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‘The Heart of Asia Meet’ begins in Islamabad

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Islamabad:  The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process meeting commenced on Tuesday to finalize an agenda for a ministerial conference to be held on Wednesday.

The Pakistan prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, Sartaj Aziz, and Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Khalil Hekmat Karzai jointly inaugurated the day-long meeting of senior officials.

Karzai emphasized on a united and collective approach to counter the menace of terrorism and violent extremism at the meeting, and further said at the opening session, “The Heart of Asia conference is taking place at a critical juncture when the region is confronted by many challenges including terrorism.”

He said the activities of terror outfits including the ISIS has reminded the related parties of the gravity of the problem and demanded a collective approach to tackling this international phenomenon.

“Afghanistan is determined to continue to fight against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” he remarked, adding that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was in the best interest of the region.

Aziz said that Pakistan desired durable peace in Afghanistan as instability there was not in the interest of the country and “Pakistan will continue to support all endeavors aiming at strengthening peace and security in Afghanistan.”

He said that since the launching of Heart of Asia conference in 2011, the forum has made good progress towards the realisation of its core objective of promoting durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. The key achievements include political consultation involving Afghanistan and its neighbours and the regional countries with a view to promoting mutual trust in the areas of security and economic interaction.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will jointly inaugurate the Fifth Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Ministerial Conference in Islamabad on Wednesday.The theme is “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process: Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region”.

Foreign Ministers of ten countries including India, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Iran have confirmed participation.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Tuesday to attend the meeting. She will also meet Sharif and Aziz on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia meeting.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established in 2011 at the initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey, mainly focusing on promoting efforts for regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to fostering long-term peace and stability as well as progress and development in Afghanistan and the region.

The Fifth Ministerial Conference is expected to adopt a forward-looking Islamabad Declaration entitled “Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity in the Heart of Asia Region”.

(IANS)

(Picture Credit: crazy4images.com)

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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)