Some 10 million children in war-ravaged Afghanistan are at risk of not having enough food to eat in 2021, a humanitarian organisation says, calling for billions in new funds for aid.
Just more than 18 million Afghans, including 9.7 million children, are badly in need of lifesaving support, including food, Save the Children said in a statement on Tuesday.
The group called for $3bn in donations to pay for assistance in 2021.
Chris Nyamandi, the organisation’s Afghanistan country director, said Afghans are suffering under a combination of violent conflict, poverty and the virus pandemic.
“It’s a desperately bad situation that needs urgent attention from the international community,” he said.
Nyamandi said with no immediate end in sight to the decades-long conflict, millions of people will continue to suffer.
“It’s especially hard on children, many of whom have known nothing but violence,” he said.
The latest round of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators that began earlier this month in Qatar has been slow to produce results as concerns grow over a recent spike in violence across Afghanistan.
The pandemic has also had a disastrous impact on millions of Afghan families.
In 2020, the World Bank estimated that the pandemic had hugely disrupted imports, including vital household items, which in turn led to rapid inflation.
The added health and economic strains of the pandemic have deepened the humanitarian impact across the country.
Many Afghans also blame runaway government corruption and lawlessness for the country’s poor economy.
The United Nations and its humanitarian partners will seek $1.3bn in aid for 16 million Afghans in need this year, UN secretary-general’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said this month.
That is up from an estimated 2.3 million people last year who needed life-saving assistance.
“It’s a huge increase in people who need aid,” he said.
According to the UN, nearly 6,000 people – a third of them children – were killed or wounded in fighting in Afghanistan between January and September last year, Nyamandi said.
The violence continues to force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes every year and limit people’s access to resources including hospitals and clinics.
In an earlier Save the Children report published in December, the group said more than 300,000 Afghan children faced freezing winter conditions that could lead to illness and death without proper winter clothing and heating.
The organisation said it provided winter survival kits to more than 100,000 families in 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. The kits included fuel and a heater, blankets and winter clothes, including coats, socks, shoes and hats.
Nyamandi said the plight of the Afghan people is threatened by inadequate humanitarian funding pledged by wealthy nations at a conference in Geneva in November.
“Aid to Afghanistan has dropped alarmingly at a time when humanitarian need is rising. We’re now in the unsustainable position where aid falls far short of what’s needed to meet the needs of the people” he said.
The London-based Save the Children report cites 10-year-old Brishna from eastern Nangarhar province as saying her family was forced to leave their home and move to another district because of the fighting.
“Life is difficult,” she said. “My father, who is responsible for bringing us food, is sick.”
Brishna said she and her brother collect rubbish for cooking fires and it has been a long time since they had proper food and clothes.
“My siblings and I always wish to have three meals in a day with some fruits, and a better life. But sometimes, we sleep with empty stomachs. During the winter we don’t have blankets and heating stuff to warm our house,” she said.