Many of the children are living with their families under tarpaulin sheets held up with sticks, with nothing but a few rugs to soften the hardened clay and some surviving on energy drinks and bread.
Around 130,000 people have had to leave their homes and villages in the past two months alone, according to the UN, 60% of them children. In total, more than 613,000 people, including 362,000 children, have been displaced over the past 12 months.
In the northern province of Kunduz, which is home to the country’s highest number of internally displaced people (IDPs), there are more than 60,300 people living in makeshift camps.
Save the Children warned that hundreds of thousands more children are at risk of becoming severely malnourished due to lack food and other basic needs in the camps, exacerbated by the worst drought in years.
Globally a deadly combination of conflict, COVID-19, and the impact of climate change has pushed hunger and malnutrition levels to a record high with the world now facing its biggest hunger crisis of the 21st century, with an estimated 5.7 million children under five on the brink of starvation across the globe.
Afghanistan already has the second highest number of people facing emergency levels of hunger in the world. Half of all children under five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year and will need specialised treatment to survive.
Even though the number of treatment centres for malnourished children has been scaled up over recent years, hundreds of thousands still don’t have access to any form of health care.
Displaced children are also at increased risk of being forced into marriage or child labour or recruited into armed groups, Save the Children warned.
Karima*, 21, and her four children fled their homes in rural Kunduz Province to a displacement camp on the outskirts of Kunduz City after violence in their town intensified. They have been living under a small makeshift tent made from a tarpaulin for about 40 days. The family had to leave all of their belongings behind and are surviving on bread and energy drinks.
“I added water to a bottle of energy drink [and gave it] to my three-year-old daughter as she was so hungry. We don’t have anything else to eat,” said Farzana, in tears.
Chris Nyamandi, Save the Children’s Country Director in Afghanistan, said:
“The many thousands of children who have been forced to flee their homes in the past few months could not be any clearer indication of the catastrophic impact that the recent escalation of the conflict is having on children.
“In addition to those living in horrific conditions in displacement camps, we’ve seen a record increase in the number of children killed or injured in the crossfire of the conflict, as well as the destruction of schools and health facilities. This should be a wake-up call to the international community to keep investing in Afghanistan’s future before any progress that has been made here unravels completely.
“We call on all parties to stop the violence and protect civilians, especially children, and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. All efforts must be made to agree an enduring peace settlement so that future generations of children can grow up in a country free of the fear of violence, death, and injury.”
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