Connect with us

Latest News

UN relief chief urges G20 to step up support to avert crises in fragile countries

Ariana News

Published

 on

(Last Updated On: July 18, 2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession are set to trigger the first increase in global poverty in three decades, pushing 265 million people to the point of starvation by the end of the year, the UN’s top humanitarian official warned on Friday.

Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, called on the world’s leading industrial nations, the G20, to step up support, as he released an updated US$10.3 billion appeal to fight coronavirus spread in 63 low-income countries.

“The pandemic and associated global recession are about to wreak havoc in fragile and low-income countries”, he said.

“The response of wealthy nations so far has been grossly inadequate and dangerously short-sighted. Failure to act now will leave the free to circle round the globe, undo decades of development, and create a generation’s worth of tragic and exportable problems.”

“It doesn’t have to be like this – this is a problem that can be fixed with money from wealthy nations and fresh thinking from the shareholders of international financial institutions and supporters of UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and NGOs,” he said.

As of Thursday, there were more than 13 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, and nearly 580,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Lowcock fears that unless G20 countries act now, they will face a series of human tragedies more brutal and destructive than the direct health impacts of the pandemic.

“Rich countries have thrown out the rulebook when it comes to protecting their own economies. They must apply the same exceptional measures to countries that need help”, he declared.

“The prospect of cascading crises more brutal and destructive than anything the virus alone can do must jolt us all out of our comfort zone.”

UN agencies estimate that due to disruptions to health systems caused by the pandemic, some 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes, while annual deaths from HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, could double.

Meanwhile, humanitarians said the first confirmed case of the disease was reported in Idlib, Syria, last week, sparking fears of a devastating outbreak in crowded camps housing millions of people displaced by the country’s nearly decade-long conflict.

The COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan addresses the humanitarian impacts of the pandemic in 63 low- and middle-income countries and supports their efforts to combat it.

The plan prioritizes the world’s most vulnerable citizens, including older persons, people with disabilities, displaced people, and women and girls.

It was initially launched in late March, shortly after WHO declared the global pandemic.

While $1.7 billion has been raised since then, the update includes a supplementary $300 million, to bolster rapid response from NGOs, $500 million for famine prevention, and a sharper focus on preventing gender-based violence.

This comes after two Rome-based UN agencies sounded the alarm in a joint report published on Friday stating that hunger threatens to soar to devastating levels in 25 countries in the coming months due to the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned the greatest concentration of need is in Africa, but countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia – including middle-income nations – are also being ravaged by crippling levels of food insecurity.

WFP announced that it is scaling up food assistance to an unprecedented 138 million people who face desperate levels of hunger as COVID-19 tightens its grip on some of the world’s most fragile countries.

“Three months ago at the UN Security Council, I told world leaders that we ran the risk of a famine of biblical proportions”, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“Today, our latest data tell us that, since then, millions of the world’s very poorest families have been forced even closer to the abyss”, Beasley said.

“Livelihoods are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate and now their lives are in imminent danger from starvation”, he said.

“Make no mistake – if we do not act now to end this pandemic of human suffering, many people will die.”

Most of the 25 “hotspots” named in the report stretch from West Africa and across the Sahel (north Africa) to East Africa, including the Sahel, as well the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

It also identifies, in the Middle East, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen; in Asia, Bangladesh; and in Latin America and the Caribbean, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

Citing some examples, the report says that COVID-19 is compounding a raft of existing problems in South Sudan, making the prospect of famine loom ever larger in areas where inter-communal fighting makes humanitarian access tough or impossible.

In the Middle East, the pandemic is exacerbating Lebanon’s worst-ever economic crisis, where food insecurity is growing fast not only among citizens but also 1.5 million Syrians and other refugees.

Hardest hit in Latin America are more than five million Venezuelan migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in neighboring countries, the report says, adding that worsening economic conditions in host countries could well make matters worse.

According to WFP estimates, the number of people living in acute food insecurity in countries affected by conflict, disasters or economic crises could jump from 149 million before the pandemic took hold to 270 million by year’s end if assistance is not provided urgently.

Featured

Second group of Afghan Sikhs due to leave for India Wednesday

Ariana News

Published

on

(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

A group of as many as 180 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus are expected to leave Afghanistan for India on Wednesday. 

The Times of India reported Tuesday that the group will likely be relatives of the victims killed in the March temple attack in Kabul which claimed the lives of 25 Sikhs.

India’s Sikh community has pledged its help and has so far evacuated 11 Sikhs – the first of what could become hundreds. 

The first group left Kabul late last month and included Nidan Singh Sachdeva, who was abducted from a gurdwara in Paktia province in June.

Speaking to Singapore’s Straits Times, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said:  “We will do everything that we can to help the families out. We will help them with the education of their children.” 

Meanwhile, United Sikhs executive director Jagdeep Singh told the Times of India that their organization is assisting the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus wanting to leave with the necessary documents. 

He said United Sikhs had already finalized over 350 requests from Afghan Sikhs and Hindus to settle in India and they were working on the remainder. 

During the 1980s the Sikh and Hindu community numbered more than 80,000 but most left the country when the Soviet Union was ousted in 1992. 

Some returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban were ousted from power in the hope that things would improve. 

The Afghan government had encouraged their return but the community has faced vicious attacks claimed by Daesh during the past few years. Today, less than 700 live in their home country.

Continue Reading

Latest News

Ghani signs decree ordering release of final batch of 400 Taliban prisoners

Ariana News

Published

on

(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday afternoon signed a decree to release the final 400 prisoners which will now pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks.

The Presidential Palace (ARG) confirmed on Monday evening on Twitter that the decree had been signed at a ceremony attended by senior Afghan leaders.

Ghani said on Sunday, after the Loya Jirga’s resolution on the prisoner issue had been issued, that he would respect the decision of the Jirga and release the prisoners – some of whom have been accused of having masterminded some of the deadliest attacks in the country over the past 19 years.

In February, the US and the Taliban signed an agreement in Doha which was a conditions-based deal in order to start negotiations.

One of the conditions on the Taliban’s part was that the Afghan government release 5,000 of its members.

Ghani duly did so but held back on the final batch of 400 who were seen as hardcore Taliban militants.

However, in the interests of working for peace, this weekend’s peace Jirga delegates, made up of over 3,200 tribal elders, community leaders and politicians, from around the country, decided the inmates should be freed.

The Taliban has said for weeks that once these prisoners are released they will agree to meet with the Afghan peace negotiating team.

Earlier Monday, government stated that talks would likely start on Sunday in Doha between the two peace negotiating teams. The Afghan government’s team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday.

Early Monday, the Taliban’s spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Reuters: “We are ready to sit for talks within a week from when we see our prisoners released. We are ready.”

It was not however clear on Monday night when the prisoners would in fact be freed.

Continue Reading

Latest News

Afghan peace talks team expected to leave for Doha in two days

Ariana News

Published

on

(Last Updated On: August 10, 2020)

The Afghan government’s peace negotiations team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday for Doha, Qatar, for the start of intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.

Talks are expected to officially start on Sunday, Afghanistan’s national radio and television service RTA reported.

All members of the group that will travel to Doha, including members of the negotiating team and journalists, had COVID-19 tests done on Monday.

This was in line with international health measures to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Journalists were told they would travel with the team, which will be led by Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai.

Stanekzai and his team are expected to negotiate a comprehensive ceasefire in the first round of talks, a source who is part of the negotiations team told Ariana News adding that the first round of talks is expected to last 15 days.

However, Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban leader said Monday that more time was needed to overcome some challenges before talks could begin.

“The Taliban will enter the talks after the release of 400 prisoners, and it is not possible to hold the talks in the limited days; challenges are yet to be removed, and the real representatives of the nation must be included among the delegation, and the Taliban will announce a ceasefire process to build trust,” said Akbar Agha.

Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, a member of the negotiating team meanwhile stated: “The delegation has made all the preparations and we will sit with a specific agenda around the negotiating table with the Taliban; and the other side (the Taliban) should be ready as soon as possible to start the negotiations.”

This latest development comes just a day after the Loya Jirga, or grand council, approved the release of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners so as to kickstart peace talks.

Pledging to implement the Jirga’s decision, President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday he will sign the release order of the inmates.

On Monday morning, a source said Ghani would sign the decree later in the day in order to remove the final obstacle in the way of intra-Afghan negotiations.

This development comes after the February deal between the United States and the Taliban in Doha. This agreement called for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the withdrawal of US troops.

So far, there has been a drawdown of US troops, five American military bases have been handed over to the Afghan government and Ghani has released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners.

The last group of 400 prisoners had been a sticking point as the group had been deemed hardcore inmates responsible for some of the country’s worst attacks over the past 19 years.

Continue Reading

Trending