Afghanistan

Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 27 Feb 2003

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Developing Countries including Afghanistan suffer more in the illicit drug trade than developed countries: International Narcotics Control Board Annual Report

Illicit drug production prevents economic growth and does not lead to sustainable development in the long-term according to the Annual Report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) released yesterday. The report also shows that only one per cent of the profits go to the farmers growing the illicit crops and 99 per cent is earned at other points along the drug trafficking chain.

The short-term benefits of employment opportunities that the illicit drug industry offers, mostly jobs for farmers and itinerant labourers, is offset by significant long-term losses. Illicit drugs prevent economic development.

Afghanistan is one example used in the report to show the destabilizing effect of illicit drug production on the state, economy and civil society and how it damages long-term economic development. Massive increases in opium production in the early 1990s, here in this country, helped fuel civil wars, and evidence suggests economic growth declined and living standards fell.

The Board stresses that Afghanistan has to develop a comprehensive and coherent national drug control strategy to include all drugs illicitly cultivated, produced and trafficked. Chemicals needed for the manufacture of heroin are being trafficked into Afghanistan through neighbouring countries. Afghanistan is also a major source of cannabis resin (hashish). The eradication of hashish cultivation and the suppression of its trafficking have to go hand in hand with the combating of illicit opiates, the Board says.

Recognizing the efforts of the current Afghan Government, the Board calls for comprehensive and urgent support and cooperation from the international community as well as from countries in the region. The Board also stresses that eradication of illicit opium poppy can only be achieved if relevant laws are fully respected and implemented, while sustainable alternative livelihoods are provided for farmers.

The International Narcotics Control Board is the independent monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions. Its 13 members are elected by the Economic and Social Council. They serve in their personal capacity, not as government representatives and include pharmacological experts

We have copies of the press kit available.

Update on the North

The voluntary disarmament exercise, which is being conducted by the Mazar Multi Party Security Commission in Maymana in Faryab Province, has still not resumed since stalling on 18 January. General Abdul Rashid Dostum is out of the country and the Commission hopes to urgently reactivate the exercise upon his return. Since the process stalled there has been an increased presence of armed soldiers in and around Maymana from both the main factions.

In Balkh Province, tension has been created through the repeated movements of armed personnel in Sadrabaads village (north of Balkh District between Dawlat Abad and Chahi) and will be addressed by the Commission in the coming days. There have also been increased tensions in Zari in Sholgara District. Following a Security Commission decision, a delegation that includes UNAMA has been looking into the issues in this remote area since 23 February.

Suspension of United Nations Road Trips

As we are talking about the north I would like to tell you that UN missions to Gosfandi in Sar-i-Pul have been suspended for the last two weeks due to factional skirmishes in the area.

UN missions are currently suspended to Shinkay, Athgar and Shamulzayi, which are all southeast of Qalat in Zabul province. This is due to instability in those areas.

Road movement from Kandahar to Rambasi in Dand district is also suspended, due to an explosion and an attack on civilian and military vehicles last week. All other road movements by UN vehicles throughout the country remain open.

We will try to keep you informed about these situations because we feel this is useful information for you as journalists if you want to travel to file stories. We cannot, however, promise to always be very timely because sometimes these suspensions happen on one day and are lifted by the next. So we will give notifications about those suspensions that may last for a while. More than anything it is a service for you as you do your own work and move around the country.

Assistance to the Pamirs

Although winter has almost drawn to a close some winterizations activities are still taking place to address the needs of some of the more vulnerable Afghans in the most inaccessible areas. Today I will tell you about one situation in a very far away and remote and inaccessible place. And that is in the Pamir region.

The Pamir is located in eastern Badakshan, bordering China, Tajikistan and Pakistan. It is one of the highest points in the country, and falls under Wakhan district. It is divided into Pamir-e-Kalan and Pamir-e-Khurd - with an estimated population of about 2,300 people. Road access from Faizabad to Pamir-e-Khurd is 365 Kms and to Pamir-e-Kalan 280 Kms. After the road ends in Wakhan there is still a four-day walk to each Pamir. This gives you an idea of just how far away they are.

From the beginning of January to date the following items provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF have been delivered by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Wakhan and are being picked up by the Pamiris as we speak: 76.6 MT of wheat; 19.15 MT of pulses; 2,681 sweaters; 1,149 pairs of plastic shoes; 1,149 pairs of socks; 1,532 bars washing soap; and 383 bottles of cooking oil.

In early January a mission comprised of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), UNAMA, WFP and AKDN recommended immediate food assistance under the winterization programme for the estimated 2,300 Pamiris for the next five months. It was recommended that food and clothes be transported overland to Broghail in Wakhan where beneficiaries could pick up them up. Pamiris are currently making five-day camel rides from their homes to this distribution point. .

Future needs are schools and health clinics for the Pamirs and their animals (their livelihood). Area health practitioners agree that health education is important to improve lives in remote areas. ORA an agency providing assistance in Wakhan notes unhealthy feeding habits - babies are not breastfed until four days old nor given solid food until their 17th month. It recommends health education, which will include information on good practices for child feeding and the training of traditional birth attendants.

Condolences

On Tuesday following the tragic plane crash off the coast Pakistan on Monday that took the lives of eight persons including the Afghan Minister for Mines and Industries, UNAMA, on behalf of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi sent a condolence note to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In that letter we express deep sorrow at the plane crash which claimed the lives of Afghan Minister for Mines and Industries, Juma Mohammad Mohammadi, and his four Afghan colleagues; Ahmad Ratib Yulmi, Mohammad Amin Sadiq, Ramatullah Popal and Farhad Ahmed along with two other passengers. Many in the UN family in Afghanistan knew Minister Mohammadi and his colleagues personally. We share in the sense of loss at their passing and respectfully ask that you extend our condolences to their families as well as to the Transitional Administration of Afghanistan

Briefing to Security Council by Under Secretary General of Peacekeeping Operations

Under Secretary-General (USG) for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Marie Guehènno, briefed the Security Council on Afghanistan on Monday. He stressed that Afghans continued to suffer from the insecurity created by weak national security institutions and strong local commanders. This in itself underscored the need to quicken the necessary security sector reform in the country. The creation of the army, the phasing out of factional militias, and the effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants were key elements of security sector reform he said.

Mr. Guehènno said reforming the security sector was even more urgent in light of the complex political activities for the next 16 months. That sector must be able to provide minimal conditions of stability to ensure that the Constitutional Loya Jirga and the national elections are meaningful and credible events.

While it was hoped that strong actions at the national government level would build confidence among various factions for DDR, it was also clear that the political support needed to complete that process would have to be built carefully and gradually throughout the country. Although the international community could and must provide support, in the end, he said success would depend on Afghans themselves.

Though this latest briefing of the Security Council focused on security sector reform, Mr. Guehènno also provided Council members with brief updates on the constitutional and electoral processes. He also informed participants that the Afghan Human Rights Commission has begun to prioritize more than 600 complaints that have been lodged with it. This exercise will help the Commission to decide the most pressing cases to investigate.

For full details, we have a copy of the statement available at the side of the room.

UNICEF and Government of Japan to Sign US$ 5 Million Agreement to Tackle Childhood Diseases in Afghanistan, Chulho Hyun

Representatives of UNICEF and the Government of Japan will sign an agreement in Kabul on Thursday 27 February that will provide approximately US$ 5 million to continue the campaign against vaccine-preventable diseases amongst children in Afghanistan.

Members of the media are invited to attend the signing ceremony, scheduled for 15.00 at the Library Hall of the Ministry of Health in Kabul.

The Government of Japan is extending the funds to Afghanistan through UNICEF for the purpose of implementing the Project of Infectious Diseases Prevention for Children in Afghanistan. The amount is to be used for the purchasing of vaccines and equipment.

Mr. Dermot Carty, Senior Programme Officer, UNICEF-Afghanistan Country Office and His Excellency Ambassador Kinichi Komano of Japan will sign the agreement in a ceremony hosted by Her Excellency Dr. Suhaila Siddiq.

The agreement will assist UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and national and international NGOs, to continue efforts for nationwide coverage in ongoing polio and measles immunization campaigns. In 2002, the Ministry of Health, with the support of UNICEF, WHO and other partners, successfully immunized close to 10 million children (aged six months to 12 years) against measles, and 6 million children against polio.

Saudi Arabia Date donation Update, WFP Public Affairs Officer, Alejandro Chicheri

Distributions of the 700 MT of Dates donated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the most vulnerable people of Afghanistan are ongoing. 25 bakeries distributed 46.02MT to 55,200 beneficiaries in 11 districts of Kabul, over the last month. Each cardholder has received 5kg of dates.

In addition the dates are used to assist 2,000 Orphans and 4,833 patients in 18 different hospitals of the city.

In Herat the dates will be distributed as part of the IDP and refugee returnee packages, in the coming weeks.

Random interview of beneficiaries in Kabul revealed enthusiasm over this gift, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. WFP beneficiaries are selected among the most vulnerable people of the city, who do not get the basic energy requirements from their usual meals. From a nutritional point of view, this contribution is indeed providing the much-needed supplementary nutritional energy to the most vulnerable people in urban areas.

Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation Approved, WFP Public Affairs Officer, Alejandro Chicheri

On 6 February 2003, WFP's Executive Board approved the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO 10233.0) for Afghanistan. The PRRO, with a total food requirement of 618, 989 MT, will become operational on 1 April 2003

The Operation which underwent extensive consultations to be in line with the national priorities set by the Government, and which is included in the framework of the United Nations Transitional Assistance Programme for Afghanistan (TAPA), will reach nine million people in two years.

The Government is increasingly taking the lead in coordinating WFP's assistance through action plans at the provincial level. Counterpart ministries have already participated in the assessment of food needs through the annual VAM assessment and Rapid Emergency Food Needs Assessment as well as the Area Office level project approval committees mechanism.

Guest at the Briefing, Spokesman

In the last two briefings we informed you about the Tokyo Conference on the Consolidation of peace (DDR) in Afghanistan entitled "Change of Order from Guns to Ploughs" which took place last Saturday. Today to give you an update of the conference and briefly elaborate on the soon to be launched DDR programme we have Sultan Aziz, who is the Senior Advisor DDR to Special the Representative of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi.