Afghan Deputy Minister of Public Health Abdul Bari Omar revealed the figure to domestic media on November 15, adding, “700,000 Afghan women ... are suffering from malnutrition along with the children.” Two million children in Afghanistan suffered from “acute malnutrition” in May 2019, according to a report by the United Nations (U.N.). “A child that suffers from acute severe malnutrition is a child that needs urgent treatment, otherwise he might die,” according to the U.N. “We are the sole provider of treatment for severe acute malnutrition [in Afghanistan],” U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesman Christopher Boulierac told reporters in May 2019.
The number of malnourished children in Afghanistan has remained “stagnant” for years, Boulierac noted at the time. Most of Afghanistan’s poorest population has relied on humanitarian aid as a food source over the past two decades while the nation was continually destabilized during an approximately 20-year-long U.S.-led war.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on August 15 by deposing Kabul’s U.S.-backed government, plunging the already struggling country further into political and economic chaos.
The nation’s notorious food insecurity, already a problem for Afghans before the Taliban takeover, threatens to grow worse in the coming months amid a nationwide drought. “Food prices have spiked since the second drought in four years ruined some 40 percent of the wheat crop,” the World Food Program (WFP) observed in September. “The Taliban depend on the U.N. and they know it — they can’t feed the population,” an unnamed U.N. official who has worked in Afghanistan but declined to be identified told Reuters on September 2. “Moreover, civil servants’ salaries are not being paid, the currency has depreciated, and banks have limited weekly withdrawals to $200 since the Taliban takeover,” Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the WFP’s director in Afghanistan, told Reuters on September 2.
The WFP, which is the food assistance branch of the U.N., has managed to maintain its operations throughout Afghanistan since August 15.
The agency said on September 2 it was importing food “from Uzbekistan and Pakistan, reaching 200,000 people with supplies in the past two weeks.” “Nearly 10 million girls and boys [in Afghanistan] depend on humanitarian assistance from UNICEF, just to survive,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement issued on September 13. “At least 1 million children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year and could die without treatment,” the U.N. warned.
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