The number of Afghan refugees who have returned from Pakistan has now passed 2.5 million. This means that in total more than 3.7 million people have returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran since 2002 when the UN refugee agency, UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), began its current repatriation programmes.
Among these are more than 200,000 individuals who have returned from Pakistan with UNHCR help so far this year.
In Iran, UNHCR has helped nearly 800,000 Afghans to repatriate since 2002, with another 400,000 leaving on their own. So far this year, the United Nations has helped some 26,000 Afghans return from Iran.
Click here for the full Press Release in English.
DDR / DIAG update
55,837 ex-combatants are now into the reintegration phase of DDR, which as you know is the last remaining stage in the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration process.
On Monday I told you that the cantonment of heavy weapons had been completed. Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) has advised since then that this information was incorrect, and that while the vast majority of weapons has been either cantoned or disabled, some weapons remain to be cantoned or otherwise put out of use in Herat, Kunduz and Panjshir.
As a part of ANBP's activities, ammunition survey teams have collected almost 484 thousand [483,701] individual items of ammunition and 1.4 million [1,402,013] boxes of ammunition.
With the Disbanding of Illegal Armed Groups programme 7,739 weapons are now verified as having been handed in, 4,048 of these by candidates in the upcoming elections. To put this in some context this is a very slight increase from the figures I provided you with on Monday. 17,036 boxes of ammunition and 27,684 individual pieces are now verified as collected.
Special guest for Monday's briefing
Next Monday's regular UNAMA press briefing and press conference will be on the Child Soldier Demobilization Programme. Ibrahim Sesay, who is acting head of UNICEF's child protection programme in Afghanistan will be our guest speaker.
Ibrahim Sesay has worked on child-specific demobilization and reintegration programmes for the past six years in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.
Prior to coming to Afghanistan, Mr. Sesay worked with the World Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone, as well as NGO Caritas in his native Sierra Leone in the areas of post conflict reconstruction and development, and child protection. His areas of expertise also include social policy development.
UNFPA assists MoPH and RTA quiz show on "equality"
The United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) has recently provided technical and financial support to the Ministry of Public Health for a logistics management system.
UNFPA is also providing the technical and financial support for a quiz show to be broadcast tomorrow night on RTA. The show focuses on gender equality, early marriage and women's access to reproductive health services.
Click here for further details on the UNFPA news update.
OCPI releases board game: "The Road to Peace"
UNAMA's Office of Communication and Public Information (OCPI) has produced 10,000 board games in both Dari and Pashtu for disadvantaged children throughout Afghanistan.
The game, which is called "The Road to Peace", is primarily aimed at 10-14 year olds, and is currently being distributed around Afghanistan to war-affected children, former child soldiers, underprivileged children, and refugee families.
The game aims to teach children about the key events in the peace process and reconstruction of Afghanistan - including the signing of the Bonn Agreement, the Emergency and Constitutional Loya Jirgas, and the elections. It also highlights key issues such as the environment, health, and education.
JEMB press conference on counting of ballots and conclusion of voter registration update
Some election notes to pass your way. The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) will be holding a press conference at 1:30pm this afternoon, at their Electoral Compound on Jalalabad road, to mark the end of the voter registration period and the counting of ballots.
The Asia Foundation supporting elections content in women's magazine Mursal
The Asia Foundation is supporting elections in eight consecutive issues of the Afghan women's magazine Mursal.
The foundation's special inserts will feature interviews with Afghan women expressing their thoughts, ideas and hopes for a government that represents their issues and needs. Also included will be the platforms of local candidates from each region. In addition, a special August edition will focus entirely on the September 18th elections.
MoWA sends teams to 21 provinces with goal of enhancing women's participation in elections
The Ministry of Women's Affairs has dispatched teams to 21 provinces to motivate and promote awareness among women of the need to participate actively in the upcoming elections.
The 10-day project, which began on July 16th, involves 63 people who will be meeting village leaders and utilizing local media, mosques, NGOs, and schools to help in the information campaign. Media members interested in more information can contact MoWA's public relations office at 079 282 074.
Briefing by Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Spokesman, on Child Soldier Demobilization
Local Demobilization and Reintegration Committees, made up of community leaders and locally-based NGOs, began work this week in Herat province to identify and assess up to 500 eligible children; that is, those children of 18 years or younger who have been attached to a military unit with a formal command structure who wish to benefit from the programme's reintegration opportunities. The programme, supported by UNICEF, began in February 2004 and has assisted just over 4,000 former child soldiers.
The programme relies heavily upon the support of local communities, who help to identify eligible young people. Reintegration options, which focus on education and vocational training opportunities, are also based in the community in an effort to help young people play a constructive role in their local society.
The programme has enjoyed considerable success to date, with more than 3,300 former child soldiers aged between 14 and 18 years old undertaking a range of training programmes including animal husbandry, motor mechanics, tailoring, masonry and carpentry. Training programmes are linked to employment opportunities, to enable participants to have an increased chance of tangible income generation on completion of the one-year courses.
The child soldier demobilization and reintegration initiative is being funded with support from the Governments of the United States of America, Japan and Germany as well as UNICEF fundraising committees in France, Germany and Japan.
Questions & Answers
There were no questions at today's press briefing.