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UN Food Agency: Afghan malnutrition rates hit record high


KABUL, Afghanistan — Malnutrition rates in Afghanistan are at record highs, with half the country suffering severe hunger throughout the year, a spokesperson for the World Food Program said Thursday.

The Taliban takeover in August 2021 plunged millions into poverty and hunger after foreign aid was halted almost overnight. Sanctions against Taliban leaders, halting bank transfers and freezing billions in Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves have restricted access to global institutions and the outside money that supported the country’s dependent economy. aid to the country before the withdrawal of American and NATO forces.

“Half of Afghanistan suffers from severe hunger throughout the year, regardless of the season, and malnutrition rates are at an all-time high for Afghanistan,” said Phillipe Kropf, spokesperson for United Nations food agency in Kabul.

“There are seven million children (under 5) and mothers suffering from malnutrition in a country of 40 million people.”

Afghans are not starving, he said, but they no longer have the resources to avert the humanitarian crisis.

Aid agencies have provided Afghans with food, education and health care, including heating, cash for fuel and warm clothing. But distribution has been badly affected by a Taliban decree banning women from working in national and international non-governmental groups.

“The ban came at the worst possible time,” Kropf said. “Families and communities don’t know where their next meal will come from.”

WFP has stepped up aid deliveries and distributions ahead of a harsh winter ahead of the ban, planning to reach 15 million people this month with emergency food aid and a nutritional support. Although not directly affected by the ban, 19 of its NGO partners suspended operations in Afghanistan following the December 24 edict.

The ban imposed by NGOs on women workers led to the suspension of 115 of the 437 mobile clinics, affecting 82,000 children and pregnant and lactating women. The suspension of a training project harmed 39,300 people, mostly women, while the suspension of a school snack program affected 616,000 students.

At a nutrition clinic in Kabul, 32-year-old nurse Anisa Samadi said most children and mothers would die without support from agencies like the WFP and the World Health Organization. Their help is needed now more than ever, she told The Associated Press on Thursday.

“Over the past 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, most of the time we have twins who are so weak, while their mothers are also weak.

Medicine shortages, poverty and lack of food mean even a small illness can become a huge problem for many Afghans, she said.

Her colleague, Sheba Hussanzada, a 30-year-old nutrition counselor, said children at the clinic were given therapeutic food. But the children come back with pneumonia, causing unhealthy weight loss. “Mothers say they don’t have firewood or any other way to keep their children warm at home. They don’t have enough food to feed them,” she said.

Fereshta, 24, a first-time mother, came to the clinic because she did not have enough milk to feed her child. Her husband had a job, but now there is no job for him.

“Since the arrival of the Taliban, the economic situation is so bad and people have no food to eat. People don’t have three meals. If there was no such center to support us, I could lose my child,” the young mother said.

The NGO ban followed a series of measures restricting the rights and freedoms of women and girls in Afghanistan, and sparked international condemnation and weeks of campaigning to have it lifted.

The UN’s most senior woman, Amina Mohammed, said on Wednesday she had used everything in her ‘toolbox’ during meetings with Taliban ministers in Afghanistan to try to reverse their crackdown against women and girls, urging Muslim countries to help the Taliban move out of the “13th century into the 21st” century.

On Thursday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, asked for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ reaction to rising malnutrition rates in Afghanistan, said: “This is yet another sign of the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan that we see amid particularly harsh winter conditions. .”

Associated Press writer Riazat Butt contributed reporting from Islamabad.

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