KABUL: A senior international aid official said Thursday that Afghanistan is being hit by multiple crises that are “progressively getting worse,” with drought, economic collapse and displacement all pushing the population into catastrophic hunger.
Alexander Matheou, Asia-Pacific regional director for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, warned the onset of winter will only increase the pain for Afghans and drive some closer to disaster, warned
“Staying warm and putting food on the table is now harder than it was before. And if you fall sick, you are more likely to struggle in trying to access health care,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press at the end of a visit to Afghanistan.
“For people who already vulnerable, they will become more vulnerable. For people already in critical condition, it could become deadly,” Matheou added
According to U.N. figures from early November, almost 24 million people in Afghanistan, around 60% percent of the population, suffer from acute hunger. That includes 8.7 million living in near- famine. Increasing numbers of malnourished children have filled hospital wards.
Afghanistan has been suffering from its worst drought in decades since last year, hitting 80% of the country. The drought has reduced crops and wrecked incomes for farming families, driving many to leave their villages. More than 700,000 people were displaced from their homes this year, whether by fighting or drought, adding to the ranks of some 3.5 million displaced from past years of fighting.
After the Taliban took over the country of 38 million people on Aug. 15, the bottom dropped out of the already dilapidated economy.
Sanctions on the Taliban cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in international financing on which the government relied. Billions of dollars in Afghan assets abroad were frozen. Afghanistan’s banking system was largely cut off from the world. As a result, the government has largely been unable to pay salaries and jobs across the economy have disappeared.
At Kabul’s Ataturk Children’s Hospital, the malnutrition ward was filled to capacity with emaciated children.