KABUL, Afghanistan (NWN) – Afghanistan is plagued by multiple crises that are “gradually getting worse” with drought, economic collapse and population displacement driving the population into catastrophic famine, a senior international relief official said Thursday.
“The onset of winter will only exacerbate the pain for Afghans and bring them closer to disaster,” warned Alexander Mateu, regional director for the Asia-Pacific region of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
WATCH: Aid groups fight to continue humanitarian aid to hungry and wounded Afghans
“Getting warm and putting food on the table is now more difficult than it used to be. And if you get sick, you have a better chance of accessing medical care, ”he told The Associated Press after his visit to Afghanistan.
“For people who are already vulnerable, they will become more vulnerable. For people already in critical condition, this can be fatal, ”added Mateu.
According to UN figures as of early November, nearly 24 million people in Afghanistan, about 60 percent of the population, suffer from severe hunger. Including 8.7 million people live on the brink of hunger. More and more malnourished children are filling hospital wards.
Afghanistan is suffering from the worst drought in decades since last year, affecting 80 percent of the country. The drought led to reduced harvests and lower incomes for farming families, forcing many to leave their villages. More than 700,000 people have been displaced from their homes this year by fighting or drought, adding to the ranks of some 3.5 million people displaced by fighting in past years.
READ MORE: Historical chronology of Afghanistan
After the Taliban took over a country of 38 million on August 15, the already dilapidated economy sank to the bottom.
The Taliban sanctions have robbed the government of hundreds of millions of dollars in international funding. Billions of dollars of assets in Afghan assets overseas have been frozen. The Afghan banking system has been largely cut off from the world. As a result, the government was largely unable to pay wages and jobs in the economy disappeared.
“The combination of all these factors is now creating a serious humanitarian crisis that is gradually getting worse,” Mateu said.
Malnutrition Unit at Kabul Children’s Hospital. Ataturk was filled with emaciated children.
Lina, who brought her three-month-old son Osman to the hospital, said she could not afford to feed her children. “No job. The economy is destroyed with the arrival of the Taliban. Everyone was unemployed, ”she said.
With the cessation of foreign funding, many medical facilities across the country have also closed, making it even more difficult for Afghans to receive treatment. The UN is developing plans to pay wages to health workers who have not been paid for several months, as well as other support.
WATCH: What we know about Taliban rule in Afghanistan, secret documents about the US war
The IFRC brought in 3,000 tons of food, enough to feed 210,000 people for two months, and is providing families with blankets, insulation and heaters. The organization also funds some 140 medical institutions across the country.
“This is clearly a help, but it is not enough. This kind of activity needs to be expanded to meet the needs of millions, not thousands, ”said Mateu.
He said the banking crisis must be resolved and, most importantly, sanctions must “have an exemption for humanitarian action” and “not harm vulnerable people.”