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UNICEF to directly fund Afghan teachers, bypassing IEA authorities

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(Last Updated On: November 4, 2021)

The United Nations children’s agency said it was planning to set up a system to directly fund Afghan teachers, after the international community placed a freeze on funding to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan-led administration, Reuters reported.

“UNICEF is setting up a system that will allow direct payments to teachers without the funds being channelled through the de facto authorities,” Jeannette Vogelaar, UNICEF Afghanistan’s Chief of Education, told Reuters in an email.

In preparation, she said, UNICEF would begin registering all public school teachers, Reuters reported.

“The best way to support the education of girls in Afghanistan is to continue supporting their schools and teachers. UNICEF is calling upon donors not to let Afghanistan’s children down,” Vogelaar added.

Afghanistan’s public services, in particular health and education, have been plunged into crisis since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] took over the country on Aug. 15.

According to the report many foreign governments have placed a ban on funding outside of humanitarian aid that is channelled through multilateral agencies.

That has generally been limited to urgent supplies such as wheat and blankets, leaving public service workers including teachers without pay for months. Billions of dollars in Afghan central bank funds held overseas have also been frozen.

The international community has raised alarm that the IEA might restrict female education, and high schools for girls in many parts of the country have remained closed even while those for boys have been allowed to open, Reuters reported.

An IEA official told Reuters this week there would be “good news” soon on older girls being allowed to go back to school, and that they were working with UNICEF and other international organisations on the issue.

“We are working especially with UNICEF and some other international organisations … to come up with a good solution … we have meetings on a daily basis,” said Waheedullah Hashimi, Director of External Programmes and Aid at Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education.

“We have a problem that economically we are not good … that is why we are requesting the international community, international organisations, especially those who have funds for emergency situations, to help us in this regard,” he added.

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Putin discusses Afghanistan with Modi in Delhi

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Monday, with trade and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan both on the agenda.

“The fight against terrorism is also a fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” Putin said in introductory remarks broadcast by Indian media.

“In that regard, we are concerned about developments of the situation in Afghanistan,” he said.

The visit by Putin and several top Russian officials comes amid increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States, also a key Indian ally.

Earlier on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a deal to supply India with S-400 air defense missile systems was being implemented despite what he said were U.S. efforts to undermine the accord.

India and Russia are expected to cement several trade and defense pacts at the summit.

“The relation between India and Russia is truly a unique and reliable model,” Modi said.

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COVID-19: Afghan officials warn of possible fourth wave

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Officials at the Afghan-Japan hospital in Kabul on Monday warned that another surge in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan was expected after 620 new cases were reported in the past three weeks.

They said that 350 people out of the 620 have been hospitalized.

According to doctors, 10 people have died of the virus in this time.

“The problem is the lack of salaries and lack of equipment. If the virus comes from neighboring countries, we will face a major crisis,” said Tariq Ahmad Akbari, head of the Afghan-Japan hospital.
Sources have also said laboratory screening is being done privately due to the lack of supplies in hospitals.

“We do some of the [laboratory] tests outside that cost 1,600 [AFG]. We are happy with the staff at the Afghan-Japan hospital. Treatment is good here,” said Tajudin, a relative of one of the patients.

The Ministry of Public Health meanwhile said that they do not have the capacity to tackle a fourth wave of COVID-19.

“After the Islamic Emirate takeover, there have been problems. The World Bank supported the hospital financially. Because of this we don’t have the budget for Coronavirus and health staff and patients are facing problems,” said Dr Abdul Bari Omar, deputy minister of public health.

Some concerned citizens have however voiced concern about people not wearing masks in public and breaking social distancing rules.

Public awareness campaigns have also stopped.

This comes after a new variant of COVID-19 was detected in South Africa last month.

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Afghans urge IEA to preserve historical sites

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Afghans have called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to help preserve the country’s rich heritage of historical sites which they say could attract thousands of foreign tourists a year.

Dozens of historical sites are dotted around the country, including the famous Bamiyan Buddha niches. However, many of these have fallen into disrepair after years of conflict.

One local tourist, who was visiting Bamiyan, said he decided to visit the province following the take over of the IEA and the improved security situation.

“We came to see the area where the statues of Bamiyan are located, as a historical place. Security in the country has improved since the Taliban (IEA) came to power. People can easily travel from one place to another which was not the case before,” said Amanullah Mahmoodzai.

Another local tourist visiting the Buddhas was Hussainullah who also urged the IEA to restore sites. He said the local Bamiyan residents would then benefit from an increase in tourism.

“This is a historical place worth visiting. If it is repaired, more tourists will come and help the people of the area,” he said.

Another wellknown site is the UNESCO World Heritage listed minaret of Jam in Ghor province.

The 65-metre high minaret was built around 1190 entirely of baked bricks and is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration.

Since 2002, the minaret has remained on the list of World Heritage in Danger as it is under serious threat of erosion and for the past seven years, experts have warned that it is in imminent danger of collapse.

But recently, the IEA assigned a team of 30 people to safeguard the structure.

After the IEA’s takeover, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay issued a statement calling “for the preservation of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage in its diversity, in full respect of international law, and for taking all necessary precautions to spare and protect cultural heritage from damage and looting.”

Afghanistan’s cultural heritage is vast as for millennia, it was a crossroads of many civilisations that left a remarkable legacy, from the Medes to the Mongols, Mughals and Durrani, to the kingdom and the long period of conflict that started in 1979.

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