Billions in aid needed to help Afghan kids

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN (AP) – Some 10 million children in war-ravaged Afghanistan are at risk of not having enough food to eat in 2021, a humanitarian organisation said yesterday, and called for billions in new funds for aid.

Just over 18 million Afghans, including 9.7 million children, are badly in need of lifesaving support, including food, Save the Children said in a statement. The group called for USD3 billion in donations to pay for assistance in 2021.

The organisation’s Afghanistan Country Director Chris Nyamandi said Afghans are suffering under a combination of violent conflict, poverty and the virus pandemic. “It’s a desperately bad situation that needs urgent attention from the international community,” he said.

The latest round of peace talks between the Taleban and Afghan government negotiators that began earlier this month in Qatar has been slow to produce results as concerns grow over a recent spike in violence across Afghanistan. The pandemic has also had a disastrous impact on millions of Afghan families. In 2020, the World Bank estimated that the pandemic had hugely disrupted imports, including vital household items, which in turn led to rapid inflation. The added health and economic strains of the pandemic have deepened the humanitarian impact across the country.

Many Afghans also blame runaway government corruption and lawlessness for the country’s poor economy. The United Nations (UN) and its humanitarian partners will seek USD1.3 billion in aid for 16 million Afghans in need this year, UN Secretary-General Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, said. That’s up from an estimated 2.3 million people last year who needed life-saving assistance.

“It’s a huge increase in people who need aid,” he said.

Nyamandi said that with no immediate end in sight to the decades-long conflict, millions of people will continue to suffer. “It’s especially hard on children, many of whom have known nothing but violence,” he said.

According to the UN, nearly 6,000 people – a third of them children – were killed or wounded in fighting in Afghanistan between January and September last year, Nyamandi said. The violence continues to force hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes every year and limit people’s access to resources including hospitals and clinics.

Internally displaced boys play outside their temporary home in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan. PHOTO: AP