New York, NY, November 9, 2021 — The IRC is witnessing first hand the food crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. Nearly all clients who have attended IRC-run health clinics in recent weeks have been women bringing malnourished children for urgent help. With almost 23 million Afghans at famine’s door, and 1 million children at risk of dying without immediate lifesaving treatment, urgent action is needed to avert a predictable and preventable humanitarian crisis.
IRC staff are deeply concerned by the numbers of people presenting at clinics with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), the most extreme and dangerous form of malnutrition. In the midst of this hunger crisis Afghanistan is facing a double emergency. The pause in international development financing has seen support to public health services dry up, pushing health provision to the brink of collapse. Recent IRC assessments showed that 60% of health clinics we assessed do not have the capacity to deliver nutrition programming that Afghans so desperately need.
At the same time, the collapsing economy and liquidity crisis have seen food prices skyrocket meaning families are unable to afford the food they need to survive. Unless people are able to access food the cycle of malnutrition cannot be broken, and the population face the very real risk of famine.
The IRC is supporting 62 health clinics throughout Afghanistan, and the humanitarian response is scaling up, but in a country where 3.1 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition, urgent international support is needed to prevent famine.
David Miliband, CEO & President of the International Rescue Committee, said,
“Since the fall of Kabul, the international community has followed military withdrawal with economic scuttle. The suspension of aid infusions to the government budget, the freezing of asset, the uncertainty about sanctions have combined to send the economy into a tailspin. The result is predictable and preventable humanitarian catastrophe. This is global system failure at rapid pace.
“Agencies like the IRC have been warning of the humanitarian disaster that awaits us all if the international donors allow the Afghan economy and public health services to implode. Now the impending cost of failure is in front of our eyes: 23 million people in food crisis.
“Humanitarian action is needed now more than ever. Funding should be made immediately available to frontline humanitarian agencies who are able to scale up health and nutrition programmes to save lives. But this is not enough. Humanitarians cannot replace Afghanistan’s public sector salaries nor the functioning of its economy. Afghans need functioning banks and functioning markets to survive.
These are difficult political issues, but the lives of millions of Afghans depend on progress. Afghans have already paid an enormous price for the decades of war. They must not pay again and again for international abandonment.”
The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across nine provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC: works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.
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