Up to 131,000 children could die this year from hunger and disease in Afghanistan as the country descends into the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, the UN humanitarian aid agency (UNOCHA) warned as it pleaded desperately for faster international aid.
Its report on Afghanistan’s humanitarian needs for 2022 Afghanistan said 24.4 million people, or 55 per cent of the population, will need humanitarian assistance in 2022, a staggering 30 per cent increase from last year.
“Rising food insecurity coinciding with the potential collapse of basic health systems services would leave 1.1 million acutely malnourished children under the age of five years without access to treatment services,” the report warned.
“The main driver of the rise in humanitarian need is a dangerous increase in acute food insecurity, with almost 23 million people facing acute hunger, including 8.7 million people at emergency levels. All 34 provinces are facing crisis or emergency levels of acute food insecurity,” it added.
Consequently, the combined humanitarian and refugee response plans for Afghanistan require over US $5 billion in international funding in 2022.
Conflict has subsided, but violence, fear and deprivation continue to drive Afghans to seek safety and asylum across borders, particularly in Iran and Pakistan. More than 2.2 million registered refugees and a further 4 million Afghans with different statuses are hosted in those countries, placing enormous strains on local communities.
Afghanistan is struggling amidst the backdrop of an already dire situation following 40 years of war, economic decline, price increases, and rising poverty. In 2021, the people faced intensified conflict, the worst drought in 27 years, the withdrawal of US and international forces, and then the takeover of the country by the Taliban in August.
Both the formal and informal economies have suffered dramatically due to disruption to markets, financial and trade mechanisms, the freezing of central bank reserves and loans, and the sudden drop in direct international development assistance, which formerly accounted for 75 per cent of public expenditures.
The deteriorating economy has led to an immediate GDP contraction of an estimated 40 per cent, throwing people into critical need. Following the record displacement of nearly 700,000 people in 2021, some 9.2 million people remain in some form of displacement.
The impending humanitarian catastrophe during Afghanistan’s very harsh winter could speed up the exodus of Afghans seeking refuge in other countries. Many make the arduous journey towards Europe because neighbors Iran and Pakistan are poor countries with few prospects for employment.
Channeling financial aid to Afghanistan has become extremely difficult because of the almost complete collapse of its banking and payments systems. Donor countries, especially the US, refuse to provide funding if it might enrich the Taliban who have not yet made the concessions necessary to receive aid from the West, especially an end to the oppression of girls and women.
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