'Millions of Afghan Children Suffering From Wasting, Malnutrition,' Says UN's World Food Programme

'There is not even enough water to drink. The wells have dried up. There is no food, and no one is employed.'

New Delhi: As Afghanistan struggles with hunger, malnutrition levels are soaring, multiple reports of the United Nation’s World Food Programme have pointed out.

Reports released on January 5 and 24 this year point to a crisis, with the WFP noting that “millions of children are suffering from wasting and chronic malnutrition.”

The WFP quotes a grandmother, Guldana, who heads a 10-person household in the Sayed Abad district of Wardak Province to the west of Kabul. She says, “There is not even enough water to drink in our area. The wells have dried up. There is no food, and no one is employed.”

For several like Guldana, food assistance from humanitarian organisations are their only hope.

Afghanistan is battered by four decades of conflict. In 2021, as the US army withdrew from its territory, the Taliban took over. Foreign aid stopped and millions were thrust into poverty as a severe economic crisis engulfed the country, compounded by droughts and floods. The Taliban takeover has also meant a serious regression in rights, with public floggings and executions returning to daily Afghan life and spaces for women in education and work diminishing drastically.

The UN’s estimates in 2021, that nearly half the country’s population – or about 23 million people – would facing acute hunger in the coming months appear to have been proven right. A report on the US news outlet NBC quotes WFP’s Phillipe Kropf as having said that half of Afghanistan does endure severe hunger throughout the year, pushing malnutrition levels at a record high.

The WFP now reports that nine out of 10 Afghans do not eat enough.

Roughly two-thirds of the population, or 28.3 million people, are projected to need humanitarian assistance in 2023 — nearly four million more than last year, the WFP says.

“There are 7 million children (under the age of 5) and mothers who are malnourished, in a country with a population of 40 million,” Kropf says.

Afghanistan residents have no resources left to stave off the crisis, according to the WFP.

Late last year, India along with the rest of the United Nations Security Council voted in favour of a resolution that exempted Afghanistan from the sanctions regime put in place five years ago.

The Wire had noted then that the resolution was speeded by pressure not only from UN bodies but also international NGOs who cited the fact that aid delivery by humanitarian organisations had become virtually paralysed by legal complications in the country.

Early last year, the first shipment of 2,500 metric tonnes of wheat sent by India for Afghan people via Pakistani land route as part of its humanitarian aid reached Jalalabad.