Central Asia: IRIN Weekly Round-up 16 covering the period 20 - 26 Jul 2001
Suspected cholera has continued to take its toll in northern Afghanistan, a WHO official in Islamabad told IRIN on Monday. The comment followed a statement by an opposition Northern Alliance spokesman on 22 July saying another 16 people, many of them children, had died of the disease overnight in the remote Aqkupruk District of Balkh Province, bringing the death toll to 139 in just one week. The WHO official confirmed to IRIN that 56 of these deaths had resulted from suspected cholera, but said the remaining reported deaths "could be from other causes due to deteriorating conditions". According to WHO, when cholera occurs in an unprepared community, the case-fatality rate may be as high as 50 percent - usually because there are no facilities for treatment, or treatment is given too late. If treated properly, case fatality drops to less than one percent. [For full report go to: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/asia/countrystories/afghanistan/20010723.phtml
AFGHANISTAN: UN Security Council urged to review policy
UN Security Council members have called for a review of council policy on Afghanistan, the council's president, Chinese Ambassador Wang Yingfan, told reporters on Thursday. "The members noted that the sanctions have had limited impact on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, and that the primary cause of human suffering was the ongoing conflict," Wang said. "Some members suggested that we should have some kind of comprehensive review," he added. However, a diplomatic source told IRIN that this did not necessarily mean that the Security Council would change its sanctions policy. "It won't get through politically," the source said. Members of the Security Council were briefed by UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima, who introduced Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report on the effect of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Council members also stressed the need to ensure the safety of personnel providing humanitarian assistance to the war-torn nation, and the smooth conduct of relief activities there, according to Wang.
PAKISTAN: Torrential rains no reprieve for drought
Despite Pakistan's receiving the heaviest rainfall this century, government officials said on Tuesday that it would have little effect on the country's ongoing drought. "Unfortunately, these heavy rains were local in nature," Mirza Hamid Hasan of Pakistan's water and power ministry, told IRIN. The rains are localised and downstream of the country's main reservoirs, and not considered a significant relief to the continuing Central Asian drought which has afflicted the country. Torrential rains on Monday pounded northern and central parts of the country, with flash floods and landslides sweeping away one village and burying many victims beneath huge piles of mud, according to news reports. One hundred and twenty-three people died in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), while another 50 died in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, the director-general of Pakistan's emergency relief division, Brigadier Ilyas Khan, told IRIN. He added that the death toll was expected to rise even further as many of the missing had not yet been accounted for.
PAKISTAN: Future for Nasir Bagh residents uncertain
Facing eviction from the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan's NWFP, most of Afghan residents interviewed have no idea where they will go, according to a recent survey carried out by the International Rescue Committee. Many of the 120,000 Afghans being forced to leave by the local authorities to make way for a new housing development said they were financially unable to resettle elsewhere. Zahir Khan Jabberkhel, one of the first residents at the camp set up 20 years ago, told IRIN it was a catastrophe. "We are not going of our free will and we don't know where to go," he said. In response to the crisis, the Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday that it wanted to set up a camp for Nasir Bagh returnees in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The Taliban embassy spokesman in Islamabad, Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, told IRIN that it would provide land and security, but would like NGOs and the UN to help with water, shelter and sanitation. He added, however, that no discussions had yet taken place with the UN with regard to the proposed camps. [For full report go to: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/asia/countrystories/pakistan/20010725a.phtml]
IRAN: Drought-affected areas suffer flash floods
Heavy rain in areas affected by drought has led to severe flooding, loss of life and extensive damage to property and crops in northeastern and northwestern Iran. The absence of natural vegetation as a result of the prolonged drought had left bare soil exposed to torrential downpours and flash floods resulting in 32 deaths, a UN official in the capital, Tehran, told IRIN on Monday. The official said heavy rains had destroyed many hectares of agricultural land. Emergency search and rescue operations began immediately, with government relief workers, Red Crescent Society, and medical teams in place soon after the disaster, the official said. The most affected areas included the Ardabil and Azarbayjan-e Gharbi provinces in the northwest, and Golestan Province in the northeast.
IRAN: UNHCR concerned over anti-Afghan violence
UNHCR officials on Wednesday voiced concern over increasing outbursts of violence directed against Afghans living in Iran. "Last week, clashes took place on the outskirts of Tehran when anti-Afghan protesters rampaged in the Pishva neighbourhood south of the capital, leaving a number of people injured," Ron Redmond, the agency's spokesman in Geneva, said. During protests in Pishva, local residents were reported to have shouted "Death to Afghans!", and similar slogans had been scrawled on buildings in the area, he said. Redmond maintained that many Afghan men were now too afraid to look for work in local markets due to the rising anger among some Iranians, who believed that Afghans were taking their jobs. UNHCR has raised concern over this and other recent attacks with the Iranian interior ministry.
KAZAKHSTAN: Migrant workers could raise local tensions
The Kazakh authorities have introduced a series of emergency measures to curb the influx of economic migrants into the country. With high unemployment rates, there are concerns that local tensions between Kazakhs and cheaper migrant labourers could lead to violence, according to a report by International War and Peace Reporting on Thursday. The measures include tighter border security, legislation to protect the domestic labour market, and a controversial visa-style regime to keep tabs on visitors from other Central Asian states. At present, over 5,000 illegal migrants work in southern Kazakhstan, with the majority located in the Almaty (Alma-Ata) region. The Kazakh authorities intended to hold employers responsible for hiring illegal foreign workers, the report said. But migrants had proved to be popular among Kazakh employers as they were willing to take almost any job because, however low, the wages they received were up to 12 times as much as they could earn at home, it added.
KYRGYZSTAN: Prisoners fuelling TB epidemic
With an estimated one quarter of inmates infected with tuberculosis (TB), prisoners released back into the community are dramatically contributing to the spread of the disease in Kyrgyz society. The director of the Kyrgyz TB research institute, Avtandil Alisherov, told IRIN on Tuesday that more than 50 percent of the 1,160 people who died of TB in Kyrgyzstan last year, had been convicts infected in jail. Kyrgyz communities are unequipped to cope with released convicts infected with active TB. As a result, the country had one of the highest recorded incidences of TB in Central Asia, with an estimated 200 per 100,000 people infected, said Alisherov. Determined to counter the TB threat, the government has adopted a five-year programme which it hopes will reduce the spread of the disease. But Kyrgyz NGOs maintain that the policy on TB-infected convicts must be revised and sufficient funds allocated to curb rising infection rates in prisons. Although standard TB treatments usually cost under US $25 per patient, curing convicts with multi-resistant TB strains could cost up to US $7,000 per patient. [For full report go to: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/asia/countrystories/kyrgyzstan/20010726.phtml
KYRGYZSTAN: NGO calls for release of journalist
The immediate release of a television journalist in a Kyrgyz prison was called for by Internews, an international NGO promoting press freedom worldwide, on 20 July. The group says Samagan Orozaliev, jailed in the southern city of Jalal-Abad, is being held on false grounds. "This is a completely fabricated case," Internews Country Director Christoph Schuepp told IRIN in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. "Such incidents prove that in this country some people are above the law and, unfortunately, journalists are increasingly becoming the targets of such individuals." Kyrgyzstan was a difficult country for journalists to operate in freely, and this was just another example of that, he added. According to the US-based group, Orozaliev was arrested on 28 May after police officials found US $300 in his clothing, money that he had allegedly received after blackmailing a local politician/businessman in Jalal-Abad. The journalist claims he was framed.
UZBEKISTAN: Women appeal for release of relatives
Hundreds of women in Uzbekistan have appealed to Uzbek President Islam Karimov to free relatives jailed for belonging to an outlawed religious organisation, a human rights group said on Tuesday, as quoted in an AFP report. Some 420 women from the Ferghana Valley appealed under an amnesty marking the republic's 10th anniversary of independence. According to the report, a leading Uzbek human rights group said the women acted after their spouses were sentenced to harsh terms for allegedly belonging to the religious Hizbut Tahrir (Liberation Party). In an earlier IRIN interview, Mikhail Ardzinov, the chairman of the Independent Human Rights Organisation of Uzbekistan, said over 7,000 people had been imprisoned in the country for their religious beliefs. This is the latest protest by women against the alleged harsh treatment which, according to human rights organisations, has been targeting followers of non-registered religious groups. [For full details of the interview with Ardzinov see: http://www.reliefweb.int/IRIN/asia/countrystories/uzbekistan/20010531.phtml]
Islamabad, 26 July 2001
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