Kabul: As winter sets in across Afghanistan and as the economic crisis worsens, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is seeing a spike in cases of child pneumonia and malnutrition.
At 33 ICRC-supported hospitals across the country, child malnutrition cases are already 90 percent higher in 2022 compared to all of 2021, rising from 33,000 cases to over 63,000 so far this year. Meanwhile, at an ICRC-supported children’s hospital in Kabul, the number of children under 5 being treated for pneumonia has risen 55 percent in 2022 versus the same period last year.
“The poverty level in Afghanistan has increased compared to past years. Most people cannot buy material to keep their homes and children warm. They also cannot afford to feed their children properly so pneumonia cases are rising, and the number of malnutrition cases linked to pneumonia will rise, too,” said Dr. Abdul Qayum Azeemi, an ICRC doctor who coordinates ICRC’s programme in Kabul’s Indira Ghandhi hospital.
“Afghan families face an impossible choice: To eat or to buy heat. And, really, they can’t afford either, resulting in a frightening rise in malnutrition and pneumonia cases,” Martin Schüepp, ICRC’s director of operations, said during his visit to Afghanistan this week. “Aid organizations can’t answer all the overwhelming cries for help. That’s why we’re urging states and development agencies to return to Afghanistan to continue providing support to the millions here in need.”
“Dedicated and courageous female and male health staff do their best to save lives every day, but the international community must step up its support as humanitarian organizations cannot effectively replace a functioning public sector in the long term,” Mr Schüepp added.