Csaba Kőrösi painted a near apocalyptic picture of ordinary life in the Taliban-ruled nation that has endured almost five decades of “relentless conflict”, urging the international community to make up the $2.3 billion shortfall in the UN humanitarian appeal for $4.4 billion.

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The UN humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan which requires $4.4 billion USD is only half funded.

With winter weather just weeks away, I encourage Member States to provide urgent support to help reduce the $2.3 billion dollar shortfall.

Full remarks🔗 https://t.co/Go1J3igWyNhttps://t.co/PTGnrqryUMhttps://t.co/F1bvgcAoT5

UN GA President

‘Moral imperative’

In a powerful speech to ambassadors in New York, during a full session of the UN’s most representative body, he said that there was “a moral and also a practical imperative for the international community to support an inclusive and sustainable peace in Afghanistan.”

The resolution expressed deep concern over Afghanistan’s current trajectory and the volatility there since the Taliban takeover.

It urges Afghanistan to honour and fully respect and implement all treaties, covenants or conventions, bilateral or multilateral, which is has signed up to.

Drugs and terror

Beyond the disastrous humanitarian and human rights situation, he said the country was now “awash with heroin and opium.”

“Organized crime and terrorist organizations are thriving once again. Afghanistan is facing complex and interlinked challenges that the Taliban have shown they cannot – or would not – solve.”

Now is the time to come up with some concrete solutions that put the Afghan people first, he said, suggesting one concrete way the General Assembly could help right away:

“I encourage the country’s reengagement with the international science community. And to allow women who used to be respected members of the country’s science community, to resume their research and their studies.

Alone in denial

Afghanistan is now the only State in the world, denying girls the right to a full education, he added, noting that their prospects are totally uncertain, “amid seemingly random edicts from the Taliban.

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan – latest findings and emerging threats, is the first report on the illicit opium trade since the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021.

The authorities banned all cultivation of opium poppy and all narcotics under strict new laws, in April 2022.

Opium is the essential ingredient for manufacturing the street drug heroin, and the class of medical prescription opioids which millions rely on for pain medication worldwide. Opioids have also been increasingly abused, causing widespread addiction issues in countries such as the United States.

This year’s harvest was largely exempted from the decree, said UNODC, and farmers in Afghanistan must now decide on planting opium poppy for next year amid continued uncertainty about how the Taliban will enforce the ban.

Sowing of the main 2023 opium crop must be done by early November this year.

Opiate limbo

“Afghan farmers are trapped in the illicit opiate economy, while seizure events around Afghanistan suggest that opiate trafficking continues unabated,” said UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly, launching the new survey.

“The international community must work to address the acute needs of the Afghan people, and to step up responses to stop the criminal groups trafficking heroin and harming people in countries around the world.”

According to UNODC findings, cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan increased by 32 per cent over the previous year, to 233,000 hectares – making the 2022 crop the third largest area under cultivation since monitoring began.

Opium harvest in a poppy field in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. Raw opium is cooked before being suitable for smoking.
IRIN/Manoocher Deghati
Opium harvest in a poppy field in Badakhshan, Afghanistan. Raw opium is cooked before being suitable for smoking.

Public health risks are increasing, driven by damaged infrastructure, stagnant water and inadequate sanitation facilities, the UN health agency said.

Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO Regional Emergency Director, said that the catastrophe has pushed the country to the brink and that diseases are rampant.

Over 540,000 malaria cases have been reported. Other health threats include increasing cases of diarrheal diseases, an ongoing dengue fever outbreak, measles and diphtheria.
— Dr. Richard Brennan

He added that a food crisis is looming, the economy is deteriorating, and winter is fast approaching. The eight million flood-affected people who need health assistance require essential medical supplies and access to essential healthcare.

Multiple disease threats

Dr. Brennan said that humanitarian agencies face an uphill battle. “Enormous volumes of persistent flood waters, in particular, have provided breeding sites for mosquitos, resulting in an ongoing malaria outbreak in 32 districts.

“From July to early October 2022, over 540,000 malaria cases have been reported. Other health threats include increasing cases of diarrheal diseases, an ongoing dengue fever outbreak, measles and diphtheria.

He said that among the biggest concerns were high rates of severe acute malnutrition.

“Access to safe water and sanitation remains limited, with people using contaminated water for household consumption. Pregnant women need access to clean and safe delivery services.”

WHO expressed concern that, in the context of multiple other competing demands, the international response has not risen to the urgent needs of  flood-affected communities.

More than $81.5 million is needed to respond to the health crisis in flood-affected areas of Pakistan to ensure coordinated delivery of essential healthcare services, efficient management of severe acute malnutrition, and stronger outbreak detection, and control.

A young girl collects her medication from a mobile health unit set up for flood victims in Shangar District, Pakistan.

There have been “multiple reports” of deportations since April which run contrary to international humanitarian law, UNHCR spokesperson, Shabia Mantoo, told journalists in Geneva.

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We are seriously concerned over the continued deportation by Malaysia of asylum-seekers from Myanmar, placing lives at risk. We continue to call on Malaysia to immediately stop the forced returns of Myanmar nationals seeking safety from serious harm. https://t.co/w0ziwCIC0Z

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency

“According to information received by UNHCR, an asylum-seeker from Myanmar was deported on 21 October from detention despite UNHCR interventions...Such deportations of refugees and asylum-seekers amount to refoulement.”

Myanmar has been gripped by civil war since February 2021 and sending people back there has exposed them “to harm and danger”, the UN agency spokesperson insisted.

On Sunday, unconfirmed reports emerged that a concert held by opposition forces in Kachin was targeted by airstrikes that killed at least 50 people.

Non-refoulement, non-negotiable

UNHCR’s Ms. Mantoo described the principle of non-refoulement as “a cornerstone of international law” which was “binding on all States”.

The development follows a wider appeal from the UN refugee agency to countries in the region to stop forced returns of Myanmar nationals seeking safety from serious harm.

Sending them back to the country is placing countless lives at risk,” said Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.

Myanmar’s neighbours should end the “indefinite detention” of asylum-seekers and refugees from the country, the senior UNHCR official maintained, while also expressing concern at the ongoing indiscriminate violence against civilians across Myanmar, since the military coup.

Fighting has also continued between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups in some border areas which has driven people to flee within the country and across borders, Ms. Triggs noted.

Myanmar’s spiral

Tuesday’s alert from UNHCR echoes serious and widespread concerns about the fate of those who have fled Myanmar.

Mr. Guterres was in the country to take part in a ceremony to commemorate the 45th anniversary of its membership in the UN.

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45 years since joining the @UN, Viet Nam has undergone a remarkable journey: from conflict to peace, from aid to self-sufficiency, from poverty to development.

A powerful testament to the hard work of the Vietnamese people & policies that place people at the heart of progress. https://t.co/w0hvEpAkUf

António Guterres

He held meetings with the President, Nguyen Xuan Phuc; Prime Minister, Pham Minh Chinh, and other senior officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bui Thanh Son, and Environment Minister, Tran Hong Ha.

Protection against tragedy

On Saturday, the UN chief spoke at Viet Nam’s Meteorological and Hydrological Administration in the capital, Hanoi, where he highlighted the critical role of disaster preparedness for all governments.

The goal is to have early warning systems in all countries within five years, “to end the tragedy of people dying, livelihoods being destroyed, because people did not know that tragedy was unfolding,” he said.

“When we have an early warning system, and we know that something terrible is coming, we have time to relocate people, we have time to protect property,” he added.

Mr. Guterres will launch an action plan at the COP27 UN climate conference in Egypt next month to make the five-year deadline a reality.

The Secretary-General also commended Viet Nam’s work to protect the Mekong Delta.

The country’s agricultural and industrial heartland is among the most vulnerable places in the world, as it is exposed to rising sea levels, saltwater intrusion, flooding and changing rainfall intensity. 

He said efforts to protect the Mekong Delta were not only important for Viet Nam but could be shared with other nations around the world.

Gadvi Kailashben, a 42-year-old widow, lives in Modhera, home to the centuries-old Sun Temple and now the first village in India that runs on solar energy.

She earns a meagre income from agriculture which she uses to take care of her family. The Government has installed solar panels on her house which has given her much-needed relief from household expenses.

“Earlier, when solar was not there, I had to pay huge amount for the electricity bill - close to 2,000 rupees. However, with the installation of the solar, my electricity bill is now zero. Everything from the refrigerator to washing machine now runs on solar in my house. I am not paying even 1 rupee electricity bill now,” said Ms. Kailashben.

“The extra money is now saved in my account. I use that money for daily house expenses, and for the education of my children,” she added.

With the electricity bill in minus, Ashaben is not only saving the money that she used to spend on electricity, but the excess electricity generated is sold back to the grid and she gets money in return.
UN News
With the electricity bill in minus, Ashaben is not only saving the money that she used to spend on electricity, but the excess electricity generated is sold back to the grid and she gets money in return.

Renewable energy as an income source

Conversion to a clean, renewable energy source is not only enabling the villagers to run more electrical household gadgets to make life comfortable, without worrying about the electricity bill. It is also becoming a source of income for them.