Malnutrition rates in Afghanistan hit record levels

Mothers with babies suffering from malnutrition wait for help and a check-up at a clinic run by the World Food Program, in Kabul, Afghanistan (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) (Ebrahim Noroozi/)

Rates of malnutrition in Afghanistan are at record levels, with half the country suffering from severe hunger throughout the year, a spokesman for the World Food Program said on Thursday.

The rise of the Taliban to power in August 2021 caused foreign aid to stop almost overnight, driving millions of people into poverty and hunger. Sanctions on Taliban rulers, halting bank transfers and freezing billions in Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves they restricted access to global institutions and foreign money that supported the Afghan economy before the withdrawal of US and NATO forces.

“Half of Afghanistan suffers from severe hunger year-round, regardless of the season, and malnutrition rates are at a record level for Afghanistan,” said Phillipe Kropf, spokesman for the UN food agency in Kabul. “There are seven million children (under 5 years of age) and mothers who are malnourished, in a country with a population of 40 million.”

Afghans are not starving, he said, but they have no resources left to avert the humanitarian crisis.

Aid agencies have been providing Afghans with food, education and medical care, including heat, cash for fuel and warm clothing. But the distribution has been badly affected by a Taliban edict that prohibits women from working in national and international non-governmental groups. The ban has seen the suspension of 115 of the 437 mobile health clinics, affecting 82,000 children and pregnant and lactating women.

The dead increase to 158 in the worst cold wave

An Afghan child during the cold wave in January (REUTERS/Ali Khara)
An Afghan child during the cold wave in January (REUTERS/Ali Khara) (ALI KHARA/)

The death toll from the flash floods and the cold wavethe worst that Afghanistan has experienced in decades and that has hit the country in the last two weeks, rose this Thursday to 158.

“In 24 Afghan provinces, 158 people have died and 22 others have been injured since January 10, 2023” due to low temperatures and flash floods, said the risk mitigation director of the Afghan Ministry of Disaster Management, Mula Janan. Sayeq.

The cold wave mainly affects the northeast of the country, with lows that have touched 20 degrees below zero and covered a large part of the country, including the capital, with snow, in addition to having caused the death of some 70,000 head of cattle.

Despite the fact that the Taliban have sent teams to the most affected areas, in coordination with various non-governmental organizations, aid is still insufficient in Afghanistan, which lacks the resources to deal with the serious humanitarian crisis that it has suffered since the Taliban came to power.

Afghan children play in the snow (REUTERS/Ali Khara)
Afghan children play in the snow (REUTERS/Ali Khara) (ALI KHARA/)

“Based on the responsibilities of the international NGO, we request them to help the victims and poor families in Afghanistan,” Sayeq warned.

Afghanistan was already mired in a deep humanitarian and economic crisis before the Taliban came to power, but international isolation and the blockade of foreign aid funds after the fall of the previous government have exacerbated the precarious situation of millions of afghans.

The humanitarian crisis has been compounded by a particularly cold winter, in a country that regularly registers deaths due to low temperatures due to the scarcity of infrastructure and basic services, as well as the reduced quality of housing, often simple tents in the case of the most disadvantaged.

Much of Afghan territory is crisscrossed by the massive Hindu Kush mountain range and experiences extreme temperatures during winter.

(With information from AP and EFE)

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