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Afghanistan: emaciated children in Kabul hospital

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Afghanistan: emaciated children in Kabul hospital

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KABUL – In Kabul’s main children’s hospital, 2.5-year-old Guldana sits in bed, but she is too exhausted to even open her eyes. Her tiny body is wrapped in a blanket, only her emaciated face is visible.

She is one of the growing number of nearly starving children who are brought to Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in the Afghan capital every day. Hunger is increasing dramatically in Afghanistan, fueled by an economic crisis that has only worsened since the Taliban took power in the country almost three months ago.

Guldana’s father, Jinnat Gul, said he could barely afford to feed her and her five other children. He used to work from house to house picking up trash and selling it. But for three months, the work has dried up and he has hardly made any money.

“Before, I had enough work, I could provide food. We could have meat once or twice a week,” he said. Now her family feeds mainly on boiled potatoes. He sometimes said that he only had bread dipped in green tea for his children, “just to give them something to make them stop crying.”

The UN World Food Program said on Monday that the number of people on the brink of famine rose to 45 million in 43 countries. The number is up from 42 million at the start of the year.

Afghanistan is responsible for most of this increase. The number of Afghans living in conditions close to famine has risen to 8.7 million, 3 million more than at the start of the year, WFP said. Overall, nearly 24 million people in Afghanistan, or 60% of the population, suffer from acute hunger. It is estimated that 3.2 million children under 5 will suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.

“It’s a crisis. It’s a disaster,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said during a weekend visit to Afghanistan. WFP is rushing through supplies to feed people as severe winter sets in, but says it needs $ 220 million per month in 2022 to fund its efforts.

A severe drought this year in Afghanistan is one of the causes of the increase in malnutrition. But also, more and more people just don’t have the money to buy food.

The country’s economy had experienced a rapid decline under the previous US-backed government, which struggled to pay the salaries of its employees.

Today, the economy is in a state of collapse after the Taliban seized power on August 15. The Taliban government is mired in a financial crisis, looking for money. The United States and other Western countries cut direct financial aid to the government that covered most of its budget; In addition, the Taliban government cannot access the billions of dollars in Afghan national reserves held abroad. As a result, millions of Afghans have not received a salary for months.

Compounding the situation, hundreds of local health facilities across the country have had to cut services or shut down altogether due to lack of international funding. This means that families with malnourished children have to go further to get care – or not get any.

Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital had to expand its space dedicated to malnutrition cases from one room to three, said on-site doctor Salahuddin Salah. At least 25 children brought to hospital in the past two months have died, he said. Most of the hospital staff, from doctors to nurses to cleaning staff, have not received their pay for three months.

When the Associated Press visited the hospital on Monday, there were 18 children in the malnutrition ward. The department receives around 30 new cases per week, said Zia Mohammed, deputy director of nursing. “For two and three months, our malnourished patients have been increasing day by day,” he said.

In a bed, a 4 month old boy named Mohammed was extremely emaciated, and the flesh was shriveled on his small limbs. Her skin was so thin that the veins were showing across her forehead like a map of tiny blue lines.

Mohammed was born a month prematurely and his mother died of complications in childbirth. “She bled to death because we didn’t have the money to take her to the hospital,” said Rahila, the second wife of Mohammed’s father, who brought the baby to the hospital.

The father was in the ousted government army and has therefore had no income since the Taliban takeover, Rahila said. They tried to give Mohammed milk bought from the market, but he got diarrhea, so they mainly fed him tea-soaked bread, she said.

Jinnat Gul, Guldana’s father, said he took his daughter to Kabul a week ago from his hometown Shahr-e Now in Baghlan province north of Kabul after a hospital from the provincial capital said he had no supplies to deal with. her.

He said Guldana is not the only child in pain at home. “There are a lot of sick children in the village,” he said, “but there is no doctor to tell whether it is malnutrition or not.”

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