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Afghanistan Led Peace Talks Supported By Nations

Mohib said his government was ready to engage in serious, constructive peace talks with the Taliban.

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Afghanistan, U.N., Taliban
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a U.N. conference on Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2018, at U.N. offices in Geneva, Switzerland. VOA

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Wednesday that he had put together a team of diplomats and experts for prospective peace talks with the Taliban.

Ghani spoke at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Geneva that was focused on ending 17 years of conflict with the rebel group, which did not attend the gathering.

The two-day conference shifted its focus from Afghanistan’s development and reform agenda to the quest for peace. U.N. Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said that according to delegates, the country has little hope of achieving its goals of stability, security and prosperity without peace.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Tadamichi Yamamoto, U.N. special representative for Afghanistan, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“Perhaps this is the first ministerial meeting when the issue of peace has been taken up with so much weight in addition to the regular issues, which are development, growth, social issues and reforms,” he said.

Yamamoto said the international community had agreed to keep helping Afghanistan now and to continue aid after a peace agreement was reached.

Delegates at the conference were putting the final touches on a comprehensive document of support as a car bomb struck a British security compound in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said events such as this bolstered his people’s resolve for peace.

Veterans, PTSD, Afghan, Taliban
An internally displaced Afghan woman who fled from recent conflict cooks bread outside a shelter in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2017. VOA

‘Patient focus’ required

“There is consensus within Afghanistan and outside of Afghanistan that the time for peace is now,” Mohib said. “We cannot squander this opportunity. It must be handled with patient focus and with a realistic understanding that it will take time to make sure peace is achieved and then implemented in a sustainable manner.”

Mohib said his government was ready to engage in serious, constructive peace talks with the Taliban. He said it was time for the Taliban to talk to the Afghan government, not just Washington.

Also Read: Opium Cultivation Goes Down By 20% in Afghanistan: U.N.

While he appreciated the international support, Mohib said the peace process must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned for it to work. (VOA)

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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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malnutrition
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.”

ALSO READ: Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh Face Serious Water Shortage

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)