FAIRFIELD, Conn. – WEBWIRE – Wednesday, May 11, 2022
9.6 million children in Afghanistan are going hungry every day due to a dire combination of economic collapse, the impacts of the war in Ukraine, and the ongoing drought, new figures released today show. Immediate food assistance is needed to save lives in the short term, but aid alone is not enough to tackle the countrys worst hunger crisis on record, Save the Children said.
The figures[i] show that despite a significant amount of food aid provided to families in recent months, 19.7 million children and adults almost 50% of the population are still going hungry and need urgent support to survive. From March to May alone, 20,000 people were pushed into famine.
When the Taliban took control in August last year, the international community responded largely by freezing assets and suspending development assistance to mitigate the risk of indirectly providing funds to the de-facto Taliban administration.
Afghan children are now bearing the brunt of the international communitys policies, which have starved the country of cash, and sent the economy into a downward spiral. As a result, poverty, unemployment, and food prices have dramatically increased, forcing parents to take desperate measures to feed their children.
Save the Childrens Director of Advocacy, Communications, and Media, Athena Rayburn, said:
Every single day, our frontline health workers are treating children who are wasting away in front of our eyes because theyre only eating bread once a day and those are the lucky ones. Children in Afghanistan have never known a life without conflict, and if action is not taken soon, they will not know a world without gnawing hunger and empty stomachs. Now is not the time for the world to turn its backs on Afghanistans children.
Although 18.9 million children and adults are projected to need food aid from June to November this year, there is only enough funding to provide support for 3.2 million people. With the worlds attention diverted to Ukraine, there is waning hope of addressing this crisis in time. Each day that passes without the funds needed sees more children lose their lives to preventable causes.
The international community must address both the gap in funds and Afghanistans economic collapse by identifying ways to increase liquidity in the countrys economy. Until the economic crisis is addressed; and rising poverty stemmed, children will continue to face catastrophic levels of hunger. Aid alone cannot save their lives.
Maryam*, 26, has five children and lives in Faryab Province in Afghanistan, where many families only have one meal a day, and the public hospitals are overflowing with children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Maryams husband is in Iran trying to find work so he can send money back to his family to help them survive.
I am worried about my children, Maryam told Save the Children. I can only borrow cash and buy them food, but mostly I dont have sufficient food for them. Sometimes we have food to eat, and some days we dont.
Maryam recently borrowed a large sum of money to take her baby Khal Mirza*, who has severe acute malnutrition, to the hospital. Once he was discharged from the hospital, Maryam took him to one of Save the Childrens mobile health clinics, which provide services in her community.
Following treatment with Save the Childrens doctors, Khal Mirza is thankfully improving. But, many severely malnourished children are not so lucky. With Afghanistans healthcare system desperately lacking resources and staff, many children cannot access the care they need to survive. A Save the Children assessment also found that more than 50 percent of surveyed families couldnt access healthcare, mainly because they didnt have the money to pay for the services.
The crisis in Afghanistan comes at a time when the world is facing its biggest hunger crisis this century, with an estimated 44 million children and adults on the brink of starvation across the globe.
*Names have been changed
The Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) figures for Afghanistan, March-May 2022.
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Khal Mirza* has been suffering from severe acute malnutrition and needed medical treatment to survive after his mother was unable to feed him breastmilk. Save the Childrens Mobile Health Teams provided further treatment in his mothers village after he was discharged from the hospital.