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Afghanistan: Forces must avert civilian deaths

Afghanistan: UN calls on national, international forces to avert civilian casualties

With operations going on in southern Afghanistan, the United Nations mission in the country called on both national and international security forces to exercise caution to prevent civilian casualties.

“We call on the security forces to do everything they can to ensure the safety and protection of local communities in district areas where operations are taking place,” UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Aleem Siddique told a news briefing in Kabul, the capital.

In another development, with 50,000 children under the age of five dying every year in Afghanistan as a result of diarrhoeal disease, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will this week support the Health Ministry in launching its annual public awareness campaign aimed at reaching 2 million people to safeguard the health and hygiene of urban households.

“Too many children die every year from preventable diarrhoeal disease,” UNICEF officer responsible for hygiene promotion Zahida Stanekzai said. “By following the simple steps outlined in the campaign – washing hands at critical times, breastfeeding infants, responding to cases of diarrhoea with the provision of extra fluids to sufferers, boiling or purifying drinking water, and practicing good personal hygiene, families can better protect themselves against this killer disease.

“While the risks from diarrhoeal disease are high at this time of year, its prevention is relatively simple. We hope that this campaign will ensure that as many families as possible are fully aware of how they can safeguard themselves and their children,” she added.

The first phase of the campaign will begin in Kabul on 24 June, targeting 850,000 people, before moving to Jalalabad, Mazar and Ghazni in following weeks.

Each phase lasts 20 days, and will involve hundreds of community health workers, teachers and religious leaders taking key health and hygiene messages directly to households, in addition to mass media information announcements in a country where nearly a quarter of deaths amongst children under five result from diarrhoeal disease.

Meanwhile, the UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) along with the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA) are both working to clear minefields in one of most prominent cultural and tourist spots in the country, the former site of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan destroyed by the ousted Taliban regime.

MAPA has already cleared three minefields surrounding the site. But the achievements have come at a high price; two de-miners working for the MAPA lost their lives last week in separate incidents, one involving an improvised explosive device.

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