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More than $1 billion in aid pledged for Afghanistan as country faces ‘most perilous hour’

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More than  billion in aid pledged for Afghanistan as country faces ‘most perilous hour’


Speaking at a high-level ministers meeting on the crisis in Geneva, UN Secretary General António Guterres said poverty rates in Afghanistan had spiraled since the Taliban’s takeover last month, with one in three people not knowing where their next meal was coming from and basic public services not functioning.

“The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline. After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour,” Guterres said.

The UN had made an emergency appeal for $606 million to meet the most pressing needs in the country, a request that had been “fully met,” Guterres said during a news conference.

“Today, we already have clearly more than $ 1 billion of pledges. It is impossible to say how much of these will be for the flash appeal, but in any case, it represents a quantum leap in relation to the financial commitment of the international community towards the Afghan people,” he said.

Even before the Taliban’s return to power, protracted conflict, poverty, back-to-back droughts, economic decline and the coronavirus pandemic had worsened an already dire situation in which 18 million Afghans — almost half of the population — were in need of aid, UN agencies said. More than half of children under five years old are facing acute malnutrition and fighting has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, they added.

With winter now approaching, many people could run out of food by the end of the month, the UN chief said.

The World Food Program, which on Sunday brought its aid workers back to the capital Kabul for the first time since the takeover, said 14 million people were on the “brink of starvation.”
Food prices have risen, cooking oil has doubled in price and 40% of the country’s wheat crop this year has been lost, WFP’s executive director, David Beasley, said.

Children are suffering disproportionately from the multiple crises. Without immediate action, the humanitarian catastrophe will deteriorate further and 1 million children risk starving to death, according to the UN children’s fund (UNICEF). Already, nearly 10 million girls and boys depend on humanitarian assistance to survive.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a press conference on Afghanistan, in Geneva on September 13.

Meanwhile, Afghan doctors are warning of the imminent collapse of the healthcare system, as hospitals and clinics run short of resources and health providers have their funding paused by international donors, according to HealthNet TPO, an NGO that runs a network of hospitals and health centers in the country.

“The people of Afghanistan are facing the collapse of an entire country — all at once,” Guterres said in his speech.

However, he warned “humanitarian aid will not solve the problem if the economy of Afghanistan collapses,” which could trigger a “massive exodus” that would threaten the stability of the region.

“My appeal to the international community is to find ways to allow for an injection of cash in the Afghan economy, allowing the economy to breathe and avoiding a collapse that will have devastating consequences for the people of Afghanistan,” Guterres said.

During his speech, Guterres said the UN had received a letter from the Taliban guaranteeing aid workers safe access to the country. He said it was impossible to provide humanitarian assistance inside Afghanistan without engaging with the Taliban.

Taliban fighters use whips against Afghan women protesting the all-male interim governmentTaliban fighters use whips against Afghan women protesting the all-male interim government

However, there are mounting concerns as to whether the Taliban can be trusted, and whether aid can get to the Afghans who need it, and not end up in the wrong hands.

UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who also spoke in Geneva on Monday, said the Taliban had already contradicted promises to uphold human rights, particularly regarding women and girls.

Women have been ordered to stay at home, have been prohibited from going out in public without a male chaperone, and women and girls have had their access to education limited, with girls over the age of 12 barred from going to school in several areas, she said.

“The country has entered a new and perilous phase,” she said. “In contradiction to assurances that the Taliban would uphold women’s rights, over the past three weeks, women have instead been progressively excluded from the public sphere.”

USAID noted that the environment in Afghanistan will need to be “conducive to the principled delivery of aid, including the ability for both female and male aid workers to operate freely” in order for the aid to be effective.

CNN’s Sarah Dean and Kylie Atwood contributed.



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Body Found During Search For ‘Van Life’ Blogger Gabby Petito

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Body Found During Search For ‘Van Life’ Blogger Gabby Petito

An unidentified body has been found during the search for 22-year-old lifestyle blogger Gabby Petito, who recently disappeared while on a road trip in a van with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.

News of a body’s discovery near Grand Teton National Park, which was the last place Petito was seen, was first reported by Fox News on Sunday, citing a local coroner. The Teton County coroner also confirmed to BuzzFeed News that a body was found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The Teton County coroner did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for confirmation.

Petito was near the end of a “van life” cross-country road trip with Laundrie when she went missing. Her 23-year-old fiancé raised speculation about his involvement in Petito’s disappearance when he returned to his parents’ home in Florida on Sept. 1 without her.

Police said Laundrie was not willing to talk with investigators about Petito’s disappearance. He has since vanished himself, with the FBI launching an investigation into his whereabouts on Friday.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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A Texas Doctor Says He Defied The Abortion Law, Risking Lawsuits

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A Texas Doctor Says He Defied The Abortion Law, Risking Lawsuits


Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021 in Austin.

Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images


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Abortion rights activists rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11, 2021 in Austin.

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Texas outlawed abortions past the six-week mark in a law that went into effect on Sept. 1. Dr. Alan Braid, a Texas physician, says he performed one anyway just a few days later.

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post on Saturday, Braid, who’s been practicing for more than 40 years, explained his decision as a matter of “duty of care.” The new law, known as S.B. 8, not only makes performing an abortion after about six weeks illegal, but makes it so that anyone who aids anyone else in getting one — by performing the procedure or even by giving them a ride to the clinic where they have the procedure done — runs the risk of being sued for at least $10,000.

Braid says he performed an abortion anyway on Sept. 6, on a patient who was still in her first trimester but further along than six weeks. That patient, he wrote, “has a fundamental right to receive this care.”

“I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care,” his piece concluded. “I have spent the past 50 years treating and helping patients. I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972,” which was before the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

The Supreme Court let the Texas law stand earlier this month while leaving the door open for future legal challenges.

Braid could be sued under the new law

In accordance with the new law, any citizen could now sue Braid for performing the abortion and, if they win, could walk away with a minimum of $10,000. In Texas, the law allows private citizens to sue without having any connection to the abortion in question. A website set up by the anti-abortion-rights group Texas Right to Life also makes it easy to anonymously report those suspected of violating the ban.

If he does get sued, the abortion-rights advocacy group Center for Reproductive Rights pledged to defend him. The group is already representing Braid’s clinics in a separate lawsuit.

“Dr. Braid has courageously stood up against this blatantly unconstitutional law,” Center for Reproductive Rights president and CEO Nancy Northup said in a statement. “We stand ready to defend him against the vigilante lawsuits that S.B. 8 threatens to unleash against those providing or supporting access to constitutionally protected abortion care.”

Texas Right to Life did not immediately respond to an email from NPR, but in statements to news outlets said it was “looking into this claim but we are dubious that this is just a legal stunt.”

Clinics that Braid owns are co-plaintiffs along with other abortion providers, physicians, clergy members, and others in an ongoing lawsuit to block S.B. 8. The Justice Department has also sued the state of Texas over the ban, while abortion-rights supporters have flooded a Texas Right to Life website with false reports.

Abortion providers have been fearing the worst

Even before the law went into effect, many physicians were worried. Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, a Texas-based OB/GYN and abortion provider, described the bill as being “100% about putting fear in physicians and putting fear in abortion funds and intimidating us.”

“This law threatens my livelihood,” she told All Things Considered. “It threatens my ability to care for my family. It threatens my career simply for doing what I was trained to do right here in Texas.”

Abortion providers in Texas are now turning patients away and directing them to obtain services in different states, something Braid said he has also had to do.

Historically, it isn’t uncommon for abortion providers to be subject to harassment and violence. Harassment against abortion providers saw a spike in 2019, according to the National Abortion Federation. The FBI reported last year that violent threats against abortion providers had risen partly because of a “recent rise in state legislative activities related to abortion services and access.”



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Female Government Workers In Kabul Told To Stay Home In Latest Taliban Rule

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Female Government Workers In Kabul Told To Stay Home In Latest Taliban Rule


Women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. The interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said that many female city employees have been ordered to stay home by the country’s new Taliban rulers.

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Women march to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a demonstration near the former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday. The interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said that many female city employees have been ordered to stay home by the country’s new Taliban rulers.

AP

The Taliban-appointed mayor of Kabul is telling most of the city government’s female employees to stay home.

In a new ruling passed down by the Taliban, Kabul interim mayor Hamdullah Namony said that women working for the city’s government are to stay home pending a further decision, according to The Associated Press.

The only exception to the new rule applies to women whose jobs cannot be replaced by men, including those working in the city’s design and engineering departments and women’s public toilet attendants, he said.

Speaking in a news conference Sunday, Namony said that before the Taliban takeover in August, just under a third of the city’s 3,000 employees were women. He didn’t give an exact number on just how many employees across Kabul will now be forced to stay home.

“There are some areas that men can’t do it, we have to ask our female staff to fulfill their duties, there is no alternative for it,” Namony said, according to the AP.

A Taliban spokesperson last month told women across the country to stay at home for their own safety in what he called a temporary measure. The Taliban haven’t gone into full detail laying out the specific guidance on how long this new rule will be in place and whether or not women will ever be able to return to work.

However, in light of staffing shortages in the health care, the Taliban on Aug. 28 announced they would allow all 2,000 female public health care workers to return to work.

The former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, pictured on Saturday. The Taliban have replaced the office with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.”

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The former Women’s Affairs Ministry building in Kabul, pictured on Saturday. The Taliban have replaced the office with a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.”

Bernat Armangue/AP

The new Taliban government’s latest move is just one of several in the last few days stripping back the rights of girls and women.

On Friday, Taliban officials told middle and high school-aged boys to return to the classroom but made no mention of girls.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said Pashtana Durrani, founder and executive director of LEARN, a nonprofit focused on women’s education in Afghanistan, in an interview on Weekend Edition.

Durrani said that while Taliban rulers haven’t announced a ban, they haven’t addressed the question of where girls in grades 7-12 will go in the meantime if they aren’t receiving their education.

“Where should they go? What should they be doing? … They could’ve been learning,” Durrani said.

Female college students, too, are also facing restrictions from the Taliban, as they were told that their classes would now take place in “gender-segregated settings” in addition to women abiding by a “strict Islamic dress code,” The Associated Press reported.

Also on Friday, the Taliban closed the Women’s Affairs Ministry and set up a ministry for the “propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice” in its place, resulting in over a dozen women protesting Sunday outside the building.

Mahbouba Seraj, the head of the Afghan Women’s Network, told The Associated Press she was surprised by the new orders restricting women and girls passed down by the Taliban, saying it’s becoming “really troublesome.”

“Is this the stage where the girls are going to be forgotten?” Seraj said. “I know they don’t believe in giving explanations, but explanations are very important.”



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