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Afghanistan: Nearly three in ten children forecast to experience crisis levels of hunger in 2024 

About 6.5 million children in Afghanistan [1] - or nearly three out of ten - will face crisis or emergency levels of hunger this year as the country feels the immediate impacts of floods, the long term effects of drought and the return of Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, said Save the Children.
28 May 2024

New figures from the global hunger monitoring body, the IPC,[2] forecast that 28% of the population – or about 12.4 million people - will face acute food insecurity before October. Of those, nearly 2.4 million are predicted to experience emergency levels of hunger, which is one level below famine.

The figures show a slight improvement from the last report in October 2023, but underline the continuing need for assistance, with poverty affecting one in two Afghans.

Torrential rain and flash floods in May in Northern Afghanistan have killed more than 400 people, destroyed or damaged thousands of homes and turned farmland to mud. Save the Children is operating a ‘clinic on wheels’ in Baghlan as part of its emergency response programme. The clinic includes male and female doctors, mental health and child protection specialists, as well mobile child friendly spaces. Children in the flood hit areas have limited access to clean water, with some reporting stomach problems to our health teams.

An estimated 2.9 million children under the age of five are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2024.[3] Since the start of 2024, Save the Children’s health teams and clinics in Afghanistan have treated more than 7,000 children for malnutrition, among them 11 month old Firoz* who lives in Northern Afghanistan with his 10 brothers and sisters. His father is a farmer, but the 3-year-long drought has forced him to take on other work to support the family.

Firoz’s* mother, Mariam,* said:

"When my children are hungry, they become sad, and this affects me badly. I always wish they stayed healthy, and if any of them get sick, I become sad. We have some food, but it is not sufficient for everyone. We cannot afford it. There are days when we have a full meal, and on other days, we do not eat full [meals]."

Dr Nawid,* works for a Save the Children health team in Northern Afghanistan. He said:

"These people face financial problems. From an agricultural standpoint, they have land but don't have water or adequate land for farming - they are jobless. These things affect children. When children are affected, they may not be able to go to school or may become busy working to find food for their homes. They become deprived of their rights or become ill and malnourished. All these problems are affecting children."

The slight improvement in the numbers of children expected to experience acute hunger is linked to widespread humanitarian assistance and a projected improved harvest, among other factors – but food aid will decline this year due to funding cuts.

More than 557,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since September 2023[4] after Pakistan said all undocumented foreigners must leave the country voluntarily or face deportation. Nearly half of all the returnees are children.  Levels of hunger are predicted to increase this year in Jalalabad, a city where many of the returnees have settled and competition for jobs has increased.

Arshad Malik, Country Director for Save the Children in Afghanistan, said:

"Save the Children has treated more than 7,000 children for severe or acute malnutrition so far this year. Those numbers are a sign of the massive need for continuing support for families as they experience shock after shock. Children are feeling the devastating impacts of 3 years of drought, high levels of unemployment and the return of more than 1.4 million Afghans from Pakistan and Iran.[5] We need long term, community-based solutions to help families rebuild their lives.

The improvement in the number of people projected to experience acute levels of hunger this year is encouraging, but without increased support from the international community there is a danger that trend could be reversed. Only 16% of funding for this year’s humanitarian response plan has so far been met[6] - but nearly half the population needs assistance. This is not the time for the world to look away."

Save the Children has been supporting communities and protecting children's rights across Afghanistan since 1976, including during periods of conflict and natural disasters. We have programmes in nine provinces and work with partners in an additional seven provinces. Since August 2021, we've been scaling up our response to support the increasing number of children in need. We deliver health, nutrition, education, child protection, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, and livelihood support.

MEDIA CONTACT: Joshua Mcdonald on 0478010972 or media.team@savethechildren.org.au.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Multimedia content available for download here.
 
[1] https://www.unfpa.org/data/world-population/AF According to the Afghanistan Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan 2024, children represent 52 percent of the population. 
[2] https://www.ipcinfo.org/ipc-country-analysis/details-map/en/c/1157027/?iso3=AFG.
[3] https://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-humanitarian-needs-and-response-plan-2024-december-2023.
[4] https://pakistan.iom.int/sites/g/files/tmzbdl1121/files/documents/2024-04/unhcr-iom-flash-update-18-v3.pdf.
[5] https://data.unhcr.org/en/documents/details/108385.
[6] https://fts.unocha.org/countries/1/summary/2024.

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