26 May 2020

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Tuesday May 26, 2020
FIROZ KOH CITY (BNA) The construction work of four welfare projects has started by national citizenship covenant program in Ghor province.
Eng. Ghulam Ghaws Sultani acting head of rural rehabilitation and development department of Ghor told BNA correspondent, the projects include the construction of four water networks that to be implemented with a cost of over 24 million Afghani funded by national citizenship covenant program and 10% people participants in Laal Sarjangal district of Ghor province.
The implementation of the projects about 11,000 families will be benefited, Sultani added.
M.A.Ansari

Tuesday May 26, 2020
TALIQAN CITY (BNA) At least 10 irresponsible armed men were killed during clashes with two irresponsible armed groups in northern Takhar province the other day.
Mohammad Jawad Hejri spokesman of Takhar governor told BNA reporter, the conflicts took place between gunmen of Shir Ali and Mehdi two irresponsible armed commanders in Qorqsai region, Kalafgan district of the province, as a result including commander Mehdi 10 irresponsible gunmen from both sides were killed and five others were wounded.
By interference of Afghan national police personnel the clashes ended and efforts underway to detain the irresponsible gunmen in the area, Hejri added.
M.A.Ansari

Tuesday May 26, 2020
KUNDUZ CITY (BNA) A narcotic drug smugglers was arrested along with some narcotic drug in northern Kunduz province the other day.
Hejratullah Akbari spokesman of Kunduz police chief told BNA correspondent, the man along with 13 kg narcotic drug type of hashish was arrested in Imam Sahib district of the province.
The smuggler wanted to transfer the narcotic drug to unknown area, the source added.
M.A.Ansari

Tuesday May 26, 2020
Kabul (BNA) In Afghanistan, a group of teenage girls are trying to build a mechanized, hand-operated ventilator for coronavirus patients, using a design from M.I.T. and parts from old Toyota Corollas.
It sounds like an impossible dream, but then again, the all-girls robotics team in question is called the "Afghan Dreamers." Living a country where two-thirds of adolescent girls cannot read or write, they're used to overcoming challenges.
The team of some dozen girls aged 15 to 17 was formed three years ago by Roya Mahboob, an Afghan tech entrepreneur who heads the Digital Citizen Fund, a group that runs classes for girls in STEM and robotics and oversees and funds the Afghan Dreamers. "I'm really proud of these young girls – [who are] feeling that they have to help their community," says Mahboob. "It's amazing and hopeful for the future of Afghanistan."
The virus most likely entered the country in early March as hundreds of thousands of Afghan workers fled the coronavirus outbreak in neighboring Iran. They came through the western province of Herat, where the Afghan Dreamers live.
In fighting the pandemic, Afghanistan is at a disadvantage. "You are talking about a country that is now struck by COVID-19, which comes on top of ongoing war and abject poverty," says Toby Lanzer, the humanitarian coordinator for U.N. agencies working in Afghanistan.
The country only has capacity to test 1,000 people a day, so the number of confirmed cases, at over 7,000 is considered an undercount, says Lanzer. And there's only about 200 working ventilators for a country of 35 million people, he estimates.
To deal with the shortfall, on March 26, the then-governor [he has since stepped down] of Herat, Abdul Qayoum Rahimi, gathered two doctors, university graduates, local industrialists and the Afghan Dreamers.
The doctors presented them with a challenge: to help mechanize their hand-operated ventilators, also known as bag-valve-masks. This type of ventilator is a large inflatable bag attached to a mask that slips over the nose and mouth. A health worker manually squeezes the bag to get air into the lungs. They're quite cheap and common – they're used in ambulances and in emergency care to help patients breathe until they can be ventilated on a machine.
Officials feared there would not be enough health workers to hand-operate the equipment in the event of an outbreak. They hoped the Afghan Dreamers could build a prototype of a mechanized ventilator that could be replicated and mass produced, says Mahboob.
And amid a global demand, officials also worried that impoverished Afghanistan could not compete with wealthy countries to buy fully automated ventilators typically used in ICU rooms.
A ventilator typically costs around $50,000, says Douglas Chin, a Harvard-educated surgeon who has been helping the Afghan Dreamers with their prototype. By comparison, he says, producing a mechanized hand-operated ventilator could cost around $500.
After the meeting with the governor, a team of four Afghan Dreamers began looking online for open-source design ventilators. Mahboob and Somaya Farooqi, the 17-year-old team captain, came across a design released by MIT for a low-cost, low-tech ventilator called the MIT E-Vent.
"They found us," says Alexander Slocum, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, whose team released the design in March.
The design is deliberately low-tech so it can be replicated using locally sourced products around the world. For instance, it calls for installing a microprocessor, usually included in robotics kits for kids and teens. And it can be built out of widely available machine parts.
The MIT team on their website says their design "cannot replace an FDA-approved ICU ventilator in terms of functionality, flexibility and clinical efficacy" but that it could help in "life-or-death situations where there is no other option."
Slocum estimates about a dozen teams, from places as diverse as Chile to Iran are building ventilators using the design. The Afghan Dreamers, he says, is the only all-female team he is aware of, and they come from the poorest country.
They were also the first to figure out that windshield wiper motors could be finagled into powering a working ventilator.
"So I just hope no one gets mad at us, or them, in particular when the rainy season comes and they go to their car and there's no wipers," says Slocum, jokingly.
The Afghan Dreamers have had a number of challenges while building the prototype. For one, they're working while fasting – it's the Muslim month of Ramadan. They also have to keep safe amid the pandemic, says Farooqi. "Each of us work on a separate part of the ventilator. When we get together, we wear masks and gloves."
And because Herat is largely shut down due to COVID, Farooqi says the team had to be ingenious about sourcing parts. "Most of the material we are using is actually from Toyota Corolla car parts" from nearby secondhand markets, such as the windshield wipers, a gear box and motor, along with some motorbike parts.
Corollas are a common type of car in Afghanistan, so if this prototype works, the ventilator should be cheap and easy to replicate using parts likely to be available at car shops, says Mahboob.
The girls are now trying to get the machine to be able to sense a patient's breathing pattern and adjust the amount of air they get accordingly.
For the ventilator to do that, the team needs two parts – a "pressure transducer" – a sensor that converts pressure measurements from breath into electrical signals – and a microprocessor to process those signals into a pump of air.
Both parts cost about $50 each but the team can't source them locally or ship them into Afghanistan. There is no mail service that the women can access. And so six weeks into building their ventilator, the women are now trying to find a way get these last parts.
Some health officials in Afghanistan are doubtful that the girls will succeed. "We appreciate this idea," says Muhammad Rafiq Sherzai, spokesman for the Herat Public Health Department. But he notes the need to have the machines approved by appropriate organizations.
Indeed, once the team builds a successful prototype, it has to be tested and approved by the health ministry in Herat, and then in the capital Kabul. Once they have that approval, local factories can replicate the machine.
The team is optimistic. They've overcome other hurdles.
They first came to international attention three years ago, when they were refused visas twice to enter the U.S. for a robotics competition. Many visit visas are denied because some Afghans have used them to stay in the U.S. and never return to Afghanistan.
After an international outcry, President Donald Trump intervened and let them in.
They made it to the competition and even won an award for courage for their can-do attitude under difficult circumstances.
"That award was a result of our hard work. And it's made us work even harder," says Farooqi. Speaking of the ventilator her team is building, she adds, "even if it saves just one patient's life, I'll be happy.
Npr.org

Tuesday May 26, 2020
Kabul (BNA) After the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and then spreading to many parts of the country and more than one hundred locations around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus a pandemic.
According to statistics released by the end of this date, the virus has spread to almost every corner of the world and infected almost 5,000,000 people, of which over 300,000 have died and around 1,800,000 have recovered. It has been speculated by many medical professionals that the actual total death rate is much higher due to people dying at home, the inability to test everyone, and deaths attributed to other illnesses not linked to the disease. Coronavirus spread quickly in European countries, especially Italy and Spain. Likewise, it spread quickly in the Middle East hitting Iran, Pakistan, India, and of course, Pakistan.
Because of declining demand in world markets due to the pandemic, many companies have been shutting down, leading to unprecedented levels of unemployment around the world-amounting to 36.5 million in the United States according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It looks like the situation will not become normal anytime soon. The private sector, especially non-financial corporations, has also resorted to borrowing. The UN and World Bank have mentioned that we will witness a sharp decline in economic activity around the world in the first half of this year, and continue for many months thereafter.
The Afghan Economic Impact
From January 1 to April 11, nearly 243,000 people crossed back into Afghanistan from Iran, according to the International Organization for Migration. Iran has been hit hard by coronavirus with it causing a major blow to its already shaky economy. But the influx of returnees, without a clear coronavirus diagnosis, brought serious threats with them to Afghanistan, which the current government, embroiled in a political crisis and negotiations with the Taliban, may not be able to address on its own. Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan helped nearly 91,486 Afghans stranded in different countries to return home. This included 70,000 people from Pakistan, 13,600 from the UAE, 5,400 from India, 2,000 from Turkey, 300 from Qatar, and 186 people from Kazakhstan. Also, 634 inmates from different countries were released and helped return to Afghanistan. According to the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan on May 19, 7,653 positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported so far, with Kabul (2,231 cases) and Herat (1,286 cases) ranking first and second, respectively. Of these, 178 people have died and about 850 have been recovered so far. But people are skeptical of the Ministry of Public Health's statistics.
Afghanistan is currently running short of sufficient resources and equipment to cope with the outbreak of the coronavirus. The virus cannot only cause a health crisis in Afghanistan, but also an economic crisis. The pandemic has shaken the world economy. However, the people of Afghanistan have not been serious about flattening the curve.
The serious economic consequences that can be expected from the coronavirus include:
The unprecedented decline in business activity. Coronavirus will further damage business activities, especially the small and medium enterprises which make 80 percent of Afghan businesses. Like other countries where firms have been shut down, here in Afghanistan, national and international flights have been suspended indefinitely. Other manufacturing and service companies have also halted their operations or completely shut down. The pandemic could further damage informal businesses because they neither have insurance nor access to bank loans. If the coronavirus spread worsens within Afghanistan, it will have a detrimental effect on market supply and demand. A decline in business activity will further slow economic growth and reduce government revenue. A recent study conducted by Biruni Institute concluded that, due to sluggish activity, the Afghan economy will contract by 3.3 percent at least in their moderate scenario and 9.9 percent in an acute coronavirus scenario. In addition, the $1 billion reduction in U.S. aid to Afghanistan is expected to take a heavy toll on the already fledgling economy.
Increased food prices. Afghanistan is an import-driven economy, with more than 80 percent of its food imported from other countries. With the spread of the coronavirus in neighboring nations such as Pakistan and Iran, imports may decrease as these countries become aware of their own domestic consumption. UN Food and Agriculture Organization senior economists and agricultural analysts have warned that lockdowns and high food purchases may increase global food inflation. Despite a large supply of cereals and oilseeds by major exporters, the hoarding of commodity items by large importers such as big companies and governments is enough to create a crisis. That is why, in just the first month into the outbreak, Kabul witnessed a dramatic increase in the price of food, especially flour. The authorities, thankfully, intervened in a timely manner and took measures to prevent a dramatic increase in food prices around the country. Prior to the news of the coronavirus outbreak, the price of 50 kg of flour was up to 1,400 Afghanis ($19), but in just one day the price of 50 kg of flour skyrocketed between 1,900 ($25) to 2,500 Afghanis or $33, forcing some people to buy food at a high price. Afghanistan has strategic reserves in twenty-two provinces with a capacity of 263,000 metric tons of food, but currently, it has 20,212 metric tons of wheat in its stock. It is noteworthy that India has also pledged to provide 75,000 tons of wheat to Afghanistan. In April, India shipped the first consignment of 5,022 metric tons of wheat to Afghanistan to ensure food security during these trying times.
The Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) has announced that it can merely afford to distribute food for three months from the national strategic reserve. According to MAIL, six million tons of wheat are needed annually, of which four million and five hundred thousand tons are harvested and about two million tons of wheat is imported from the neighboring countries. But last year, Afghanistan imported $656 million worth of flour and wheat from the neighboring countries. In late April 2020, President Ashraf Ghani announced a bread distribution program to take place initially in Kabul, Balkh, Herat, Kunduz, Nangarhar, and Kandahar. The government has now decided to extend the program to the remaining twenty-eight provinces of the country to help the needy and stabilize prices.
Rising unemployment. In 2019, the unemployment rate in Afghanistan was about 1.52 percent according to the World Bank. If on the one hand, the current political crisis and peace talks with the Taliban remain unresolved, and on the other, the number of people infected with the virus grows exponentially, I am afraid the unemployment rate in the country will increase dramatically. The National Union of Afghanistan Workers & Employees said last week that approximately two million workers and employees have lost their jobs due to the spread of the coronavirus and preventive measures like the lockdowns in the cities. The Ministry of Economy warned earlier that unemployment in Afghanistan will increase by 40 percent and poverty will increase by 70 percent because of unemployment and the spread of the coronavirus. And seeing that informal businesses account for 80 percent of the country's economic activity, quarantining cities will further increase unemployment thus aggravating the economic constraints.
A Big Blow to Exporters. Afghanistan mainly exports fruits to countries such as India, Pakistan, and others. If the coronavirus situation worsens, Afghanistan's exports may see an unprecedented decline due to border closures. Transport restrictions, such as the restrictions on international air travel, will also cause serious damage to the already struggling economy. The coronavirus will dramatically influence the country’s exporting strategy, especially with new standards in the food and agriculture sector. Pakistan had closed its border with Afghanistan but announced in April that it would open the two border crossing points thrice a week to facilitate the entrance of cargo trucks and containers into Afghanistan. On May 17, Pakistan decided to open its border crossings—Torkham in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chaman in Balochistan—for six days a week to facilitate cross-border trade.
Recommendation to the Afghan government
1. Serious Enforcement of the Anti-Hoarding Law. To prevent commercial opportunism in the free market system that prevails in Afghanistan, Articles 800 and 801 as well as Articles 900 to 905 of the Afghan Penal Code considers hoarding a crime. Since hoarding disrupts the economic order of society, the Afghan government must act seriously in accordance with the provisions of the law. Merchants and shopkeepers must work shoulder-to-shoulder with the government. Last month, food markets in Kabul saw a large influx of people, but fears and threats of the coronavirus and the need for people to hoard food resulting in profiteering. In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, the government must act more seriously and businessmen must be fair.
2. Strengthen Strategic Grain Reserves. Over the past decade, Afghanistan has twice experienced severe shortages of wheat due to declining production and the threat of wheat supply from the region's export markets. As a result, large numbers of Afghans, especially those living in rural and remote areas, have faced a shortage of wheat. The government these days needs to increase its strategic reserves. The government must import more flour from countries that it has good trade relations with and can easily transit import, and export with Afghan traders before the spread of the virus is uncontrollable.
Nationalinterest

Friday May 22, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Nine narcotic drug smugglers and sellers were arrested by Afghan national police personnel in Faryab, Nangarhar and Parwan provinces within the last 24 hours.
Faryab’s Police chief in a statement issued that security forces by launching four separate operations succeeded to detain four narcotic drug sellers in relevant areas of 6th, 10th precincts and Pashtoon Koot district of the province.
An alcoholic beverage factory have destroyed, some narcotic drug, 130 liters alcoholic beverage and two motorcycles have seized during the operations, the source added.
According to another report, four narcotic drug smugglers along with 28 kg narcotic drug type of hashish were arrested by counter-narcotics drug police personnel in different parts of GhaniKhail and Mohmand Dara districts of Nangarhar province.
Meanwhile, a person accused of narcotic drug stealing was arrested in Charikar city the provincial capital of Parwan province.
M.A.Ansari

Friday May 22, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Nineteen suspects were arrested accused of different criminal cases by Afghan national police personnel in Kabul province within the last 48 hours.
Ministry of Interior by releasing a statement reported that the suspects were arrested accused of murder, armed thefts, people harrassment, mobiles & vehicles' stealing, insecurity and transferring illegal weapons from various parts of 3rd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 17th precincts and Paghman, Mir Bacha Koot districts of Kabul province.
The statement added that 12 different type of weapons have seized from the arrested suspects.
M.A.Ansari

Friday May 22, 2020
Kabul (BNA) As many as 21 anti-government militias were killed during air attack conducted by Afghan Air Forces in northern Jawzjan yesterday morning.
Security officials in Jawzjan told BNA correspondent that the Taliban fighters have targeted by Afghan Air Forces in two parts of Mangjeek district of the province,  in which 21 rebels were killed.
The insurgents have been targeted while they were involving in mine making and establishing military base in Mangjeek district, the source added.
M.A.Ansari

Thursday May 21, 2020
PUL-E-KHUMRIC CITY (BNA) A group of 15-member of Taliban group have joined to peace process in northern Baghlan province yesterday.
Abdul Muqim Niazi acting governor of Baghlan in a press conference confirmed joining of the insurgents to peace process said, the militants have joined to peace process in Talo-e-Barfak district of the province.
By joining of the insurgents to peace process, security situation will improved in the district.
Acting governor of Baghlan appreciated recent activities of Afghan National Security Directorate in the province.
M.A.Ansari

Thursday May 21, 2020
KUNDUZ CITY (BNA) More than 20 armed oppositions were killed during air attack conducted by Afghan air forces in northern Kunduz province.
Fawad Aman deputy spokesman for Ministry of Defense told media, the air raid carried out by Afghan air forces in different parts of Chahar Dara district of Kunduz, in which 23 terrorists were killed.
According to another report, a policeman and a civilian lost their lives and 18 others were wounded following mine blast in Kunduz city the other day.
M.A.Ansari

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