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Afghan Taliban to begin annual spring offensive from April 24

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In an attempt to regain power from the Afghan government, the Taliban has announced its plan to launch its annual spring offensive today.

According to a statement by the militant group, the offensive, dubbed “Azm” meaning “resolution”, will start from Friday, April 24.

The announced annual spring offensive is the first one since President Ashraf Ghani assumed office in September.

“Although the foreign occupying forces announced late last year the end of their war mission in Afghanistan, still they control the land and air space of the country and the command of war is in their hands,” the statement said, adding that if the foreign occupiers want the end of war in Afghanistan, they should withdraw completely.

In the statement, Taliban militants also called upon Afghan civil and military servicemen to desert government ranks and join the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” (the name of the Taliban ousted regime) which had ruled the major part of the country before its collapse in late 2001.

The combat mission in Afghanistan led by the US and NATO-led troops ended late in December 2014. This allowed the Afghan national security force to shoulder the security responsibility of their conflict-riven country from January 1 this year.

However, more than 13,000 US-led troops under the name of Resolute Support (RS) mission still remain in Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan forces.

The previous spring offensive “Khyber” launched by the Taliban on May 12, 2014 in the shape of suicide attacks and roadside bombings, failed to capture any major city or district in the country although thousands of people, including militants, military personnel and civilians were killed and injured.

According to a report of the UN mission in Afghanistan released here in February this year, more than 6,800 people were injured and at least 3,700 civilians were killed and in the Taliban-led militancy and conflicts in 2014.

Militancy and cases of conflict typically rise in spring and summer in Afghanistan, commonly known as the fighting season among Afghans.

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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)