By Robin Gomes
With an extremely dry winter hitting 22 provinces across Afghanistan, the lives of a million people are critically affected, with children the most vulnerable. Another two million could be affected in the coming months, the United Nations children’s fund, UNICEF has said.
Drought exacerbates malnutrition
Food insecurity and reduced access to safe water are beginning to take their toll in the 10 worst affected provinces, where 20 to 30 percent of water sources are reportedly dry. The impact on children could be devastating, as these areas have pre-existing high rates of malnutrition. Without adequate nutritious food and safe water for drinking, as well as for hygiene and sanitation, UNICEF said, children’s health will only worsen.
“The priority is to prevent the situation from deteriorating, by responding to the needs of children and families in the worst affected areas,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan..
Children, pregnant and lactating women
Some 1.6 million children and 443,000 pregnant and lactating women suffer from malnutrition across Afghanistan.
Cases of severe acute malnutrition rise on average by about 25 percent each year in the coming summer months.
Noting that the impact of malnutrition on children can last a lifetime, Khodr underscored the need to provide children and families access to nutritious food, safe water and health services.
According to UNICEF and its partners, 92,000 children and 8,500 pregnant and lactating women are in need of urgent nutrition assistance. An estimated 121,000 acutely malnourished children under five and 33,000 pregnant and lactating women could need life-saving nutrition between July and December this year.
Water, sanitation, hygiene
According to the UNICEF-led water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) campaign, some 875,000 people could need assistance in the next three to six months. UNICEF and partners are scaling up their operations to respond to the emergency nutrition and WASH needs.
Thirteen provinces, out of Afghanistan’s of 34 provinces, received less than 30 percent of their average annual precipitation in the period October 2017 to end February 2018.
UNICEF Afghanistan is calling for an additional US$10 million to respond to the safe water, hygiene and nutrition needs of children and their families. (Source: UNICEF)