More than seven million children in Afghanistan face food shortages and starvation amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Save the Children, a leading charity organization.
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A country already afflicted with poverty and decades-old civil war is now also concurrently looking at a hunger pandemic which is expected to affect a third of its population including 7.3 million children.
As the cases of coronavirus rapidly grew in the country, the Afghan government imposed a strict lockdown, restricting the movement of people and goods that left many people unemployed and soared the prices of essential commodities.
According to a report by the World Food Programme (WFP), prices of wheat flour and cooking oil had risen by up to 23 per cent in the past month, and the cost of rice, sugar and pulses increased by around 7-12 per cent.
With just 0.3 doctors per 1,000 people, Afghanistan’s sick and malnourished children are less likely to receive the life-saving treatment they need to survive, Save the Children warned.
For many Afghans, the biggest threat is not the COVID-19 virus but the resultant hunger from the food shortage caused due to lockdown, said director of the charity – Timothy Bishop. He added that the organization was worried that unless the world takes action, many Afghans will perish due to the pandemic as well as hunger.
“We are deeply concerned that this pandemic will lead to a storm of hunger, disease and death in Afghanistan unless the world takes action now. We are facing the very real risk that the children could die from starvation. What we need is from the international community to urgently fly in food supplies to be distributed to some of the most vulnerable communities in the country. We also urge the Afghan government to facilitate the rapid distribution of food, despite the nationwide lockdown.”
The country’s health minister Ferozuddin Feroz had said some weeks back that lockdown was necessary to contain the spread of coronavirus. He had also stated that around 25 million Afghans were at the risk of contracting the disease.
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Not only local Afghans but even the returning Afghan migrants from Iran and Pakistan as also the thousands of prisoners released by the Afghan Government have added to the burgeoning crisis that has also spiked fears regarding the increase in violent crimes and burglaries.
Even before the pandemic, an estimated five million Afghan children needed some sort of humanitarian aid and the latest UN surveys pointed out that about two million more children below five years faced extreme hunger in a country that has seen almost four decades of war.