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Ghani addresses special UN session on fight against COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2020)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday evening addressed the Special Session of the UN General Assembly in Response to the Coronavirus Disease COVID-19 Pandemic and said government moved quickly to contain the virus after the first case was reported in Herat in February.

“The COVID 19 pandemic came to Afghanistan at the end of February via Herat province, which shares a border with Iran.

“We moved quickly in anticipation that the virus would hit us hard. After analysis and consultation with diverse groups across Afghan society, we planned the response to the pandemic according to five phases of the crisis—acknowledgement, diffusion, adversity, relief and recovery,” Ghani said adding that the virus peaked in June.

He said that because of Afghanistan’s quick response, the country managed to maintain relatively low mortality rates. “We managed our response to not jeopardize livelihoods in the long-term or increase already high levels of poverty and food insecurity.”

He said Afghanistan had learned a number of lessons through this – firstly that “the vast scale of the disruptive and destructive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is becoming clearer by the day.”

He said short-term impacts were seen almost immediately which included the loss of lives, the loss of jobs, and the downturn in the economy.

“But the medium to long-term impacts, we have not yet fully grasped. So, while we cope with the immediate impact, we need to look ahead and prepare for the long-term effects,” he said.

The second lesson learned was that the impact of the pandemic has been global and that while the response has been mostly national, “we have been unable, as an international community, to fully take advantage of the interconnected nature of our work to combat the disease.”

He pointed out that the world had an opportunity to respond to the pandemic with a level of unity and solidarity but instead countries experienced divisions.

He said a global focal point would have made the response more effective and coordinated, and global resources should have been mobilized on a larger scale.

The third lesson learned was that the pandemic has not been a leveler as expected; but instead, it has exacerbated existing gaps and inequalities across developed and developing nations.

“Countries in special situations have been especially hard hit. For example, we as a poor country, like many others around the globe, were not able to design and implement effective stimulus packages.

“We also had to be very careful in instituting lockdowns to avoid inflicting serious damage on our economy and peoples’ livelihoods, which could have inflicted more suffering than the virus itself,” he said.

Ghani also pointed out that this will continue even once a vaccine becomes available, because administering a vaccine requires capabilities and infrastructure that poor countries do not have.

“The role of multilateral organizations in the joint distribution of the vaccine will be critical. Our call for the vaccine to be a global public good must be loud and clear.” he said.

Ghani also said that Afghanistan is now facing its second wave and with little understanding of how cold weather will affect the nature of the pandemic.

He said he hopes that the international community will be able to draw from the lessons learned through this second wave and that a clear, phased approach needs to be designed and replicated nationally, regionally and globally.

He did say that the world is in a better position now to plan to ensure food security and basic human security in the face of subsequent waves.

“We must make sure that supply chains that were disrupted during the first wave are either restored or alternatives put in place to ensure basic needs are met.”

He also said the pandemic has transformed the way the world does business and the way everyone now lives.

“But it’s not all negative. COVID pushed the digitalization of the world at a speed that was inconceivable. And moving into subsequent waves of the pandemic, we need to embrace digital technology to further a global dialogue around policy, accessing and distributing the vaccine. To take advantage of these technologies, more must, however, be done to address the digital divide.”

“We will not be able to return to our pre-pandemic ways of communicating and governing. The pandemic opened up new possibilities for coordination and cooperation; for example, tele-medicine and distance learning. We need to embrace this change.”

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Two police personnel killed in targeted explosion in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: January 16, 2021)

At least two Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel were killed in an early morning IED explosion in Kabul on Saturday. 

According to police the explosion happened in PD3 in Dehbore square area of Kabul. 

Police said a Land Cruiser, belonging to Kabul Police Headquarters, had been targeted in the IED explosion. 

One other ANP member was wounded in the explosion. 

So far no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

This comes after a marked increase in targeted killings across the country – specifically against public figures, government workers, journalists and civil society members.

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12 local police killed in Taliban attack in Herat

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(Last Updated On: January 16, 2021)

At least 12 members of Afghan local police were killed in an attack by Taliban “infiltrators” in Herat province, local officials confirmed Saturday.

Herat police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walidaza said the incident occurred on Friday night in Ghorian district.

According to Walizada a delegation has arrived in the area to investigate the incident.

So far the Taliban has not commented.

Earlier sources in Herat province said three Taliban infiltrators killed at least 12 members of the local uprising forces, took their weapons, ammunition and fled the area.

Sources added that Taliban infiltrators had joined the force three nights ago.

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Parliament rejects draft budget for second time

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(Last Updated On: January 16, 2021)

Members of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) have rejected the proposed budget for the new fiscal year 1400 for the second time.

MPs said the second draft budget is also unbalanced and still does not address the issue of equal pay for government employees.

MPs said they will not approve the budget until the money has been allocated appropriately and that demands of the parliament regarding the equalizing of salaries are taken into account.

They said that the government also added two more articles to the draft budget which were not acceptable to them. 

MPs first rejected the draft budget on December 30 citing “serious problems” which they said hinged on the disproportionate allocation of money to projects and emergency codes. 

The draft budget was approved by the cabinet in November following adjustments in the Public Finance and Expenditure Management Regulation, a draft plan of hydrocarbons regulation; draft statute of Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (the Afghan power company); and the draft law on cadastre.

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