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Malnutrition rates at record high in Afghanistan, warns UN food agency

An Afghan woman waits to receive a food package distributed by a humanitarian aid group at a distribution center in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 25, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

A World Food Program (WFP) official says malnutrition rates in Afghanistan are at record highs as half of the population struggles with severe hunger amid the deteriorating economic situation fueled by Western sanctions. 

Philipe Kropf, a spokesman for the UN food agency, during his visit to the Afghan capital Kabul on Thursday warned of the humanitarian disaster. 

“Half of Afghanistan endures severe hunger throughout the year, regardless of the season, and malnutrition rates are at a record high for Afghanistan,” the official said. “There are seven million children (under the age of 5) and mothers who are malnourished, in a country with a population of 40 million.”

Afghans are not starving to death, he asserted, but they have no resources left to stave off the humanitarian crisis.

According to the WFP, almost 19 million Afghans, roughly more than half of the country's population, including five million children and pregnant and lactating women, are facing critical levels of hunger.

The food agency said at least 3.9 million children in the country are already facing acute malnutrition, with nine out of 10 Afghans not eating enough.

“There is not even enough water to drink in our area. The wells have dried up. There is no food, and no one is employed," the WFP quoted a grandmother, Guldana, who heads a 10-person household in the west of Kabul.

At a nutrition clinic in Kabul, 32-year-old nurse Anisa Samadi was quoted as saying that most children and mothers will die without support from agencies like the WFP and World Health Organization. 

“In the last five months, I have seen the number of patients increase. Three months ago we had 48 patients. Last month, we had 76 and this month so far we have 69 or 70, mostly we have twins who are so weak, while their mothers are also weak," she told the Associated Press. 

"If we fail to secure funding and preposition food before winter starts in October, people will starve," Kropf warned.

Roughly two-thirds of the population, or 28.3 million people, are projected to need humanitarian assistance in 2023 — nearly four million more than last year, according to the WFP.

“There are 7 million children (under the age of 5) and mothers who are malnourished, in a country with a population of 40 million,” Kropf said.

The UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Thursday requested secretary-general Antonio Guterres to react to the rising malnutrition rates in Afghanistan.

“It’s yet another sign of the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan we’re seeing in the midst of particularly harsh winter conditions,” he said.

People in war-ravaged Afghanistan have been tormented by grinding poverty and hunger for decades, but since the botched exit of the US-led
international forces and the Taliban's sweeping takeover, the country has been teetering on the brink of a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Last year, a top official of the UN food agency termed it the "worst humanitarian crisis on earth" while a senior executive of the UN Development Programme described it as the worst humanitarian disaster he has "ever seen".

The cruel and inhuman sanctions imposed by the West on the de-facto Taliban government in Kabul has been primarily responsible for the crisis.

After the Taliban laid siege to Kabul, the 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.

Calls for the US to unfreeze funds that have led to the collapse of Afghanistan's domestic economy, even as 38 million Afghans stare at death and starvation amid harsh winter, have been dismissed by the West, including the US. 

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