Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, the acting minister of finance said the government would be distributing $300 million of foreign aid funds in the form of cash payments and food packages to poor Afghans.
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) had been summoned by the Wolesi Jirga to explain the usage of foreign aid coming in from the World Bank and other donor countries.
Sayed Sayed Azim Kebarzani, secretary of the Finance and Budget Commission in Wolesi Jirga, said the budget will probably run a deficit of 48 billion afghanis due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Public Health is also in line to receive 750 million afghanis to continue their Coronavirus response, in the latest budget adjustments.
Another recommendation pending approval is to borrow 17 billion afghanis from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) without any interest.
Ten Afghan migrants, including three children, were arrested while trying to cross the border from Romania into Hungary.
Romanian border guards caught the migrants, who were on foot, when they were 400 metres away from Nadlac crossing point.
The group consisted of seven adults aged 18 to 24 and minors between the ages of 15 and 16.
Arad border police said the group’s intentions were to first cross into Hungary and then make their way to Western Europe.
The U.S. Army’s 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade arrived at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) to prepare for their deployment to Afghanistan in the next few months.
The Center, which was closed during the pandemic, will factor in the effects of COVDI-19 in their training.
Along with mitigation measures, planners have built COVID-19 scenarios such as what to do if a key leader or soldier with a specialised skillset gets infected.
The men will be taught how to restructure their chain of command, quarantine the infected person in such a way that still allows the brigade to maintain their communications.
All the soldiers of 4thSFAB have been screened at tested before the start of the training.
A Turkish plane carrying medical supplies departed from the capital Ankara for Afghanistan on Thursday in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A Turkish Armed Forces aircraft, carrying the medical supplies, prepared by the Health Ministry at the direction of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for use against the COVID-19 outbreak, took off from Ankara Etimesgut Airbase for Afghanistan,” the National Defense Ministry said on Twitter.
Ten pieces of ventilators, 10 pieces of defibrillators, 10 pieces of oxygen regulators, 3 PCR machines, 10 nebulizers and 30,000 COVID-19 RT-q PCR diagnostic test kits, 25,000 N95 face masks and 50,000 surgical and normal masks were loaded on the aircraft leaving for Afghanistan.
The aid boxes also carried a message for the people of Afghanistan.
“After hopelessness, there is so much hope, and after darkness, there is the much brighter sun,” it said, quoting the words of 13th century Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi.
Turkey has helped at least 125 countries with humanitarian aid during the outbreak, including the US, UK, Italy and Spain, making it the world’s third-largest provider of aid during the pandemic.
Ahmad Javad Osmani, the acting health minister, said there is widespread dissatisfaction among the public about the lack of resources and delays they experience at hospitals and other health centres.
Lack of medicine, oxygen, health personnel, and delays in getting the test results back, have left plenty of patients unsatisfied and complaining
He added that large shipments of supplies had been delivered to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) but distributing them to health centres and hospitals was proving to be a challenge due to improper management.
“We will do what should have done three months ago,” he said talking about coordinating all health personnel across the country to coherently fight the spread of Coronavirus, with the help of the people.
The MoPH has asked all every health centres, hospitals and clinics in Afghanistan to diagnose, treat and take care of COVID-19 patients.
“The fight against Coronavirus will be the priority,” Osmani said, a day after he warned the country that they would have to “learn how to live with Coronavirus, because it won’t disappear in a matter of months or weeks.”
The private sector’s involvement
Earlier, Coronavirus was diagnosed and treated only in government laboratories and health centres, Osmani stressed that the process could not continue due to the influx of new cases in the country.
He said COVID-19 patients will no longer have to incentivise private hospitals to treat them after the government’s mobilization.
However, he did add that private sector Coronavirus rapid tests should be priced so as not to cause economic harm to the people.
While labs are not equipped to handle all the cases, importance should be given to those patients who show severe symptoms or clinical complications.
Osmani noted that it will take several years for Coronavirus diagnostic laboratory centres to be operational in all provinces of the country, and that it was a huge financial cost.
The government is also planning to develop a phone application that would allow doctors to input their daily cases, so that everyone could be kept in the loop.
Senior Aircraftman Michael Goody had been on patrol with the Royal Air Force (RAF) Regiment in Afghanistan, when they were hit by an explosive.
Recounting the time he had been the “most afraid” in a LAdBible video, Goody spoke about the October 2008 incident when he was 22 years old.
He had been part of a quick reaction force and when the sirens went off, they all rushed to their vehicles and his went over a roadside improvised explosive device (IED), which the Taliban had set.
The moment he was hit, Goody remembers thinking, “Oh crap, am I dead? Am I dying?’ Not knowing in that instance was definitely my most afraid [moment].”
He was trapped under the vehicle for three hours and suffered a composite fracture in his left leg and underwent 14 operations in an attempt to repair it.
In the video, Goody also explains how he had to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and he became a clinical alcoholic with suicidal thought.
He finally opted to get the lower part of his left leg amputated, two years after the accident when surgeons told him there was no guarantee of success of further operations.
Now, the 34 year-old, is a four-time Invictus Games gold medallist, a motivation speaker and an ambassador for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Zahra Koochizad is a survivor. The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) midwife supervisor in the maternity wing of Dasht-e Barchi hospital, was present when gunmen attacked the ward on May 12.
In a heartfelt story on the MSF page, Koochizad explained why midwives were so important in Afghanistan since the country has one of the highest maternal and new-born mortality rates in the world.
In Afghanistan, 638 mothers die every 100,000 live births.
“This does not include the 15 mothers and five unborn babies who were systematically shot dead in the maternity ward where I worked a month ago,” Koochizad writes.
“As midwives in Afghanistan, we bring new life into this country under conditions more difficult than in most,” she said talking about insecurity, the biggest problem faced by pregnant women in the country.
“As midwives in Afghanistan, we are the silent leaders of our country. We are at the bedside of pregnant women giving birth to the country’s future and we need to be protected”
She recounts the day of the attack and said even though the staff is used to seeing tragedies within the community, they were not prepared for the “horror to come.”
The terrorists entered an area where women are the leaders – the maternity ward.
“They stormed the maternity wing armed with guns, killing pregnant women, new mothers and newborns. Their leader must be very proud; celebrating a victory over an army of one-day old babies and women wearing only their hospital robes,” said the midwife.
Because of the four-hour assault, the terrorists destroyed decades of work to reduce maternal and new-born mortality in the country as the MSF closed the wards.
The MSF-run maternity wing served around 1,200 mothers a month. Now, expecting mothers only have the option of a 50-bed hospital with seven beds devoted to maternity services. If they have any complications, then they would not be admitted.
Healthcare centres are already burdened in Kabul due to the spread of COVID-19. All pregnant women have now been burdened with loss of access to obstetric and new-born care.
Most of the women the hospital served were people who did not have the means to pay for their treatment. Some did not have antenatal care and lacked means to buy food, much less pre-natal supplements.
“I see our people suffering from greater obstacles, in a situation which is already critical – and the need for healthcare services has never been greater,” concludes Koochizad who is still committed to her work.
MSF told Afghan authorities that until the investigations start to punish the perpetrators and the results are made available, they find it difficult to restart their activities.
Helmand farmers are worried about the smuggling of wheat to Pakistan at considerably cheap prices and during a time when there are an increasing number of people suffering from food shortages.
Multiple outlets report that smugglers have been illegally buying wheat from farmers for throwaway prices as trade and export routes have been affected due to the lockdowns.
The wheat is then making its way to Pakistan and other countries, Helmand residents said.
Wheat smuggling has triggered a spike in domestic flour prices at the time of harvest.
If local officials do not step in, farmers fear that the province may soon face a shortage of flour.
An estimated 443,000 tons of wheat will be harvested in the province this year.
Economists in the province have reinforced the urgency of intervention by stating that Afghanistan needs more flour for its citizens and the current smuggling will create a severe crisis.
Zalmai Aloko, head of Helmand’s agriculture department, said they are looking into the issue and have notified the relevant departments like the security and customs agencies.
Concerns over Helmand’s wheat smuggling come as Afghanistan imports thousands of metric tons worth of wheat from countries such as India to meet domestic needs.
The Coronavirus infection toll hit 22,890 as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced that 748 people have tested positive over the past 24 hours.
The MoPH announced 21 people are known to have died from the virus and as many as 313 patients have recovered. The country’s total number of deaths stands at 426, while the number of recoveries is 3,326.
New lab-tested samples showed 311 people had been infected in Kabul, 181 in Herat, 78 in Paktia, 50 in Kandahar, 36 in Nangarhar, 32 people in Badghis, 21 in Parwan, and 10 each in Kapisa and Kunar. Eight cases were also reported in Ghor, six in Farah and five in Laghman.
The MoPH is urging Afghans to follow measures to prevent the spread as the number of cases continue to rise.
Ahmad Jawad Osmani, the acting minister of health, also said the healthcare system is facing a severe threat from COVID-19.
“We will do what we should have done three months ago,” Osmani said at a press conference indicating the government is coming up with new guidelines to combat the spread of Coronavirus.
Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO representative in the country said that so far $5 million has been spent in the fight against the pandemic.
Officials at Herat’s Public Health Department said 181 new cases of Coronavirus and 14 deaths were recorded in the province within the last 24 hours.
Mohammad Rafiq Shirzai, a spokesman for the Herat health department, said the new cases include 120 men and 61 women.
Even the head of the Herat health department, Abdul Hakim Tamana, announced that the result of his COVID-19 tests came back positive.
Shirzai noted that the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the province has reached 4,285 while so far, 76 people have died and 601 have recovered in the province.
Of the total number of cases registered so far, 2,640 are men and 1,645 are women. The dead include 63 men and 13 women.
Currently, 196 patients are hospitalised, of whom 11 are in critical condition.
All 20 miners trapped in the coal mine after the tunnel collapsed are dead, officials confirmed.
The workers had been trapped when a gas explosion inside the Shabashak mine sealed off the access tunnels on Tuesday morning in Dara-e-Soof district in northern Samangan province.
Anadolu Agency reported that eight bodies have been retrieved and efforts are on to take out the remaining 12 victims.
Mohammed Hashim, the acting chairman of the provincial council, said there were delays in the arrival of the rescue team. Nearby residents also claimed that the team sent was “not professional enough.”
However, the provincial police force said that the teams had responded immediately to the explosion but had been delayed as they waited for the deadly gases released in the mine to condense.
The governor of Samangan said the mining operation was illegal and is now investigating the owner of the location.
The Czech authorities handed over an Afghan male accused of stabbing his girlfriend 20 times to German authorities.
“The extradition of the suspect to Germany took place on Friday last week,” said the Czech police spokeswoman, reports Novinky.cz.
The suspect, a 32-year-old, was detained with his son in May on the D1 highway in Czech Republic after German law enforcement informed them, that he was on the run.
The Cezch authorities were able to track his entry into the country as the border authorities were checking at crossings dur to the COVID-19 restrictions on travel. However, his name had not been in the international register of wanted persons, so he was not detained then.
The girlfriend survived the attack and thus the man is being investigated for attempted murder.
Russia’s envoy to Kabul said Russia, the U.S. and Afghanistan will be holding video consultations to try and start the intra-Afghan peace talks as soon as possible.
Zamir Kabulov, Russian presidential envoy for Afghanistan and director of the Second Asian Department, said the trilateral talks will be held on June 15, reports Russian media.
According to Kabulov, the talks will involve Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Mohammad Haneef Atmar, the acting Afghan foreign minister.