Winter is now what everyone fears, as things will get much worse, fast. Snow will prevent access to remote areas which could then be cut off for up to four months. We are very quickly running out of time to get food aid into villages that will soon become inaccessible.
My organisation, World Vision, has been on the ground for 20 years undertaking a range of humanitarian and development work, but the activities that are most critical at this moment are providing emergency nutrition via 15 mobile health clinics. It is heartbreaking to visit these clinics and meet young mothers who share stories of their struggles to survive on almost nothing. Medical staff measure the arms of children as an indicator of how malnourished they are. The weakest get sent to specialist nutrition wards in hospitals. Those wards are filling with children, sometimes several to a bed, and deaths are increasingly commonplace.
The other thing we do is provide food that WFP gives us to distribute in the remote and mountainous provinces where we work in Western Afghanistan. All these are marked ‘emergency’ red on a map managed by global food security experts who have assessed the food situation. In fact, most of Afghanistan is now red - and just one step away from ‘famine’ black.
The situation was already bad before the Taliban took control of Kabul in August. Drought, very probably worsened by climate change, and conflict that had displaced tens of thousands, had created the initial conditions for this crisis. But an already bad situation has significantly worsened. International funding that supported crucial sectors such as health and education and development has largely been suspended.
The people of Afghanistan are now paying a punishing price for these suspensions. Half of all children aged under five — around 3.2 million — were expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of 2021. One million children are at risk of dying without immediate life-saving treatment.