Press Briefing by Adrian Edwards, Spokesperson for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan 28 Jul 2005

News and Press Release
Originally published
DDR / DIAG update

A ceremony has been taking place in the past hour at the Ministry of Defence to award Afghan Military Forces commanders who have participated in the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme with a certificate of recognition and a financial redundancy package. This is the tenth and last such ceremony. This programme, which uses Japanese funds, has provided in the region of 350 former commanders with a one-year stipend to help their return to civilian life.

The number of ex-combatants that have entered the final Reintegration phase of DDR now stands at 57,047. This is 659 more than on Monday when I last had data on this for you. As you know, reintegration provides support and training so that former combatants can start new careers.

For media representatives who may be interested to know more about Reintegration there are two graduation ceremonies for ex-combatants over the coming week. The first is on Sunday at 10am at Kabul Polytechnic, when 18 officers from the UNOPS building supervisory programme will graduate. The second is on Monday in Karta-e Char at 9am, when 36 officers will graduate from teacher training. Media representatives are invited.

With the DIAG programme, a two-day workshop was held (July 26-27) in the ANBP main office. As you know, DIAG has already moved on from the candidate phase to the main phase, which involves negotiations with illegal armed groups. The workshop was part of the support for this process and looked at how DIAG activities should be implemented in the regions through ANBP regional staff, departments of Ministry of Defence, Interior, Culture and Information, Rural Rehabilitation & Development, Agriculture, DIAG Joint secretariat, Provincial Committees and other stakeholders in the regions. More than 160 people participated.

With weapons verification levels, the figures I gave you on Monday are unchanged.

Afghans to participate at MDG meeting in Sri Lanka

Participants from 15 countries from across the Asia-Pacific region, including Afghanistan, are meeting this week in Sri Lanka to discuss the global framework for fighting poverty, which is the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Afghanistan delegation includes Deputy Finance Minister Dr. Wahidullah Sherani; Senior Policy Advisor for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Omar Zakhelwal; and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ameerah Haq.

More than 125 specialists in education, health and environment, representing national governments and the United Nations, are involved in the five-day workshop, which aims to identify best ways to formulate national development plans and budgets based on the Millennium Development Goals.

The eight global MDGs are; eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development. A ninth goal, specifically for Afghanistan, is to enhance security.

Click here for more information.

Counter Narcotics Criminal Justice Task Force now operational

Today the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) officially announced the start of activities relating to the counter narcotics Criminal Justice Task Force. The Task Force was created to expedite drug cases within Afghanistan as well as to strengthen the institutional capacity to arrest, investigate, try and detain criminal offenders suspected and convicted of drug related crimes.

Already it has dealt with 69 such cases during a pilot phase earlier this year.

The Ministry of Counter Narcotics is the main governmental coordinating body for the programme and is implementing activities in cooperation with the Ministries of Interior and Justice, the Supreme Court and the Attorney General's office.

Click here to read the detailed UNODC press release.

Around Afghanistan

Floods hit Badakhshan village

In Badakhshan province, flooding affected Baba Tangi village in Wakhan district on Monday.

Initial reports suggest that ten houses have been damaged and one destroyed, although no casualties are reported.

The provincial emergency committee, along with the Department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, is conducting an assessment in the area. Non-food items have already being pre-positioned in the province and will be distributed as needed.

FAO hands over much-needed farm and office equipment to Nangarhar Agriculture Dept

The Food and Agriculture Organization recently donated 29 farming and office equipment items to the Nangarhar Agriculture Department. Among these were a tractor, six motorcycles, three pick up trucks, and some generators.

The deputy governor of Nangarhar was among those who attended the assets exchange

Click here to view photos of the donated equipment.

NDI offers more training for candidates and their agents in Gardez

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) started a weeklong training session for candidates and their agents in Gardez. Up to 100 people are participating in the first stage of training.

BBC Reporting Project trains more than 700 Afghan journalists

The BBC World Service Trust has trained more than 700 journalists in Afghanistan over the past year as part of the 'Free and Fair - Reporting on Afghanistan's First Democratic Elections Project'.

The year-long project, which came to an end in June, included training for 140 women and was designed to assist radio, print and television journalists to provide independent election coverage during the country's landmark elections.

Click here for more on this project.

Guest speaker for Thursday August 4th press briefing

Our guest speaker at next Thursday's briefing will be Cecilia Lotse, UNICEF's Regional Director for South Asia, who has arrived today in Afghanistan.

She will be speaking on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, reviewing progress and highlighting remaining challenges.

Ms. Lotse is on a week-long trip to Afghanistan and is travelling to the south, south-east and central provinces, where she will visit a maternal health centre and girls' school in Kandahar, a rural health clinic in Nangarhar, and a women's literacy programme in Jalalabad. She will also be meeting with local leaders and government officials.

Click here for further information (English, Dari).

Briefing by Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Spokesperson, on "World Breastfeeding Week"

This year's World Breastfeeding Week begins on Monday 1 August, with the message this year that parents must adopt the best possible feeding practices, especially when considering introducing complementary foods to a child's diet.

While most Afghan mothers do breastfeed their newborn children, it is common for many mothers in this country to discard the initial milk produced which is known to contain the antibodies and growth agents that are of critical importance in the early days of a child's life. In addition, we find that the introduction of inappropriate foods such as bread, "nan" and tea at too early a stage in a child's development, and the delay in introducing nutritious foods, are both known to be common bad practices. For your information less than one-third of Afghan infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, which is considered to be the global standard; 54 per cent of Afghan children under the age of five are stunted, while 40 per cent are underweight - both conditions are known to be linked to inadequate feeding practices.

So to help families better understand the importance of breastfeeding, and to help parents introduce complementary foods in a safe and healthy manner, at the right time, a series of events are being organized during World Breastfeeding Week in Afghanistan. All these events will bring home the message that breastfeeding is essential to a child's survival, healthy development, and that improved feeding practices are critical to those early stages of a child's life.

In particular, the campaign's core message stresses the need for exclusive breastfeeding up to six months and then the careful introduction of appropriate foods thereafter. The week begins on Monday. It will be officially launched on Monday the 1st of August at a special ceremony at the Ministry of Health in Kabul at 9am and will be attended by the Minister of Public Health. We will also put out a more detailed note at Monday's briefing.

Click here to read the full UNICEF media release in English and Dari.

Questions & Answers

Question: Given the recent events regarding return of Afghans from France and Britain, how does the United Nations see the return of these people to Afghanistan and do we welcome this development or express concern?

Spokesman: As you know a very large number of refugees have returned to Afghanistan with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) programmes. The programmes [which you are referring to] are not UNHCR programmes, and I am not qualified to talk about them.