The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had recorded a sharp rise in malnutrition cases among children in Afghanistan with the onset of winter and the worsening economic crisis.
In a report published on Wednesday evening, the committee stated that cases of child malnutrition received by 33 hospitals across the country rose from 33,000 cases last year to more than 63,000 cases as of November.
The report indicated that the number of injuries recorded an increase of 90 percent in the current year compared to last year.
“Poverty rates in Afghanistan have increased compared to previous years,” said Dr. Abdul Qayyum Azimi, coordinator of the committee at the Indira Gandhi Hospital in the capital, Kabul.
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He added, “Most people cannot buy heating supplies necessary for their homes and children, nor can they provide adequate nutrition for their children, and thus the incidence of pneumonia rises, and the number of malnutrition cases associated with pneumonia also increases.”
The report indicated that despite the significant decrease in the intensity of fighting, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan still raises concerns. More than half of the population (24 million people) needs humanitarian assistance, while 20 million people suffer from severe food insecurity.
“Afghan families have two bitter choices: either spending on food or heating supplies,” said Martin Scheub, the ICRC’s director of operations, during his visit to Afghanistan this week, adding that families are “unable to buy either.”
He explained that this situation leads to “a frightening rise in cases of pneumonia and malnutrition,” noting that “the relief organizations are not able to respond to this huge volume of appeals requesting assistance.”
Shuaib urged countries and development agencies to return to Afghanistan and resume providing support, which is “millions of people in dire need of it,” as he put it.
He said: “Dedicated and brave health sector workers, women and men, do everything they can to save lives every day, but the international community must increase the amount of support it provides, as humanitarian organizations cannot replace the public sector and perform this task efficiently in the long term.” .
According to the report, the International Committee of the Red Cross supports 33 hospitals with a total capacity of more than 7,000 beds. The support also includes the supply of medical supplies and the payment of operating costs and salaries for about 10,500 healthcare workers, a third of whom are women.
The report indicated that the committee provides health assistance to about 26 million people, in addition to multi-purpose cash grants that the committee provided this year to more than 10,000 families (80,000 people) of the neediest families throughout Afghanistan to help them purchase their basic needs.