Afghanistan: UK charities launch winter crisis appealon December 15, 2021 at 12:57 am

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A million children in the country at risk of starving to death this winter, UK aid agencies warn.

Two women is a hospital with their young babies

Image source, Getty Images

A crisis appeal for Afghanistan is being launched by the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), with fears millions are on the brink of famine.

Fifteen UK aid agencies – including Oxfam, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and the British Red Cross – will join together to ask the public to donate.

The pandemic, conflict and drought in Afghanistan has brought the country to a “tipping point”, the DEC warns.

It said a million children under the age of five could die this winter.

The UK government will double public donations, up to a total of £10m.

The DEC said eight million people are at risk of starvation, with a rise in severe hunger across the nation. In total, 22 million people – more than half the population – currently do not have enough to eat, it said. Three million children under five are expected to suffer acute malnutrition.

There is an urgency with temperatures falling to as low as -12C (10F) this winter. And the economic crisis has been made worse by the removal of financial support from Western nations after the Taliban seized power in August.

On top of this, the severe drought – the worst in more than 25 years – has ruined much of the country’s wheat crop and sent prices soaring.

Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the DEC, said the situation was already “beyond horrific”.

“We can’t just sit back and watch,” he said. “We can’t just let this happen.”

Maryann Horne, of the British Red Cross, said people were living “hand to mouth, not knowing where their next meal will come from” and “asking for the most basic help to feed their children”.

She said people in Afghanistan were traditionally resilient but now had a “sense of desperation” with “no light at the end of the tunnel”.

“We are sounding the alarm bell,” she said. “This is no longer about making things better, this is about saving lives, and reaching people before it’s too late.”

The growing humanitarian crisis has already led international donors to agree to transfer $280m (£210m) from a frozen fund to UN food and health services in Afghanistan.

Western powers have refused to recognise the Taliban government officially. The US and other nations have frozen about $10bn of Afghan reserves, while the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have also halted the country’s access to funding.

Appeals will be broadcast on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky on Wednesday, as well as on both commercial and BBC radio stations.

The money will help provide emergency food and nutrition for children, clean drinking water and winter kits to help families stay warm. It will also support healthcare facilities and protect women and girls, the DEC said.

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Logo for the UK's Disasters Emergency Committee

Image source, DEC

  • The committee brings together 15 leading UK aid charities to provide and deliver aid to ensure successful appeals
  • The charities include Oxfam, Save the Children UK, Age International, British Red Cross, Cafod, Christian Aid and Islamic Relief
  • Its website provides more details of its current appeals
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