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World racing against time to help Afghan people: UN chief

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(Last Updated On: January 14, 2022)

Describing a “nightmare unfolding in Afghanistan”, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday that the world is “in a race against time to help the Afghan people” and stressed that “freezing temperatures and frozen assets are a lethal combination” for the Afghan people, Reuters reported.

Speaking to reporters in New York City, Guterres said, two days after launching the largest humanitarian appeal ever for a single country, more than half of the Afghans now depend on life-saving assistance, adding that without a more concerted effort from the international community, virtually every man, woman and child in the country could face acute poverty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the report the UN chief said a properly funded aid operation in Afghanistan has the capacity to achieve amazing results, with humanitarians reaching some 18 million people across the country last year.

But, he said, humanitarian operations desperately need more money and more flexibility. “Rules and conditions that prevent money from being used to save lives and the economy must be suspended in this emergency situation. International funding should be allowed to pay the salaries of public-sector workers, and to help Afghan institutions deliver healthcare, education and other vital services,” said Guterres.

The Secretary-General said support for essential state functions will give Afghans hope for the future and reason to stay in their country and welcomed the Security Council’s adoption of a humanitarian exception to the United Nations sanctions regime for Afghanistan, read the report.

He said the UN is taking steps to inject cash into the economy through creative authorized arrangements, but this was just a drop in the bucket. Guterres highlighted the need to jump-start the Afghan banking system to avoid economic collapse and to enable humanitarian operations.

He said, “The United Nations in Afghanistan stands ready to work with member states and others to put in place accountable systems that will enable funds to reach the Afghan people most in need, and to ensure that these funds are not diverted.”

While appealing for international support for the Afghan people, the UN chief made an equally urgent plea to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s leadership to recognize and protect the fundamental human rights, and in particular the rights of women and girls. “Across Afghanistan, women and girls are missing from offices and classrooms. A generation of girls is seeing its hopes and dreams shattered. Women scientists, lawyers and teachers are locked out – wasting skills and talents that will benefit the entire country and, indeed, the world. No country can thrive while denying the rights of half of its population,” he said.

Guterres noted that, moving forward, it is also essential that every effort is made to build inclusive government institutions in which all Afghans feel represented – and that promote security and fight terrorism, Reuters reported.

The Secretary-General said, “Without creative, flexible and constructive engagement by the international community, Afghanistan’s economic situation will only worsen; despair and extremism will grow. We need to act now to prevent economic and social collapse and find ways to prevent further suffering for millions of Afghans.”

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UN chief says IEA must respect human rights in order to be recognized

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2022)

Laying out his priorities for 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has to respect human rights in order to obtain international recognition.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, Guterres stated that it was “absolutely essential” for the IEA “to have full respect for the rights of women and girls and to have a positive approach to human rights in general” in order to obtain international recognition and “getting international support for their own people.”

“To provide a lifeline of help for the Afghan people, inject cash to avoid an economic meltdown, ensure full respect of international humanitarian law and human rights — particularly for women and girls — and effectively fight terrorism,” he said.

UN Secretary-General spoke about global issues as well. Referring to the raging COVID-19 pandemic, a morally bankrupt global financial system, the climate crisis, lawlessness in cyberspace, and diminished peace and security, he told the General Assembly that “we face a five-alarm global fire that requires the full mobilization of all countries.”

“Now is not the time to simply list and lament challenges. Now is the time to act. All these challenges are, at heart, failures of global governance.”

On the possibility of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Guterres said, “diplomacy is the way to solve problems. Of course, any invasion by one country to another country is against international law, and I hope that this, of course, will not happen in the present circumstances. I am convinced it will not happen. And I strongly hope to be right.”

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Salang Pass, Herat- Badghis highway closed to traffic due to heavy snow

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(Last Updated On: January 22, 2022)

Local officials said that due to heavy snowfall and stormy weather, the Salang Pass and Herat-Badghis highway have been closed to traffic temporarily.

Qazi Obaidullah Obaid, head of the Salang Pass maintenance department said they had decided to close the mountain pass in order to avoid casualties amid bad weather conditions.

According to Obaid dozens of motorists and passengers were stranded on the pass but have since been taken to places of safety.

Meanwhile, Mohibullah Asad, deputy governor of Badghis, said that Herat-Qala-e-Naw highway has also been closed to traffic due to heavy snowfall.

He said maintenance crews are working to clear the highway and reopen it to traffic.

Badghis received heavy snowfalls from Friday afternoon, making the highway impassable.

Kabul also received a fair amount of snow overnight which was expected to clear later Saturday. However, temperatures are set to drop to around -12 degrees Celsius during the night.

While Sunday is expected to be sunny, the expected high will only be -1 degrees Celsius, dropping to -15 degrees Celsius on Sunday night.

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IEA delegation due in Norway for humanitarian talks

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(Last Updated On: January 21, 2022)

Representatives of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) will arrive in Norway on Sunday for three days of talks on how to alleviate a humanitarian crisis, the Norwegian foreign ministry said on Friday, Reuters reported.

“These meetings do not represent a legitimisation or recognition of the Taliban [IEA]. But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said in a statement.

“We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster,” she said.

Millions of Afghans have been plunged deeper into poverty since last year’s IEA takeover, which resulted in disruption to aid programmes and deteriorating food security, Reuters reported.

The IEA representatives will meet Norwegian authorities as well as diplomats from several other countries from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25.

“Meetings will also take place between the Taliban [IEA] delegation and other Afghans with backgrounds from a range of fields. These include women leaders, journalists, and individuals working to safeguard human rights and address humanitarian, economic, social and political issues,” Norway said.

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