Jan 11, 2022 - World

Aid group reports major increase in Afghanistan child malnourishment

Health workers check children for signs of malnourishment at a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Herat. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty

Health care workers in the Afghan cities of Khost and Herat recorded major increases of severe acute malnutrition among children — 30-fold and 2-fold respectively — between November and December of 2021, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

State of play: Most foreign aid to Afghanistan has stopped flowing since the Taliban took power in August, sanctions are further hampering the economy, and the U.S. has frozen around $8 billion in Afghan Central Bank assets. That's led to a major cash shortage that comes with winter setting in and food prices rising, the IRC reports.

  • The World Food Program reports that 98% of the population does not have enough to eat, and more than half the population is facing extreme levels of hunger.
  • The UN projects that Afghanistan could face near-universal poverty by mid-2022.

Driving the news: The UN on Tuesday launched its largest-ever funding appeal for a single country, seeking $4.4 billion for humanitarian relief inside Afghanistan and another $623 million to help refugees in neighboring countries.

What they're saying: "The people of Afghanistan are being pushed towards the brink of disaster, and for some already beyond the brink, by a misguided policy mix that is punishing the Afghan people for political differences between the international community and the Afghan government," IRC President David Miliband said in a statement.

  • "Cutting off all development aid and the freezing of Afghan financial assets are hurting civilians; the grim reality is that disease and child malnutrition are rising as health workers go without pay and hospitals go without medicine, while 9 million Afghans are on the brink of famine conditions against the backdrop of massive economic collapse," added Vicki Aken, the IRC's Afghanistan director.
  • In announcing the appeal, UN emergency relief coordinator Martin Griffiths said: "This is an absolutely essential stop-gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today. Without this being funded, there won't be a future, we need this to be done, otherwise there will be outflow, there will be suffering."
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