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Poverty is a multi-dimensional and historic issue in Afghanistan: Ghani

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(Last Updated On: September 25, 2020)

President Ghani says that the Covid-19 pandemic has plunged the world into turmoil, uncertainty, and unprecedented risk. 

Addressing a side event – Poverty at the Cross Road: Using leadership and the multidimensional poverty index to build back better – on the sideline of the 75th session of United Nation General Assembly on Thursday, Ghani said that the pandemic has exposed existing vulnerabilities and shortcomings in our systems and normal modes of conduct. 

“It wreaked havoc on lives and livelihoods, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged. It posed an unparalleled challenge to our scientific and technological capabilities, and an existential threat to our medical professionals who have been on the front lines of a war for which we were not prepared,” Ghani added. 

“The virus arrived in Afghanistan at the end of February in Herat province, on the border with Iran. The virus peaked in June with an infection rate of 76%. As of September 23, we had recorded 1,446 deaths from the virus. Today, with the virus on the decline, the infection rate is fluctuating daily between 6% and 25%.”

Ghani stated that poverty is one of the most pervasive and complex problems the Afghan people face today and the COVID-19 pandemic” made that even worse for many people.”

He added that the most pressing issue facing people living in poverty is food insecurity.

“In February, it looked challenging because country after country was closing its borders and its economies. We were fortunate, however, to secure the full cooperation of our central Asian neighbors to keep the supply chains functioning.”

Ghani highlighted that poverty is a multi-dimensional and historic issue in Afghanistan. He said it certainly did not start with COVID-19, “so our policy response must also be multi-faceted and must also look far beyond the pandemic.” 

President suggests the following priorities for responding to poverty in the country: 

First, we need to reach the poor as directly as possible. The Citizen’s Charter is the vehicle of our national community development programs, including the implementation of the National Meal Program. The Citizen’s Charter program is a network of elected community councils in all 34 provinces, where 50% of council members are women. 

We are determined to complete the issuance of electronic IDs to every citizen of the country so we can increase their access to mobile money. The goal is that within a year to 18 months, we will be able to reach the poor directly.

Second, we have to enhance our citizen’s assets. The key to this is increasing the productivity of land, labor, and water. 

Third, we must align the goals of the market building, state-building, and nation-building. The unifying element here is investing in education, particularly girls’ education and the generation that was denied an education because of 40 years of conflict. Hence the need for a human capital strategy that is tailored to specific contexts. 

Fourth, we must utilize our immense natural wealth, ranging from water, sun, and wind, for the generation of renewable energy, and we must tap into the equitable and efficient utilization of our estimated 1 trillion dollars worth of mineral wealth. 

Fifth and most importantly, we have to make peace and continue to build peace. We are a country in conflict, losing hundreds of our people every week. Reaching an inclusive peace is the fundamental step in addressing the far-reaching roots of poverty in Afghanistan. The pain inflicted on Afghan society has left scars on each of us as individuals, and on our nation’s collective consciousness.

MPI’s utility lies both in providing a solid basis for policy formation and monitoring of policy implementation. We have, therefore, decided that our National Statistics and Information Authority should use and update it regularly.  

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NATO Defence Ministers meet to address security challenges

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday evening that alliance defense ministers had taken “another important step” and agreed to establish a new NATO Space Center in Germany. 

Addressing an online press conference after the first day of the two-day defense minister’s meeting, Stoltenberg said the new center will “help to coordinate Allied space activities; support NATO missions and operations from space, including with communications and satellite imagery; and protect Allied space systems by sharing information about potential threats.”

He also said they had addressed Russia’s growing arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles and said the “challenge is serious, and growing in scale and complexity.”

A number of other issues were also addressed including that of new air and missile defense systems; strengthening NATO’s advanced conventional capabilities; and new fifth-generation fighter aircraft. 

Stoltenberg stated that ministers had also received a comprehensive report on the state of critical infrastructure, including ports and airports; supplies of fuel, food and medical equipment; and telecommunications, including 5G.

“While we have made progress, there are still vulnerabilities. For instance foreign control of the critical infrastructure upon which our societies and our militaries rely,” he said.

“Countries like China are investing aggressively in ports and airports, and our telecommunication networks remain vulnerable to attacks from the outside, and compromise from the inside.

“So we must continue to build up our resilience. And we have agreed that we will strengthen our resilience pledge when NATO leaders meet next year.”

On Friday, NATO’s training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq will be discussed.  

Addressing a pre-ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and supports the Afghan peace talks.

He also said however that: “The Taliban must live up to their commitments, significantly reduce the levels of violence, and pave the way for a ceasefire.” 

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UN to probe Takhar airstrike after locals claim children were killed

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Thursday night it was investigating an Afghan National Army (ANA) airstrike in Takhar province that reportedly killed 12 children. 

In a post on Twitter, the mission said: “UNAMA civilian protection team following up on allegations of ANA airstrike yesterday against Taliban in Takhar province killing 12 children, girls & boys, & injuring 18 other civilians.”

UNAMA also stated that the United Nations will issue findings when complete. 

This comes after local officials in Takhar said early Thursday morning a mosque had been targeted in an airstrike killing children and injuring many others, including the mosque’s imam. 

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh rejected the claims in a Facebook post later in the day and said Taliban members had been targeted and eliminated. 

“The news of the killing of children in a mosque in Takhar is baseless. Those who dragged our forces to dust and blood yesterday were destroyed, and we have undeniable proof,” Saleh wrote.

This came a day after the Taliban carried out a massive attack against Afghan security forces in the province, killing as many as 50 soldiers. 

Reuters reported that Abdul Qayoom Hayrat, head of the provincial health department in Takhar, said that 10 of the dead soldiers were members of the Afghan special forces.

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Brazilian volunteer in COVID-19 vaccine trial dies 

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2020)

Brazilian health authority Anvisa confirmed a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University had died but said the trial would continue.

Oxford confirmed the plan to keep testing, saying in a statement that after careful assessment “there have been no concerns about safety of the clinical trial,” Reuters reported.

A source told Reuters the trial would have been suspended if the volunteer who died had received the COVID-19 vaccine, suggesting the person was part of the control group that was given a meningitis vaccination.

The Federal University of Sao Paulo, which confirmed the volunteer was Brazilian, said a review committee had suggested the trial continue. 

The university is helping to coordinate phase 3 clinical trials in Brazil.

 

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