About 9.6 million children in Afghanistan have been unable to secure food on a daily basis due to a deepening economic crisis in the country, the impact of the Ukraine war, and continuing drought, Save the Children has said.
In a report published on Tuesday, the international NGO called for “immediate food assistance” to save lives in the short-term, adding however that aid alone was “not enough to tackle the country’s worst hunger crisis on record”.
“Despite a significant amount of food aid reaching families in recent months, 19.7 million children and adults, almost 50 percent of the population, are still going hungry and need urgent support to survive,” said the report.
According to the report, about 20,000 people were pushed into famine during the past two to three months alone.
Reflecting the situation of many Afghans, Maryam, a 26-year-old mother of five, from Faryab province, complained, “I can only borrow cash and buy them food, but mostly I don’t have sufficient food for them. Sometimes we have food to eat and some days we don’t.”
Maryam told Save the Children that she recently had to borrow money to take her baby who suffers from acute malnutrition to the hospital.
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, the aid-dependent country was cut off from international financial institutions, while nearly $10bn of its assets were frozen by the US, triggering a banking crisis.
Millions of dollars in international aid have dried up due to the sanctions.
Advocates have slammed the Biden administration’s decision to repurpose $3.5bn in Afghan assets as compensation to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Navigate the sanctions
For months, the UN and other aid agencies have been trying to navigate the sanctions to deliver much-needed aid to the country.
“Every single day our front-line health workers are treating children who are wasting away in front of our eyes because they’re only eating bread once a day – and those are the lucky ones,” said Save the Children’s director of advocacy, communications and media, Athena Rayburn.
“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,” she added.
Rayburn explained that although 18.9 million children and adults were expected to need food aid for the latter half of this year, available funding for food aid could only provide support for 3.2 million people.
She added that as the world’s attention continues to be diverted to Ukraine, the situation in Afghanistan will continue to get worse.
“Each day that passes without the funds needed sees more children lose their lives to preventable causes.”
In March, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched the UN’s biggest ever single-country funding drive seeking $4.4bn to avoid a food crisis in the country. But donor countries have only pledged more than half of that amount.