“We know that this fighting season there is a lot of expectation around the Doha talks, the different talks that are happening in Doha or in Moscow and if those talks don’t succeed, Afghans have told us that the fighting will be even worse this year,” Christopher Stokes, the special representative of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders) in Afghanistan said.
Stokes added that MSF would be forced to step up a plea for donations if there was a large increase in fighting.
“We won’t do a specific drive unless there is a big deterioration in the fighting this year,” the representative noted.
The MSF special representative also revealed that Doctors Without Borders intended to dispatch additional staff members to the western Afghan province of Herat and open a centre to help internally displaced people (IDPs) in the region.
“We are expanding in Herat… We are adding staff and we are opening a project for the displaced. There are several 100,000 displaced who have arrived in Herat over the last couple of months, they are fleeing both fighting and the drought because there has been a major problem with the rains in that area. So we have expanded,” Stokes said.
In addition, Doctors Without Borders hopes to open a new trauma centre in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz at the end of this year, with the facility expected to have the same admittance capacity as its predecessor that was destroyed in the 2015 US airstrikes, according to Stokes.
He went on to note that in light of the 2015 bombings, MSF had been negotiating security guarantees for the new trauma centre both with the Afghan conflicting sides and the United States.
On top of that, Doctors Without Borders is looking to open additional centres to facilitate the treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Afghanistan, Stokes added.
“We hope to increase the multidrug resistant TB program, which is not only a problem for Afghanistan but it is a problem for everybody because MDR-TB doesn’t stay in borders, it crosses borders and other people get infected. We hope to increase the number of projects that we will be running in that area and to expand and bring in more patients. For the moment it is in Kandahar, which is the second largest Afghan city, and we are moving out of that city now. There are two neighboring areas next to Kandahar — Helmand and Zabul, the neighboring provinces,” Stokes said.
Afghanistan has long been gripped by war and political instability, but the two main rivals, the Afghan government and the Taliban movement, have been making efforts toward achieving peace by holding indirect talks.
Along with these contacts, Afghan diaspora and Afghan politicians, such as former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, as well as representatives of the political office of the Taliban in Qatar have recently launched intra-Afghan talks.
The first round of intra-Afghan talks took place in Moscow on 5-6 February. The Afghan government’s delegation was absent from the talks. Following the conference, attendees produced a declaration, in which they outlined their desire for the talks to be attended by officials of the Afghan government in the second round. It also stipulated that Taliban leaders should be removed from international “blacklists” and expressed the need to end the war in Afghanistan.
The second round of the talks is expected to be held in the Qatari capital on 19-21 April.
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