UNAMA's weekly press conference
KABUL - UNAMA's weekly press conference every Monday in Kabul highlighting the work of UN agencies in Afghanistan.
Nilab Mobarez, UNAMA Spokespersons Unit
NEW SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE ARRIVES
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura arrived in Kabul on Saturday 13 March 2010 to take up his post as the top UN official in the country.
Landing at the Kabul airport, Mr de Mistura said: “Whatever the United Nations will be doing in Afghanistan will be done to assist both the stability and socio-economic improvement of the Afghan people, remembering it should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, with total respect for their own sovereignty and independence.”
Before taking up his current position in Kabul, Mr de Mistura served as the Deputy Executive Director at the World Food Programme in Rome.
During his 38-year career in the UN, Mr de Mistura served in different parts of the world such as Iraq, Lebanon, Ethiopia, the Balkans, Rwanda, Chad and Sudan, leading humanitarian aid operations and political and public affairs offices.
He is spending his first days in Afghanistan meeting with his UN colleagues and Afghan authorities and has promised to brief you in the near future.
DEPUTY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE MARTIN KOBLER OF GERMANY APPOINTED
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced the appointment of Martin Kobler of Germany as his Deputy Special Representative (Political) for Afghanistan. He is expected to arrive early next month.
The new Deputy Special Representative will be responsible for political issues, including electoral and parliamentary matters, as well as questions relating to peace and stability, security-sector reform and human rights.
Mr Kobler has extensive experience in developing policies for conflict areas as part of his country’s foreign service. He most recently served as Director-General for Culture and Communication in Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously he served as the German ambassador to Iraq and to Egypt.
UN STAFF BACK
All UN staff who had moved temporarily to Dubai, following the 28 October 2009 attack on the Bakhtar guesthouse in Kabul, have returned to resume their duties in Afghanistan.
OPERATION MOSHTARAK – HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The United Nations continues to monitor the situation in Helmand province in the wake of Operation Moshtarak, and UN agencies have increased their emergency supplies in the area.
The UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that according to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, 4,275 families (about 27,700 individuals) were displaced from Marjah town and Nad Ali district in Helmand from 8 February to 4 March 2010.
Partners of UN agencies report that 88 percent of the displaced families have received assistance such as food from the World Food Programme. Additional supplies from WFP and UNHCR have been distributed in Lashkar Gah, and the World Health Organization has mobilized additional emergency kits and medical supplies. Shelter, medical kits and other materials are also available from UN agencies in Kandahar.
GOOD OFFICES BETWEEN TWO TRIBES IN SHINWAR
UNAMA has called on two sub-tribes of the Shinwari tribe in the Achin district of Nangarhar province to exercise restraint and engage in serious negotiations to defuse tension between them.
The sub-tribes – Alishir Khil and Sipay – engaged in violent clashes last week over a land dispute, resulting in several deaths and injuries.
UNAMA has held several meetings with the stakeholders, including the provincial governor, deputy governor, the deputy interior minister, tribal elders, Nangarhar’s chief of police, ISAF representatives and members of the sub-tribes. At the moment, a ceasefire is in place in the area, but more is needed to be done to secure a longer-term peace deal.
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION LAUNCHES NATIONWIDE POLIO CAMPAIGN
An estimated 7.7 million children, under five years of age will benefit in the enhanced immunity against polio campaign is taking place from 14 to16 March. This is the second campaign this year launched by WHO, UNICEF and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan.
WHO TO INCREASE MEDICAL SUPPLIES STOCK IN KANDAHAR
WHO pre-positioned supplies will be enough to cover the essential health needs of 80,000 people for three months. WHO has increased its stocks in Kandahar to strengthen and support the capacity of the Provincial Public Health Directorate and NGO implementing partners to respond to an anticipated deterioration of the security situation and possible population displacement.
UNESCO LAUNCHES LITERACY PROJECT IN NINE PROVINCES OF AFGHANISTAN
300,000 illiterate Afghans, 60 percent of whom are women, are expected to benefit in the second phase of a literacy project that was launched by UNESCO last week.
The Enhancement of Literacy Project will be put into practice in nine provinces, including Badghis, Faryab, Ghazni, Khost, Kunar, Nimroz, Nuristan, Uruzgan and Zabul over the next three years.
Japan contributed US $19 million to this project, which will be jointly implemented by UNESCO and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education.
Afghanistan has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. Less than one third of the adult population is able to read and write. The female literacy rate is even more shocking with approximately one adult woman in ten with basic literacy skills.
UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME ANNUAL REPORT
The United Nations Environment Programme in Afghanistan has just released its 2009 Annual Report, available on the side table. Dari and Pashto versions will be available soon.
The UNEP Annual Report highlights the work of the agency in finding Afghan solutions to Afghan problems concerning the environment.
As we approach the New Year (Naw Roz) and spring and the traditional tree-planting season, it’s worth remembering that we need to take care of our environment.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
RFE/RL [translated from Pashto]: Military forces have said that with the approach of spring there will be an offensive against the Taliban in Kandahar. I would like to know whether the UN has any preparations in terms of setting up refugee camps or other measures in anticipation of this.
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: As I mentioned earlier there are already some medical supplies pre-positioned in Kandahar. In case the situation deteriorates there will be further preparations and we will brief you.
SALAM WATANDAR [translated from Dari]: With regard to the return of the UN staff temporarily relocated to Dubai, I want to know how many of them have returned and what is the reason behind their return to Kabul? Is it because the security situation has improved?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: As you know this temporary relocation took place following the horrific attack on the UN guesthouse in Kabul, and the UN tries to provide security for its staff while working in the country. So that’s why we tried to maintain the security and they have returned. For your information 80 percent of UN staff are Afghan staff. With regard to the number of staff who have returned, we will brief you later.
RTA [translated from Pashto]: You just mentioned about a clash in the Shinwari district between the two sub-tribes Alishir Khil and Sipay. I want to know how many people have been killed and injured in this incident. And the ceasefire which has been in place: how sure are you that it will not erupt again?
UNAMA [translated from Pashto]: We don’t have figures on the number of dead and casualties and we will advise you on that with the help of our office in Jalalabad. But we are hopeful and optimistic that this peace will last.
(The reporter was later informed that, according to police sources, 14 people died and 16 were injured).
SABA TV [translated from Dari]: My question is regarding the 3,000 Afghan refugees in Iran who are subject to be executed. I want to know the UN's position on this issue.
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: We, like you, heard about this issue through the media, which was later confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since we are not directly in the picture as far as this issue is concerned, we cannot comment any further. Normally, when an issue involves the citizens of two countries it is the primary responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the two countries to solve the problem.
HASHT-E-SUBH [translated from Dari]: This is a question with two parts. My first question is about the priority of the newly-arrived Special Representative of the Secretary-General. My second question is on the security measures that have been taken concerning the UN staff (in Afghanistan). I want you to elaborate on whether their scope of work has been limited or if additional measures have been taken?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: As I mentioned, the UN Special Representative will be meeting with the Afghan authorities and UN colleagues in order to get a full picture of how the UN can be more effective to improve the political stability and the socio-economic situation of the Afghan people. Upon his arrival, he stressed that any work the UN undertakes will be Afghan-led and will have the total respect for the sovereignty and the independence of the Afghan people. He will be meeting with you (the media) in the near future and you can ask him questions at that point.
As for your second question, we’re fully committed to what we are doing in Afghanistan and we are taking into consideration all security measures to secure our staff who work in Afghanistan.
BAKHTAR TV [translated from Pashto]: My question is with regards to the planning and priorities of the new UN Special Representative. You mentioned he will be focusing on peace and elections. I wonder whether there will be any problems between him and his deputy, just like it happened between the former Special Representative Kai Eide and his deputy during the Presidential elections?
UNAMA [translated from Dari]: No, the problems will not be repeated.