Relief groups are racing to get urgently needed aid to millions of destitute Afghans with the start of the harsh winter barely days away. \nThe UN World Food Program, which is spearheading the drive to get food in, is under no illusions that it will get harder and harder as the days wear on. \n"The clock is ticking but it doesn't stop ticking on November 15," said spokeswoman Heather Hill, referring to the traditional start of the Afghan winter, when temperatures plunge far below freezing. \n"All we can do is focus on pumping in as much as we can," she said. \nThe first snowfalls of the season have already been reported in the Paghman Hills north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, which residents said indicated an early start to winter. \nAccording to aid workers, more than six million Afghans will be dependant on international aid as the weather deteriorates. \nLiving standards in Afghanistan are already among the worst in the world. Even before the US bombing campaign, food was scarce after three years of drought. Life expectancy is just 43 years. \nHundreds of thousands have managed to flee to Pakistan and other neighboring countries since the US unleashed its military might on October 7. Many more are languishing in primitive conditions at makeshift staging posts near border crossings. \nUNICEF has warned that "as many as 100,000 more children will die in Afghanistan this winter unless food reaches them in sufficient quantities in the next six weeks." \nThe countries neighboring landlocked Afghanistan refuse to open their borders except to the most needy. They show no sign of relaxing their hardline stances despite the looming humanitarian crisis, fearing an influx of millions of refugees that they say they cannot cope with. \nHill said the WFP was considering air drops as one way of reaching Afghans far from urban areas, but there is no guarantee the Taliban will allow this to happen. \nThe WFP and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) need the ruling Islamic militia to guarantee security for the planes and aid workers on the ground. \n"When the situation demands it we will do air drops provided we all have the necessary conditions -- permission to use the air space, drop-zone security and staff on the ground to monitor and help distribute the food," Hill said. \n"While that is in the planning, our focus is on getting in by truck." \nThe WFP, which is working with 30 NGOs in Afghanistan, plans to bring in snow ploughs to keep mountain passes clear so food can be taken to more remote districts. \nIt has also bought 60,000 liters of fuel, which will be made available to local WFP truckers at US$0.30 a liter -- half the open-market price. \n"Some roads will get closed but not all of them. We just have to keep watching, monitoring," Hill said. \nA Norwegian expert on shifting snow recently arrived in Quetta, a town close to the Afghan border, to advise on logistical aspects of the operation. \nThe WFP, which is shipping aid in through Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, has set a target of delivering 52,000 tons of food a month. They deliver an average of 1,400 tons a day now. \nThe agency said its immediate aim was to deliver 9,000 tons of food (a six-month supply of wheat for 30,000 families) in six priority districts: the Panjsher Valley, Ragh, Sharibuzurg, Darwaz, Singnan and Khwahan. \nSix international aid agencies on Oct. 17 called for a one-month pause in the US bombardment to allow food supplies to be delivered before the snows fell. \nBut Washington ignored the appeal. Instead US C-17 transport planes have been dropping up to 70,000 daily ration packets over parts of Afghanistan in conjunction with the bombing raids. \nAid groups have criticized the flights as little more than a cosmetic exercise to show Muslim nations that the war is not against Islam or the people of Afghanistan. \nOne of the smaller NGOs transporting supplies to Afghanistan is the Tripoli-based Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Association, run by the Libyan leader's son, Saif Muammar Qaddafi. \nDirector Mohamad Ismail, who left with a convoy of aid trucks for the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar on Saturday, said there was a real sense of urgency with the weather closing in.
Dignitaries from 47 countries yesterday congratulated President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on the commencement of her second term and highlighted Taiwan’s achievements in democracy and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent his congratulations a day earlier. As of noon yesterday, 263 high-ranking officials from 47 countries and global organizations had congratulated Tsai via statements, letters, social media posts or recorded footage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, while releasing a collection of footage sent by selected dignitaries. The governments of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies sent their congratulations, as did the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy,
REASSURING NUMBERS: Taiwan’s test capacity ranks sixth or seventh among 91 nations, and is not low compared with other nations, Chen Shih-chung said The quarantine period for foreigners visiting Taiwan for business would vary based on the COVID-19 situation of the nation or territory that they are coming from, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported the 13th consecutive day of no new cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told reporters at the center’s daily briefing that modified rules covering foreign business visitors had been completed and were ready for him to sign. The complete details of the new rules would be released later this week, he said. Foreigners on long business trips would have
IN PROTEST: The US’ top diplomat said the WHA had been deprived of Taiwan’s scientific expertise, while Tsai said political factors should not be put above health US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Monday condemned Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly (WHA), while President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday lodged a strong protest against the WHO for not inviting Taiwan. Twenty-two nations voiced support for Taiwan’s bid for participation on the first day of the assembly’s two-day virtual meeting, but despite the global community’s unprecedentedly strong support for Taiwan, it remained blocked from the assembly, with WHO member states on Monday agreeing to delay discussion on Taiwan until later this year. Pompeo, who on May 6 urged WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to the WHA,
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced no new cases of COVID-19, adding that a ban on mask exports would be lifted soon under three conditions. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 401 people from among the nation’s 440 confirmed cases have been removed from isolation. Yesterday was the 12th consecutive day that no new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Taiwan, and the 37th day of no new domestic cases. “As our local communities have gradually become safe, we should not become careless,” Chen said. “We should continue to take personal protective measures