1 million Afghan children at risk of dying by year-end amid food crisis: WHO

World Health Organisation spokesperson Margaret Harris said around 3.2 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in Afghanistan by the end of the year as temperatures in the country begin to drop below zero degrees Celsius.
A UN assessment conducted last month stated that the shocks of drought, conflict, Covid-19 and an economic crisis have left more than half Afghanistan’s population facing a record level of acute hunger. (REUTERS PHOTO.)
A UN assessment conducted last month stated that the shocks of drought, conflict, Covid-19 and an economic crisis have left more than half Afghanistan’s population facing a record level of acute hunger. (REUTERS PHOTO.)
Published on Nov 12, 2021 10:50 PM IST
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Written by Sharangee Dutta | Edited by Sohini Goswami, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

As conditions in Afghanistan continue to worsen in the aftermath of Taliban recapturing the nation following the pullout of the United States and other foreign forces, the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said that at least one million children in the war-ravaged nation are at the risk of dying by the end of the year as temperatures drop.

According to a Reuters report, the United Nations (UN) health agency said that nearly 3.2 million children are likely to suffer from acute malnutrition in Afghanistan by the end of 2021 of whom one million are at the risk of losing their lives.

“It’s an uphill battle as starvation grips the country,” WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said stressing that the international community “must not and cannot afford” to turn its back to Afghanistan.

Speaking from Kabul, Harris said temperatures at night have begun dipping below zero degrees Celsius and the young are expected to become susceptible to ailments in colder temperatures.

The Reuters report said the WHO spokesperson did not have exact figures on the number of children who have already succumbed to the difficult conditions, but Harris spoke about “wards filled with tiny little children”.

Measles cases have been witnessing a spike in Afghanistan, with WHO data showing as many as 24,000 clinical cases had so far been reported.

Food crisis has been a major challenge in Afghanistan since the Sunni Pashtun group swept into power on August 15, with a recent report mentioning that Afghans are selling their children to procure food items for survival. 

Released by the Canada-based think-tank International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS), the report added that 95 per cent of Afghans lack access to adequate food, while half of the country’s population are expected to face acute hunger levels as winter sets in. 

The prediction by the WHO and IFFRAS come at a time when the Taliban government in Afghanistan is calling for unfreezing its government’s reserves and loans.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Global Fund have said they have paid $8million for 23,500 health workers in as many as 31 provinces in Afghanistan over the previous month.

“Global Fund took the financial risk; we took the implementation risk to make these payments happen,” UNDP’s regional director for Asia and the Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja said.

Last month, the European Union (EU) during its first face-to-face talks with the Sunni Pashtun group, pledged one billion euros ($1.2 billion) in aid for Afghanistan. However, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen clarified that the assistance was “direct support” for Afghans and would be given to international organisations working for the cause on the ground, and not to the ruling Taliban regime.

The EU does not recognise the Taliban dispensation in Afghanistan.

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Saturday, November 27, 2021