Harsh winter can bring illness, death to Afghan kids

KABUL (AP) — More than 300,000 children in war-ravaged Afghanistan face freezing winter conditions that can lead to illness and death without proper winter clothing and heating, a humanitarian organisation said yesterday.

The ongoing military conflict in Afghanistan has destroyed many homes and forced thousands of children to shelter in camps for the homeless. There they are at risk of not only hunger and disease, including COVID-19, but also death from freezing temperatures.

Afghanistan country director for Save the Children Chris Nyamandi said in a statement yesterday that early snow in northern Afghanistan has impacted children particularly badly.

“The most vulnerable children are those whose schools have shut because of the worsening winter conditions,” he said. “Their families don’t have the money to buy winter clothing.

Instead children are forced to huddle at home to escape the bitter cold.”

Internally displaced children sit around a stove to keep warm in a temporary shelter in the city of Kabul. PHOTO: AP

Schools are closed until March in the coldest parts of Afghanistan, where the temperature can plummet to as low as minus 27 degrees Celsius.

Save the Children has provided winter kits to more than 100,000 families in 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. The kits include fuel and a heater, blankets and winter clothes for children including coats, socks, shoes, hats.

“The situation is bleak for children forced to live in camps in places like Balkh province. It is already very cold in this northern province with overnight temperatures as low as minus 10. But it will get much colder before March,” Nyamandi said. “For thousands of children the Afghan winter is a time of grim survival.”

Violence has been on the upswing in Afghanistan even as Taleban and Afghan government negotiators hold talks in Qatar, trying to hammer out a peace deal that could put an end to decades of war.