that Islam Qala’s revenue was being looted by mafia gangs and the warlords. According to economists, this is the case in most of the country’s customs.

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COVID-19

Afghanistan witnesses decline in Coronavirus cases: MoPH

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

Jawad Osmani, Acting Minister of the Public Health, says the number of people infected with the Coronavirus decreased to halve compared to a month and a half ago. 

Coronavirus has declined in Afghanistan; as the Acting Minister of Public Health himself has removed the medical mask from his face at the press conference and used a home mask instead. 

Javad Osmani said: “Compared to two months ago, the infected patients to the virus decreased by 30 percent. If the Coronavirus patients do not reach less than 5%, the situation will not get back to normal.”

On the other hand, the Anti-Corona Emergency Committee warns that as of today, 15 moving teams are inspecting restaurants, cafes, and parks, and if they do not follow the health recommendations, they will be fined first and then they will be banned.

“Today we have sent 15 moving teams to the city to fine and block restaurants and cafes that have started arbitrarily, and this time nothing is acceptable,” said Mohammad Yaqub Haidari, Kabul’s governor.

Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs said that those citizens who remain out of the Hajj shift this year will be able to perform the Hajj next year while maintaining the same shift.

Officials at the Ministry of Public Health say that researchers have found that the Coronavirus can spread through the air. They warn people if they do not avoid unnecessary patrols and commute on Eid al-Adha, they will see the second wave of coronavirus.

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