HALF of all children under five in Afghanistan are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year, and more than one million could die, UNICEF has warned.
The figures have risen sharply after the Taliban takeover worsened food insecurity, which was already affecting 14 million people in the country after years of conflict there.
The international children’s charity World Vision is continuing to work in Afghanistan, after receiving assurances about the safety of its staff. Supporters in the UK have raised £133,000 for the work through an appeal.
World Vision has said that it is committed to staying and working with partners, including the World Food Programme, to get aid to the most desperate. Mobile health clinics have been set up to find and treat the most vulnerable children, many of whom are displaced from their homes.
Doctors working with the charity — who cannot be named for security reasons — said that much humanitarian activity has stopped since the Taliban takeover, and malnutrition is increasing in all age groups. One of the programmes run by the charity is a child-and-mother-health programme, which is supporting pregnant women.
One doctor said: “With the current situation, most of the humanitarian activities have stopped. They [the communities] have no food, and malnutrition is increasing among all of them, especially children. End result: they need more health services.
“The British people with their material and spiritual support can stand with the suffering people of Afghanistan and help us get through this difficult time. People need humanitarian, health, nutrition, and education assistance to survive this tragic situation.”
One worker for the charity relayed the case of one father and his daughter who was suffering from malnutrition.
“There was an 11-month-old girl, and the team saw that her father brought her to the mobile health unit operating in this very mountainous province. The child’s mother passed away a few months ago, and the baby lost a lot of weight.
“When she first came to the team, she was only 4.3kg. The nurse started a treatment of supplementary food and started counselling on how to give proper diet and food and how to use safe practices to avoid illness. She was screened every week to monitor her progress. After two months of treatment, her weight was increased to 6.4kg. The family was very thankful, and the child was able to smile again.”
G7 leaders met by video conference this week to discuss the how to get funds into the country to ease the worsening humanitarian crisis, without endorsing the Taliban.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said that the country was at a make-or-break moment. He said: “If we do not act and help Afghans weather this storm, and do it soon, not only they but all the world will pay a heavy price.”