Afghanistan: Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 30 Dec 2004
National starts ammunition survey begins in Mazar e-Sharif and Herat
The ammunition survey we told you about a few briefings ago began this week in Mazar-e Sharif and Herat. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Afghanistan New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) signed an agreement on December 23 to carry out an extensive ammunition survey which will take place throughout the country.
The survey will determine where current ammunition stockpiles exist and quantity, whether the ammunition is useable and stored in a secure site and determining whether useable ammunition needs to be transported to a safe and secure area.
On to the latest numbers from DDR. According to ANBP, as of Tuesday December 28 a total of 31,451 Afghan Military Forces (AMF) personnel have disarmed. This is an increase of 1,478 from the last figure I gave you a week ago.
Last week I told you about the disarmament process in Kanadahar. The 15th division in Kandahar has completed the disarmament process and has now been officially disbanded. The commander of the division signed the appropriate protocol at the ANBP regional office in Kandahar on Monday December 27. As I noted last Thursday, the disarmament of the 15th Division marks the beginning of the end of all AMF disarmament in the South. This is possible because the Afghan National Army has now established its Regional Command Centre for the South.
Of those disarmed, 27,981 have begun their reintegration programme. As a quick reminder, those reintegration options include teacher training, agriculture, vocational training, de-mining, small business, or re-enlistment with the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police if they are selected.
Small business training for ex-soldiers in Kandahar and in the north
Staying in Kandahar, an update on those former soldiers choosing small business as their reintegration option. According to ANBP, 120 ex-combatants have completed business class training in the province. This week each graduate received a certificate and will now move on to the next stage, establishing small business with the assistance of ANBP.
Up to the north -- the International Organization for Migration (IOM) which is an implementing partner for DDR in the northern provinces of Faryab, Jawzjan, Saripul, Balkh and Samangan has said that 360 former soldiers have graduated from business training since the reintegration programme began in the region. The training consist of a five-day course which covers basic business topics such identifying local markets and needs, calculating profit and loss, business planning and strategy.
Some of the graduates of the programme have gone on to start small businesses in the areas of carpentry, masonry and tailoring. One former soldier has started a plastic manufacturing enterprise making jugs and other products for local markets. IOM assist these ex-combatants as they start up new businesses by helping with further training and advice and assisting in procuring stock and the securing of new equipment.
Irrigation canals being rehabilitated in the south
Farmers in the south are benefiting from the recently concluded rehabilitation of irrigation canals in four provinces. They are located in Daman district in Kandahar, Ghorghori district in Nimroz province, Khas Uruzgan district in Uruzgan and Qalat city in Zabul province.
The rehabilitated canals benefit 870 families and irrigate a total of 1,835 hectares of land.
The project cost US $189,900. It was jointly funded by the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The project was implemented by Aghan NGOs in the for provinces and the canals will be managed by local Water Users Associations in the community, which is similar to the Mirab system I told you about last Thursday. Mirabs are traditional water management organizations, whose members are locally elected and are responsible for managing irrigation systems on behalf of their communities.
The UNAMA office in Kandahar also informs that in Shorabak district in Kandahar province, which is one of the areas most affected by drought -1,100 families are now having access to potable drinking water. The Shurabak Rehabilitation Agency, a local Afghan NGO has just constructed 50 deep wells throughout the district. Funding for this project comes from the government of Iran.
New institution to promote women's rights in Jalalabad
Afghan women in the East will begin 2005 with a new institution aimed at promoting advocacy of women's rights, discussion of women's problems and coordinate responses to such problems. It is the Afghan Women Rehabilitation Centre. It has just been established in Jalalabad and it brings together key women organizations, in addition to the Department of Women's Affairs, Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and UNAMA. The Centre will hold monthly meetings. The expectation is that with representatives from government, civil society and the international community, the Centre will be in a position to contribute to the advancement of women's rights in the East.
Also aiming at the advancement of women, NGOs dedicated to women affairs have agreed with the Department of Women's Affairs in Kunduz to establish a shura of women which will have as objectives advocacy of women's rights and channeling provision of assistance to vulnerable women.
26 thousand shelters for returnees and IDPs built in 2004
Through its several implementing partners in the country, UNHCR has been providing shelters for returning vulnerable refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in rural areas. The NGO ZOA, for example, has just concluded 400 shelters in four districts of Saripul Province.
During 2004, some 26,000 shelters have been built. This covers the needs of about 20% to 30% of those refugees and IDPs returning to rural areas. Since 2002, UNHCR, through its implementing partners, has built some 120,000 shelter units.
Still on assistance projects in areas of return, I should also like to note that some 6,300 water and sanitation projects were completed between January 2002 and August 2004 through UNHCR. This year alone more than 1,250 wells were constructed or about to be concluded through the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.
And since I am talking about return of refugees let me give you some figures. Over 3 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002 and between 2002 and 2004 close to 500.000 IDPs have been assisted to return home.
Pakistan and Iran account for approximately 77% and 22% of the total refugee returns, respectively. Of all those who returned, 22% went to Northern Aghanistan, 6% to the South, 4% to the Southeast, 19% to the East, 6% to western regions, and 43% to the Central region. Note should be made that 21% of all returns was to Kabul city.
International Year of Microcredit
The International Year of Microcredit was launched by the UN General Assembly last month. Today we launch here in Afghanistan the poster of the Year in three languages: Pashto, Dari and English.
The goal of this UN initiative is to provide small amounts of capital to the poorest, to enable them to start their own small businesses. The funds are targeted at individuals who would otherwise have difficulty having access to capital to support their business ideas and ambitions.
Here in Afghanistan the Microfinance Investment and Support Facility (MIFSA) spearheads microfinancing efforts. MIFSA started operating in 2003 under the direction of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development with the support of the World Bank.
Since March 2003, the programme has provided 57,000 small loans and hopes to reach 100,000 clients by March 2005. The repayment rate in the programme is amongst the highest in world with 98% of clients fully repaying their loans in six months.
Those interested in the MIFSA micro-credit programme can contact their office at 079 316 287 or 070 284 239.
No briefing on Sunday January 2
The next briefing will be on January 6, 2005. There will be no briefing on Sunday January 2. UN offices will be closed on that day.
This is the last briefing of 2004. Thank you very much for your attendance during these last months. Thank you very much to my colleagues for helping to organize it. I wish you a happy new year. In Afghanistan it is always great because I can wish you happy New Year twice in the year. I can do it according to the Western calendar in December and in March again which is when we celebrate Navroz.
Questions & Answers:
Question: Almost 90 percent of heavy weapons have been collected, who is looking after the maintenance of those weapons that are still serviceable? If they are not maintained properly they will become junk.
Spokesman: There are some key parts of it that are removed, so they cannot be used until it is decided who should get them and if they can be put into proper use by the state. It is the Afghan National Army (ANA) that controls the sites where they are kept, but the heavy weapons are immediately rendered unusable.
Question: Are they properly mothballed, so they do not become junk?
Spokesman: I hope so, they are first identified and than parts of it are removed, so there cannot be any inappropriate use. A decision will be made by the authorities of the proper use by the ANA. The immediate concern is to canton them and not allow them to be used inappropriately.
Question: What is the name of the commander that signed the agreement in Kandahar?
Spokesman: The name of the commander from Division 15 is Haji Abdullah.
Question: Can you tell some more about the ammunitions survey? Is it part of ANBP funding? Is it a voluntary process and how mow much do you expect to collect?
Spokesman: I do not know if there are any estimates about the number of ammunition countrywide. Funding will be required for it and ANBP will have to get donor support depending on the extent we are talking about. I think it is too early to determine this as the survey has just begun.
Question: The Coalition forces are also looking for ammunition depots. Is this a voluntary process and how will you [ANBP] coordinate with them?
Spokesman: I think that everything is voluntary here, I think that is the rule of thumb. Nothing is done without the cooperation of the parties involved and that is from the beginning how we operated and how we continue to operate.
Question: Why is the collection of heavy weapons in Panshir valley been delayed?
Spokesman: I think again it is a question of cooperation. I have talked about the visits to the region by the ANBP people, by the MOD people, but a final arrangement has not been set up for this heavy weapons cantonment. People continue to work on it. The MOD has it [high] on its agenda and we hope soon we will be able to move forward.
Question: Do you have time frame for the completion of the ammunition survey? Will it be completed in time for the parliamentary elections?
Spokesman: I am not sure if there is a reference to the parliamentary elections [nor regarding] a time frame for the completion of the survey. It began last week in Mazar and Herat and I believe that experience will guide how much longer will be required to complete the survey throughout the country.
Once again have a very happy 2005, lots of achievements for Afghanistan over the year and all the best to you personally and your families. Thank you for attending the briefings over this past year.