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Afghan peace talks: Four nations to draw road map on January 16

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Islamabad: The first round of quadrilateral meeting of Pakistan, Afghanistan, US, and China will take place on January 16 to work out a clear and comprehensive road map for a meaningful Afghan peace process, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif said on Thursday.

The efforts to facilitate the Afghan reconciliation were started on the occasion of the “Heart of Asia” Conference in Islamabad on December 9.

Diplomatic efforts will get momentum with the meeting to revive the dialogue process between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Pakistan earlier brokered the first ever face-to-face talks in early July and the second round was cancelled after the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar was revealed in late July.

All stakeholders are now making efforts to end the deadlock in the process that was necessary to stop the Taliban’s Spring Offensive. The Taliban had launched the annual offensive in late March or early April.

Asif told the senate the quadrilateral meeting will clearly demarcate responsibilities of each stakeholder at all stages.

Talking about the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s recent visit to Kabul, he said the army chief carried a message to Kabul that the peace process would necessarily be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.

“It was agreed that they will pursue peace and reconciliation with Taliban groups willing to join the process,” the minister informed the upper house of the parliament.

Elements that would still continue to pursue violence will be dealt, under a mutually worked out framework, he declared.

All eyes are now on the four-nation meeting that was seen very significant to explore ways for the revival of the dialogue process. (IANS)

(Photo: Wikipedia)

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About 2M Children in Afghanistan Suffer Acute Malnutrition: UNICEF

But UNICEF is struggling to fund its operation. The agency needs an immediate injection of $7 million, Boulierac said

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FILE - A boy walks inside what is left of a home in Kandahar province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, March, 3, 2019. The U.N. Children's Fund is appealing for money to treat Afghanistan's malnourished children. VOA

About two million children in Afghanistan are acutely malnourished. Of those, 600,000 face severe acute malnutrition, the most dangerous form of undernutrition in children, said Christophe Boulierac, a spokesman for the U.N. Children’s Fund.

“Any child suffering from severe acute malnutrition is a crisis and needs to be treated to survive,” he said. “We cannot tell you how many children will die, but we can tell you that a child with severe acute malnutrition is 11 times more likely to die than their healthy peers.”

Afghanistan, alongside Yemen and South Sudan, is among the countries with the highest numbers of children under age five suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Severe drought in 2018 has worsened the situation.

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But UNICEF is struggling to fund its operation. The agency needs an immediate injection of $7 million, Boulierac said. Pixabay

Recent nutrition surveys across Afghanistan find 22 out of 34 provinces are above the emergency threshold of acute malnutrition. Last year, UNICEF provided life-saving assistance to nearly half of the country’s most nutritionally deprived children. It is aiming to reach 60 percent, or 375,000, of those children this year. But UNICEF is struggling to fund its operation. The agency needs an immediate injection of $7 million, Boulierac said.

“We are the sole provider of this treatment against severe acutely malnourished children,” he told VOA. “We need urgent funding in three weeks, otherwise, we will not send the necessary ready-to-use therapeutic food treatment to the 1,300 health facilities that are waiting for that.”

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This year, UNICEF has provided treatment to more than 73,000 severely malnourished children. Boulierac said plans are in place to immediately scale up the operation to reach more children as soon as more money is available.

He also warned that the nutritional status of Afghanistan’s children is likely to worsen without more secure funding in the pipeline. (VOA)