Afghanistan

Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 19 Jan 2003

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TALKING POINTS
Joint Visit of Afghan Human Rights Commission/UNAMA to Herat

The Senior Human Rights Advisor is in Herat today. He is there for the second meeting of the joint UNAMA/Afghan Human Rights Commission working group with representatives of the Herat Administration.

Among other topics, UNAMA intends to address the question of teachers for girl students in private training courses. As you know, recently some media have reported that based on decision of the local Education Department only female teachers can teach girls.

Since the decision was announced the UNAMA Herat office has been following the case and collected some preliminary information that we expect to review in the meeting. It seems that although it has not entered into force yet, the question here is to determine whether such a decision, if implemented, would have an impact on both the right of girls to education and teachers to work.

After years of discrimination, girls must have the opportunity to catch up and to have access to the best education available.

Education, like other sectors, has been dilapidated by the years of war and neglect. The plans of the Ministry of Education for this year, with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other agencies, call for the accelerated recruitment and training of new teachers to help cover the estimated shortfall of almost 30,000 teachers countrywide. School reconstruction and rehabilitation are among the country's most urgent needs. Of the current total of some 5,000 schools, over half are in urgent need of repair.

We have prepared a Fact Sheet on the situation in the Education sector. It gives you the plans for this year and provides details on what was done in 2002. It is available in English and Dari at the back of the room

[We were subsequently informed that the trip to Herat today was cancelled because the flight was unable to leave due to weather conditions. The visit will take place a soon as possible when another date is arranged.]

Update on the North

Approximately 500 light and heavy weapons were collected in Maymana, Faryab Province yesterday under the supervision of a delegation of the Mazar Multi Party Security Commission. As you may remember Faryab province was one of the areas, which in 2002 had been identified by the Commission for disarmament in 2003. Other areas identified for disarmament this year are Sar-i Pul, Samangan and Balkh provinces.

The delegation, which was led by General Abdul Rashid Dostum, with representation from all the major factions, was, according to local sources, greeted by some 25,000 local people who turned out in a show of support for the disarmament exercise. According to UNAMA, the weapons collection began at around 4:30 p.m. The process was preceded by festivities including dancing, singing and speeches and was characterized by a general atmosphere of support and enthusiasm for the process.

Despite the presence of heavy snow and extremely cold weather the 500 weapons were collected before nightfall. UNAMA is helping to register and count these weapons, a process which is continuing today. Also today, delegations will be dispatched to Almar in Faryab and four other areas in the province where weapons collection is expected to continue.

Reports of weapons resurfacing in Rahmatabad, Sholgara in Balk have also prompted the dispatch of another Security Commission delegation there today. Just to give you some of the dimensions of the problem - the number of weapons in question totals some 23 held by both Jumiat and Jumbesh factions. In addition, the Police of Chief of Sholgara will accompany the delegation. This is a second attempt to disarm this area as the first, which took place last November was unsuccessful.

Update on Whooping Cough Outbreak in Badakshan

Our colleagues in the World Health Organization (WHO) informed us this morning that the recent outbreak of Pertussis (whooping cough) in five remote villages in the Darwaz District of Badakshan Province has been contained in those locations. There has not been any reported spread to other areas. As we told you those five villages are Qaleh-e-Kuf, Shahr-i-Sabz, Nusai, Jamarj-i-Payan, and Maymay. They are all located near to the Tajik border.

According to WHO all antibiotic drugs and treatments procured by UNICEF have been distributed and there is no shortage of medication. The whooping cough taskforce headed by the Ministry of Health, with technical and material support from UN agencies and NGOs, states that the situation is under control and that logistically everything is in good shape. WHO has further informed us that while there is still no overall figure available for the number of deaths so far, fatalities are decreasing.

At the last briefing on Thursday we informed you that Dr. Jon Fleerackers of the WHO was arriving on that same day with samples for laboratory testing. Unfortunately he was not able to leave as planned due to some complications related to the fragile samples he will be carrying and the ned to bring them back intact. Dr. Fleerackers will therefore have to leave Maymay via Tajikistan to get to Kabul. He is expected in another three days You may also recall that on 12 January we told you about Dr. Kayhan Natiq, an Afghan Doctor with the WHO, who traveled from Nusai to Maymay on foot. He will be arriving in Kabul sometime today from Faizabad and will give us a first-hand picture of the situation on the ground.

We also have some more copies of the maps we gave out the last time which pinpoint exactly where the outbreaks are taking place. These maps are also available on the AIMS website - www.aims.org.pk