After a brief pause to ensure the safety of our aid workers, Action Against Hunger is preparing to resume our programs in Afghanistan. It has been more than ten days since the Taliban took power in the country, and the humanitarian situation is alarming. More than half of the Afghan population – 18 million people – depends on humanitarian aid to survive, and more than 550,000 people are displaced within the country.
The consequences of decades of conflict are devastating, particularly for children under five suffering from hunger. Even before this latest crisis, 3.1 million children across Afghanistan were suffering from malnutrition – a deadly condition that is both preventable and treatable. Access to basic health, nutrition, water, and hygiene services is limited, and our teams are concerned about survival of malnourished children who can no longer access lifesaving treatment because of the conflict.
Prior to the current crisis, our nutrition surveys found alarming rates of malnutrition among children. In Ghor province in December 2020, for example, our study found that 15.9% of children under five years old were acutely malnourished, including 3.4% who were suffering from severe acute malnutrition – the deadliest form of hunger. In the same study, results shows that 45.5% of children were stunted, or chronically malnourished.
Action Against Hunger has worked in Afghanistan since 1979. Last year alone, our nutrition and health programs provided care to 52,246 children under five and 13,416 pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Now, in Helmand, Ghor, Daykundi, and Badakhshan provinces, our teams are working to resume mobile health and nutrition clinics to reach the most isolated and vulnerable people. Our clinics are preparing to welcome back malnourished children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers and resume their treatment. Our food security and livelihoods experts are planning to restart agricultural activities that provide training and support to help people grow food and generate an income.
“We are working to get everyone back to work as soon as possible, both women and men," says Philippe Hamel, Regional Director of Operations in Asia for Action Against Hunger. “People have been suffering from conflict conditions for more than 40 years, in addition to the effects of the climate crisis and the impacts of COVID-19. If the international community turns its back on them now, the humanitarian consequences will be disastrous."
Action Against Hunger stands ready to resume our activities as soon as possible in accordance with the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence. We call on the international community to maintain its commitment to the Afghan people, particularly by funding the humanitarian response plan. To date, just 39% of the funds needed has been secured.