WAlthough the biting cold weather is claiming dozens of lives in Afghanistan every winter, many fear that this year will be far more deadly than others due to the nation struggling with its worst food crisis since records began.
Abdullah *, an eight-year-old boy living in the Taliban-occupied country, is already feeling the effects of the humanitarian crisis.
“We have bread and sometimes rice, but never meat and fruit,” he says The independent. “We have so much less food than before, and that worries me. Sometimes when we don’t have food, I go to bed without eating anything.”
Zarghuna, his mother, says the family has been forced to resort to help since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in mid-August.
“Our situation is not good,” said the 35-year-old. “A few days ago we received a sack of flour, and we have started eating it. Everything has become expensive. We can no longer buy flour and oil because the price is too high. ”
Zarghuna, whose children are between one and 15 years old, explains that they have only been able to afford to eat once a day since the price of food rose after the United States withdrew troops in the wake of a two-decade-long war.
“We just eat dinner in the evening,” she adds. “Sometimes we don’t even have it and we go to bed without eating anything. In the morning we only drink tea. Me and my husband can go hungry, but we are worried about our children – they cry because they are hungry and it is so hard. ”
Her comments come after it was recently revealed that more than half of the population of Afghanistan is facing acute hunger. Nearly 23 million people will struggle to feed themselves this winter, with at least 14 million children among them, a report by Save the Children shows.
This marks a 35 percent increase in hunger levels compared to last year – with only 5 percent of households in Afghanistan currently able to get their fingers in enough food to eat every day. Eight children from a family starved to death in western Kabul last month, according to Save the Children.
Orlaith Minogue, a senior conflict policy adviser at the charity, said some of the families they support have eaten bread and eaten only one meal a day.
“A big problem is that mothers and fathers go without food when they give it to children,” Ms Minogue adds. “They also put old bread in water to soften it for the kids. What we see extremely consistently is little or no access to fruit or vegetables and no meat at all. “
She said the charity is particularly concerned about the situation of pregnant women – adding that it estimates that more than 330,000 babies have been born in “the 100 days since the Taliban took control of the country”.
Ms Minogue, whose charity runs mobile health services across ten provinces, said midwives report all sorts of problems.
“Many women give birth alone in cold, dark places, without electricity and without access to health care,” she said. “Of course, it puts their lives and the lives of their babies in serious danger. Women are not going near a functioning health system as the health systems in Afghanistan are collapsing.”
The humanitarian crisis ravaging Afghanistan is “truly horrific and extremely alarming,” she added, noting that young children are very vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. “This is the worst humanitarian crisis Afghanistan has faced in decades,” she said.
Ms Minogue says the food crisis stems from a brutal combination of drought, 18-month Covid-related restrictions, as well as the resolution of security and conflict that greatly disrupt agriculture, food imports, labor and banking.
“Hunger is widespread across the country,” she said. “Afghanistan is experiencing extremely harsh winters. Part of the country will be cut off from being reached by humanitarian organizations due to the mountainous terrain. It will be heavily snow-covered and inhospitable terrain. It gives rise to acute concern as it gets colder. “
Studies have found that it is often women who eat “last and least” in nations struggling with war or famine. To put this into context, about 60 percent of the 690 million people currently starving or suffering from food insecurity around the world are women and girls.
“I wish my husband could find work so we have food for our children,” said Gul Pari *, a 35-year-old Afghan mother of four. “We have had to reduce the number of meals we eat and we only eat bread most of the time. When the kids cry because they are hungry, I try to find some rice to give them. Otherwise I will find one or two potatoes to cook. ”
The British Red Cross on Wednesday issued a warning that the people of Afghanistan are facing one of the gloomiest winters in “living memory”, unless aid and money can reach the nation in a matter of weeks. Temperatures plummet to as low as minus 25 in mountainous parts of Afghanistan.
“The weapons may have gone silent, but people are now afraid of hunger, cold, and the future,” said Maryann Horne, the charity’s senior adviser on humanitarian crises. “They have no cash or jobs and there does not seem to be any solution in sight.”
Ms Horne, who is in the Afghan capital Kabul, noted that urban poverty is a new problem in the country and is becoming more prevalent in places where citizens were previously quite affluent.
“Millions are facing unimaginable food shortages, malnutrition and being pushed further into extreme poverty,” adds Mrs Horne. ‘Food prices are rising dramatically, paid jobs are evaporating and the effects of the drought are rippling across the country. The Afghan people are seeking the help of the international community, but are also hoping. “
* Names have been changed to protect identities