In a preliminary draft report commissioned by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Tufts University famine expert Sue Lautze characterized the situation in Afghanistan – exacerbated by a three-year drought – as “still in acute disaster phase” and urged continued diligence in international emergency assistance. Based on 1,100 interviews with Afghan households, Lautz’s report documented conditions so desperate that the sale of daughters into marriage to afford food and water for the family “was very routine, up to the point where [families] who didn’t have a young girl to put into marriage were lamenting it.” According to Vice President for Policy at Refugees International Joel Charney, “This is the most comprehensive look we’ve had at the village level food security situation…I hope it will serve as a wake-up call.”
In a news release issued earlier this month, the World Food Program (WFP) disclosed that 275,000 tons of food is needed to feed 9 million Afghans, comprising 40 percent of the population. Until harvest begins in July, the agency must overcome a critical 75,000-ton shortage worth $28 million. According to WFP Country Director for Afghanistan Burke Oberle, “This break in the food pipeline means that WFP food distribution could come to an almost complete stop in the month of June, just when millions of poor Afghans are struggling with the most difficult pre-harvest time known as the 'lean months'.”
According to the USAID, the US has spent $230 million on assistance to Afghanistan since October 1, 2001 and provided over 50 percent of the WFP Afghanistan aid this year. An immediate increase in food supplies, however, is urgently needed.
Media Resources: Associated Press, 5/23/02; World Food Program, 5/2/02; USAID, 5/23/02
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .