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Over one million Afghan children will die without 'urgent action': UNICEF

An Afghan girl (2L) carries a bucket full of washed clothes on her head in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on January 2, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) has warned that more than one million children in Afghanistan are at the risk of severe acute malnutrition and death, calling for humanitarian aid to prevent the catastrophe.

Pravaran Mahat, a communication specialist at UNICEF’s South Asia regional office, after his visit to the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul on Sunday called for “urgent action”.

“UNICEF estimates that without urgent action, more than one million children [in Afghanistan] can suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“That’s why we, as UNICEF, urge and request our countries’ partners and donors to rally support behind the children in Afghanistan,” he added, stressing “They need help. They need it now.”

"Health workers are overwhelmed & mothers are exhausted." @UNICEFROSA Communication Specialist, @PravaranMahat, shares his impressions after visiting the Indira Gandhi Children's Hospital in #Kabul.

— UNICEF Afghanistan (@UNICEFAfg) January 23, 2022

Mahat noted that Afghan healthcare workers were overwhelmed and mothers were exhausted and concerned over the health condition of their children.

Almost five months after the US-led international coalition hastily abandoned the South Asian country, millions of Afghans are teetering at the brink of starvation, with no food and no money.

Soon after the Taliban laid siege to Kabul mid-August, US and its international partners raced to cut off Afghanistan’s access to international aid and froze roughly $10 billion in assets belonging to the country’s central bank.

The move triggered the rapid collapse of public finances and precipitated the current crisis. European Union also then followed the suit, stopping development assistance to the country, followed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

UN aid agencies have described the country’s situation as one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises. According to the UN humanitarian coordination office, half the population is now battling acute hunger, and over nine million people have been displaced.

The world body had earlier warned that millions of Afghans could run out of food before the onset of harsh winter and around one million children were at the risk of starvation and death.

The fact that Afghanistan’s assets worth billions of dollars have been frozen by the US and its allies has only compounded the misery of war-weary Afghans.

The interim government of Taliban has repeatedly called for the release of frozen assets, but Washington has continued to rebuff the calls.

Earlier this year, the UN announced the launch of a more than $5 billion funding appeal for Afghanistan to avert a major humanitarian crisis in the South Asian country.

As part of the global body’s largest ever humanitarian appeal for a single country, it said $4.4bn was required within Afghanistan, and a further $623m was needed to support Afghan refugees abroad.

Back in December last, the UN Security Council had unanimously adopted a US-proposed resolution to help humanitarian aid reach Afghans, while seeking to keep funds out of Taliban hands.

That resolution was welcomed by the Taliban authorities as a "good step."

The group leadership has warned Western diplomats that insisting on sanctions as a means to pressure their governance could undermine security and trigger a wave of economic refugees.

A high-level Taliban delegation is currently holding talks with Western officials in Oslo, Norway, with focus on freeing funds blocked by the US and its allies.

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