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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."

Go deeper

Jan 11, 2022 - World

U.S. sending over $308 million in aid to Afghanistan

A family in Herat, Afghanistan, on Jan. 11. Photo: Bilal Guler/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The U.S. announced a new contribution of more than $308 million in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan on Tuesday, bringing the total U.S. aid for the country and Afghan refugees to nearly $782 million since October.

Why it matters: Millions of Afghans face a harsh winter and rapidly dwindling food and fuel reserves, and the Taliban, which reclaimed the country in August after the U.S. ended its military presence there, lack resources to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis, according to the Washington Post.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.