Central Asia: IRIN News Briefs, 7 February
The German Embassy in Islamabad confirmed to IRIN on Wednesday that a three member delegation of the Afghan Support Group (ASG), comprising the German, Swiss and Canadian ambassadors are in Afghanistan to access the humanitarian crisis there as part of a two day visit to the war ravaged country. German Embassy spokesman Helmut Landers said the mission which began on Tuesday is part of the group's ongoing efforts in the area. "Given the complex situation in Afghanistan with regard to war and drought, we want a real assessment of what is happening on the ground in order to develop an appropriate humanitarian response to the crisis," he said.
According to a press release on Tuesday, the ASG group, currently headed by Germany, will assess the need for support to the people of Afghanistan in a humanitarian situation made more difficult by continued fighting, drought and by a harsh winter. Moreover, the mission will reiterate to the Afghan people that the UN sanctions are not against the Afghan people and the donor community remains committed to provide humanitarian aid. In addition to visiting camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in the southern city of Kandahar and Herat in the west, the group is scheduled to hold meetings with Taliban officials, including the governors of both cities, the press release said.
AFGHANISTAN: UN Special Rapporteur for human rights calls for ceasefire
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan Kamal Hossain, called upon Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and the President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin Rabbani, for an immediate resumption of hostilities. In addition, he urged immediate investigations be undertaken to identify those responsible for grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law with regard to the alleged massacre of numerous citizens in the Yakawlang District of central Hazarajat in early January. The appeal was made in identical letters to both faction leaders on 29 January, Monday's statement said.
Hossain's call for a ceasefire comes in the wake of a similar appeal by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Friday in which he expressed deep concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. According to the Secretary-General, the combination of drought and conflict has resulted in the displacement of more than 500,000 people in recent months. Moreover, he warned, last week's tragedy in Herat in which over 100 internally displaced people died of exposure could be replicated, unless addressed vigorously and immediately. Annan called upon both parties to the conflict in Afghanistan "to desist immediately from fighting and to enable the Afghan people to return to their homes for the planting season." In addition, he called upon the international donor community to allocate additional resources for emergency relief and drought mitigation, the statement said.
AFGHANISTAN: EU commits US $3.2 million for demining
The European Union confirmed to IRIN on Friday it had signed a US $3.2 million contract with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the UN's de-mining programme in Afghanistan. According to the EU office in Islamabad, "Afghanistan remains one of the countries most severely affected by land mines and unexploded ordinances in the world." Reports indicate that the number of monthly mine causalities in Afghanistan may be between 150 and 300. The EU will over the next year fund a mine survey of 1.6 square km of high priority mine contaminated land, de-mining of approximately 5.5 square km of high priority mine contaminated land and mine awareness to approximately 10,000 local Afghans, the EU source said.
The move is part of a more comprehensive EU-funded aid package that includes rural rehabilitation, water, sanitation, primary health and education. As part of its overall intervention package, the EU strategy seeks to prevent people from leaving their areas of origin and to attract refugees to return home from Pakistan and Iran, the source added.
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