Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Malnutrition Is Putting 600,000 Young Lives at Risk in Afghanistan

War is not the only hazard to the lives of Afghan children. Malnutrition is also claiming thousands of lives every day. Unfortunately, UNICEF is not in a position to combat it due to a lack of funds.


Children at stake


The UN Children’s Fund estimates that of the 2 million Afghan children suffering from acute malnourishment, 600,000 of them are at high risk of dying. “Nutrition is not just an issue of food,” Alison Parker, UNICEF’s Chief of Communication, Advocacy & Civic Engagement in Afghanistan, said in a statement (Fars News). The ongoing conflict in the region, rampant poverty, and unsafe, dirty water are the main reasons why so many kids end up being malnourished. To complicate the situation, Afghanistan is suffering from a series of devastating droughts.


Head of the Malnutrition Department of the Nangarhar Regional Hospital Muqeem Shah Miakhil said in an interview with Ruptly: “The malnutrition level is spiking day by day in Afghanistan.” According to the estimates, over 15,000 women and children in Nangarhar came to UNICEF-supported facilities for severe malnutrition treatment. UNICEF is running out of funds to provide consistent aid to the Afghan children. An additional $7 million is needed to keep up with the increasing rate of kids falling to malnourishment. It is truly a crisis. As stated by UNICEF, “any child suffering from severe acute malnutrition is a crisis and needs to be treated to survive.”


UNICEF is trying to raise more funds to support its efforts in Afghanistan. (Image: UNICEF via flickr CC BY 2.0 )


More lives will be at stake if UNICEF doesn’t get the additional funds immediately, according to a press release on their official website. The worst possible case is the death of many children, and the ones who will suffer the most are those battling with acute malnutrition since they’re 11 times more susceptible to mortality. Without the funds, the organization won’t be able to procure supplies to 1,300 health facilities in all the provinces in the country that they support. “Everyone is recognizing that it is a crisis,” Parker said, hoping that donors will be able to clear the budget gap.


How UNICEF helps fight malnutrition


So how does UNICEF provide the needs of hungry children in Afghanistan? If you’re planning to give a donation, then here’s how your money is going to be put into use.  UNICEF implements a nourishment plan through a “two-prong approach treatment (as an immediate lifesaving intervention) and prevention through a life-cycle approach and has interventions at various stages.”


Recently, in order to treat children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the organization conducted an immediate lifesaving intervention wherein ready to use therapeutic food and support SAM treatment was made available for more than 73,000 children. To combat anemia in schools, folic acid supplements were provided to adolescent girls of age 10 to 19. Providing sustenance is not the only strategy followed by UNICEF.


UNICEF also educated local women about the importance of breastfeeding their children. (Image: Wikimedia ; CC0 4.0)


To ensure that mothers and caregivers are equipped with the necessary knowledge for feeding (complementary feeding and breastfeeding) children ranging from infants to 2-year-old children, the organization provides them with counseling services. Furthermore, the health organization backs up 7 provinces who offer community-based programs for better feeding choices for mothers and caregivers. UNICEF plans to upgrade the scope of their aid to the children of Afghanistan. But their reach depends greatly on the availability of funds.

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Max Lu
Max Lu is an author who specializes in Asian geopolitics.

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