One million children at risk of starvation, warns UNICEF chief

One million children at risk of starvation, warns UNICEF chief

Afghan children who collect recyclable waste for a living eat a meal of rice in Jalalabad on June 30, 2013.

Noorullah Shirzada | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – At least one million children in Afghanistan will suffer from severe malnutrition this year and could die without proper treatment, the UNICEF executive director warned in a speech on Monday.

“Nearly 10 million girls and boys depend on humanitarian aid just to survive,” Henrietta Fore said at a UN ministerial meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Fore urged the international community and rich countries to help avoid further suffering after the fall of the US-backed Afghan government almost overnight last month and the takeover of the country by Taliban militants.

“Please help us,” she said. Fore’s remarks come at a critical juncture in the history of international aid to Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban takeover on August 15, most developed countries in the West have suspended direct aid to Afghanistan, fearing they would fund a militant Islamist regime that ruled the country with brute force from 1996 to 2001.

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Western countries view aid to Afghanistan as a major point of view as they try to pressure the Taliban to put in place a government that respects individual rights, especially the rights of women and girls.

Meanwhile, groups like UNICEF are getting a second eye from Western governments looking for ways to provide aid to the most needy Afghan citizens while bypassing the Taliban government.

On Monday, the United States announced an additional $ 64 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which will be distributed through groups such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Almost 600,000 people, more than half of whom are children, have been displaced by the conflict this year,” Fore said.

Fore also highlighted UNICEF’s unique ability to work in one of the poorest and most war-torn countries.

“UNICEF has been in Afghanistan for over 70 years,” he said, adding, “We know what needs to be done for children. And we can have it.

The capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban last month and the withdrawal of US forces have prompted many international aid workers to leave the country, fearing for their safety.

But UNICEF stayed and acted, Fore said.

“In the past two weeks, we have provided safe drinking water to 170,000 drought-affected people and deployed mobile health teams to 14 provinces to continue basic health services for children and women,” did he declare.

“In the last week of August, UNICEF provided life-saving medical care to 4,000 severely malnourished children under five, and the road mission has begun.

It remains to be seen whether the newly formed Taliban government will allow international aid groups such as UNICEF to operate safely in the country.

But Fore insisted that life-saving aid, especially for children, should be seen outside the political boundaries that divide governments and nation states.

“We need to make sure that aid is not politicized – the prioritization of funding decisions must first be based on need. A large part of our task is to look for ways to provide timely and sustained aid. “

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