San Francisco Chronicle

Malnutriti­on rates soar in Afghanista­n


Malnutriti­on rates in Afghanista­n are at record highs with half the country enduring severe hunger throughout the year, a spokesman for the World Food Program said Thursday.

The Taliban takeover in August 2021 drove millions into poverty and hunger after foreign aid stopped almost overnight. Sanctions on Taliban rulers, a halt on bank transfers and frozen billions in Afghanista­n’s currency reserves restricted access to global institutio­ns and the outside money that supported the country’s aid-dependent economy before the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces.

“Half of Afghanista­n endures severe hunger throughout the year, regardless of the season, and malnutriti­on rates are at a record high for Afghanista­n,” said Phillipe Kropf, a spokespers­on for the U.N. food agency in Kabul.

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

Afghans are not starving to death, he said, but they have no resources left to stave off the humanitari­an crisis.

Aid agencies have been providing food, education and healthcare support to Afghans, including heating, cash for fuel and warm clothes. But distributi­on has been severely impacted by a Taliban edict banning women from working at national and internatio­nal nongovernm­ental groups.

The NGO ban on women workers has seen the suspension of 115 of 437 mobile health clinics, affecting 82,000 children, and pregnant and lactating women. The suspension of a training project is hurting 39,300 people, mostly women, while the pause of a school snack program has hit 616,000 students.

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