UN Agency Warns of ‘Imminent’ Famine in Afghanistan

Children collect food and recyclables from a waste container near Kabul airport on September 21, 2021. (AFP)
Children collect food and recyclables from a waste container near Kabul airport on September 21, 2021. (AFP)
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UN Agency Warns of ‘Imminent’ Famine in Afghanistan

Children collect food and recyclables from a waste container near Kabul airport on September 21, 2021. (AFP)
Children collect food and recyclables from a waste container near Kabul airport on September 21, 2021. (AFP)

Afghanistan is at risk of “imminent hunger” with winter approaching and services disrupted by the return to power of the Taliban, a UN official warned in an interview with AFP.

Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said via video that the situation in the country was dire.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say” that at least a third of Afghanistan’s population of around 33 million is affected by “imminent hunger,” Kanem warned.

Harsh winters, disrupting the ability to transport supplies to isolated areas of the mountainous country, plus the coronavirus pandemic will aggravate an already complicated situation, she added.

“There is a lot of anxiety over how we’re going to deliver health care, where the next meal is going to come from,” Kanem told AFP from the UNFPA headquarters in New York.

The doctor from Panama warned that women and girls would bear the worst of it.

“It is urgent, for women and girls in particular who were already suffering. This is one of the countries with the highest death during childbirth and pregnancy rates.

“We cannot underscore enough that even during a transitional period, women and girls have human rights and these are to be respected,” she said.

Kanem repeated calls made by the international community to the Taliban, who swept to power last month as the United States withdrew its last troops, ending Washington’s 20-year war there.

“The women of Afghanistan have made clear over years that they want their education, they want their health care, and that they’re also ready, willing and able to design programs and to be able to lead in their communities,” she said.

Taliban leaders have tried to portray the group as more moderate than when it last ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Then, women were banned from school or work and only allowed to leave home with a male chaperone.

They have promised to change, saying they will respect women’s rights within the framework of Islamic sharia law, but many remain skeptical.

But not a single woman was appointed to the provisional government and the Taliban seem to be incrementally stripping away Afghans’ freedoms.

Kanem notes that in a country ravaged by decades of conflict, many women, particularly in areas most affected by violence, are the sole breadwinners.

“We’re all anxiously hoping that there will be regularity and ability of delivery of goods” to people in small communities where many of the UNPFA’s staff are women, she said.

“We have said that we want to be able to maintain a functioning health system.

“(It’s) pretty challenging right now with the airport having been closed, with certain professionals who have left the country,” Kanem added.

She warned that if the health system breaks down, that’s going to spell “complete disaster,” but added that for the most part the agency’s family health centers have remained open.

The UN on Wednesday released $45 million in emergency aid to support Afghanistan’s health system.



Azerbaijan Proposes Document on Principles of Peace before Full Deal with Armenia

FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
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Azerbaijan Proposes Document on Principles of Peace before Full Deal with Armenia

FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev delivers a speech at the 10th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and the 2nd Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov/File Photo

Azerbaijan is proposing to sign a document with Armenia on the basic principles of a future peace treaty as an interim measure as they wrangle over a broader deal, a senior Azerbaijani official said on Sunday.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have repeatedly said they want to sign a peace treaty to end the conflict over the former breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, reported Reuters.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on Saturday a text of a treaty was 80%-90% ready but repeated it was impossible to sign it before Armenia amended its constitution to remove an indirect reference to Karabakh independence, which Armenia has rejected.
Karabakh's ethnic Armenian inhabitants enjoyed de facto independence from Azerbaijan for more than three decades until September 2023, when a lightning Azerbaijani offensive retook the territory and prompted around 100,000 Armenians to flee.
Both countries have in recent months sought to make progress on the peace treaty, including the demarcation of borders, with Armenia agreeing to hand over to Azerbaijan four contested border villages.
A document on the basic principles could be considered as a temporary measure and form the basis of the bilateral ties and ensure neighborly relations between the two countries, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to the president, told Reuters.
It can be signed until Azerbaijan holds COP29 climate summit in November, Hajiyev added.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in June that a peace treaty with Azerbaijan was close to completion but that his country would not accept its demands that it change its constitution.
After he made those comments, clashes broke out between police and demonstrators, the latest in a series of protests denouncing his policies, including the handing back of ruined villages to Azerbaijan, and demanding his resignation.
On July 5, Constitution Day in Armenia, Pashinyan said the country needed a new constitution "which the people will consider to be what they created, what they accepted, what is written in it is their idea of the state they created and the relations between people and citizens in that state".