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USAID steps in to help WFP feed 95,000 desperate Afghan families

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(Last Updated On: August 2, 2020)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a contribution of US$12 million from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance in support of WFP’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s public health emergency has been compounded by increasing levels of food insecurity and many communities’ livelihoods are being obliterated due to the ongoing pandemic.

According to the WFP, this contribution from USAID will allow them to provide 95,000 families affected by the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 with direct cash-transfers. 

Each family will receive AFN6,000 (US$79) through cash based transfers to partially cover their food needs for two months.

“COVID-19 has disrupted the livelihoods of families across the country relying on day labour, small trade or remittances, most of all in the cities where the lockdowns have left them without opportunities to earn money to buy their next meal,” said Peter Natiello, Mission Director for USAID Afghanistan. 

“Through our partnership with WFP, USAID will help reach some of the most vulnerable families affected by COVID-19 in Afghanistan with food assistance.”

Vulnerable families in Herat City and the capital Kabul, the two urban centres of the country with the highest number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 and where the impact of the pandemic on the economy and individual livelihoods is being felt the most, will receive the assistance. 

The assistance will help keep these most vulnerable urban families from being forced to resort to negative coping mechanisms such as begging, child labour or eating fewer and smaller meals.

“We’re grateful for this generous contribution from USAID and the continued support for WFP in Afghanistan,” said WFP Afghanistan Deputy Country Director and Officer-in-Charge Robert Kasca. 

“This contribution comes at critical times when we are facing additional needs of US$53 million due to COVID-19. Without concerted action, Afghanistan could face its most devastating food security crisis in decades.”

At the outset of 2020, more than 12 million people were already facing acute food insecurity due to decades of conflict, natural disasters and growing poverty, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Analysis. 

Now, COVID-19 leaves millions of Afghans at risk of falling into hunger, faced with unusually high food prices and reduced employment opportunities.

With the far-reaching consequences of the pandemic, WFP is further providing services in health centres and through mobile teams to prevent and treat malnutrition in girls, boys and pregnant and lactating women. 

Under strict precautions to quell the spread of the coronavirus, WFP is continuing asset creation activities that help food-insecure families cover their food needs and build the resilience of their communities.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 in Afghanistan, WFP is working to reach 3 million people more than initially planned, creating additional funding needs of US$53 million. 

In total, WFP plans to reach 10.3 million food-insecure people in 2020. 

Funding requirements from July to December 2020 for all of WFP’s activities in Afghanistan are US$218 million, of which US$135 million remain to be resourced.

This latest contribution from USAID follows contributions of US$49 million in 2020 and US$92 million in 2019.

 

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Afghan Cricket Board agrees tour of Zimbabwe now ‘not feasible’

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2020)

Responding to Zimbabwe’s announcement that it had canceled the T20I cricket series, the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) said late Saturday night that it respects Cricket Zimbabwe’s decision and agrees it is not feasible for the series to be held given the continued COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a press release issued late Saturday night, the board said that the “ACB understands that under the current situation where the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a grave threat to the health and safety of everyone concerned, it is not currently feasible for the series to be held.”

The tour was scheduled to start later this month.

In the statement, the ACB said it had always adhered to health and safety guidelines around the  COVID-19 outbreak and pointed out that the pandemic has had an extreme impact on the cricketing calendar for 2020. 

“ACB, therefore, respects and conforms to Cricket Zimbabwe’s decision in this regard and cites it as a fair decision under the relevant circumstances and looks forward to bilateral cricket between both sides in future. 

“As ACB and Cricket Zimbabwe share a good history of bilateral cricket, the possibility of a series between the National teams of both countries will be discussed again once the threat of COVID-19 is tackled effectively,” the statement read. 

The planned Twenty20 International cricket tour was called off on Saturday by Zimbabwe after the host government declined to approve the tour, citing health risks.

 The tour was expected to start this month and despite the Zimbabwean cricket federation having applied to government for the tour to go ahead, the five-match series was canceled. 

Zimbabwe’s Sports and Recreation Commission’s (SRC) director-general Prince Mupazviriho said: “It will not be proper at the moment for foreigners to come to Zimbabwe for sport considering that there won’t be enough time to go through the required quarantine period.”

“We also took into consideration the recent spike in Covid-19 cases and felt that such a tour would put the players and everybody at great risk. So the minister responsible (Sports minister Kirsty Coventry) decided not to approve the tour.”

Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani said the Afghanistan series cancellation was a huge setback for his country’s cricket team but added that the country is now hoping to travel to Pakistan in October to begin it’s World Super League commitments, a new ICC model that creates a pathway to the 2023 World Cup.

 

 

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US to reduce troop levels to less than 5,000 by end of November

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2020)

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that the United States will withdraw the number of troops in Afghanistan to below 5,000 by the end of November.

“We are going down to a number less than 5,000 before the end of November,” Esper said in an interview with Fox News.

Esper said the Pentagon would still need to brief members of Congress on the plan, and would also need to ensure the “United States is not threatened by terrorists coming out of Afghanistan.”

This comes after US President Donald Trump said in an interview with Axios last week, he would like to have “probably anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000” troops in Afghanistan by the time of the election on November 3.

Over the past six months, the US has reduced the number of troops to about 8,600 from 14,000. 

This was in accordance with the Doha agreement, signed in February, between Washington and the Taliban. 

However, US officials have stated that the second phase will be conditions-based, but have yet to define this. 

In his interview last week, Trump told Axios he will reduce American troop levels in Afghanistan down to about 4,000 “very soon”. 

He said: “We are largely out of Afghanistan”.

 “We’ll be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000, we’re negotiating right now”, he said adding that the US had “been there now for 19 years and we will be getting out.”

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‘Worried’ Afghan women appeal to female world leaders to help secure their rights

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2020)

Afghan women have appealed to female world leaders to stand with them in order to protect women’s rights in Afghanistan as a political landscape shift looms. 

In an open letter to women world leaders, issued by Afghan Women’s Network, Afghan women said “we are writing to you because we are worried.”

They said in the letter that “so far, the talks have been a show of the strongmen in which mostly those who fought and killed our fellow citizens are talking.”

They stated that they are afraid their rights and freedoms are in danger of being compromised and that the way the talks process has been led shows an established disrespect for the rights and freedoms of Afghan women. 

“We are afraid that our hard-won gains are being jeopardized and eroded only for a short-term solution among these very strongmen. We are afraid of this visible pushback from all those who are part of this process,” the letter stated. 

Pointing out that so many simple things that women around the world take for granted, Afghan women are either deprived of or face losing after having worked so hard to achieve them over the past 19 years. 

These issues include having the right to earn a living and provide for their families to “every day little acts like leaving their house without fear of reprisal, taking a stroll in the park, and laughing with a friend in public.”

They stated in the letter that “these are some of the basic things we fear we will lose again. We cannot take a chance to lose what we have achieved with your help.”

Afghan women have said they know they have a long way to go to achieve equality for women in Afghanistan “but we, the women, cannot allow it to go back. We will continue to fight for and defend our rights and those of our children.”

Appealing to female world leaders, the letter states Afghan women desperately need the support of these leaders “who are in a position of influence on the future of Afghanistan.”

“We hope that you will speak for us and our desire to be respected as equal humans when your countries make their decisions on Afghanistan. 

“We hope you will speak for our desire for a peace that is just, inclusive, sustainable, and practical. We hope that you will stand with us and for women’s rights and a sustainable peace in Afghanistan. 

“As women leaders, we are certain that you will relate to us in wanting a sustainable peace and equal rights for all.”

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