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Save the Children Warns, ‘The World Has To Act Now!’ To Avert Hundreds of Thousands of Afghan Deaths

Feb. 3, 2022 (EIRNS)—The Save the Children organization, which is deeply involved in Afghanistan, has starkly warned that the world must act immediately to save a million Afghan children from starving to death. Fiona McSheehy, the organization’s Acting Country Director, told France24 that the situation now “is absolutely desperate for the entire population, but especially among young children.” The situation is critical, she explained, “but it could be resolved if international financial institutions and the World Bank release money into Afghanistan to allow the economy to function again.... At the moment, there is really no light at the end of the tunnel for the Afghan population. This includes 20 million children who are being starved of their future. These kids are being penalized for a difference in opinion by the authorities. There is no time for waiting; there hasn’t been any time for waiting for the last month; the world has to act now. If the financial situation doesn’t change soon, people will die in the hundreds of thousands.”

Save the Children’s statement, makes a brief reference to the effect of the Federal Reserve and other central banks’ holding of $9.5 billion in Afghan government assets, which the Fed refuses to return to Afghanistan’s central bank allegedly because of the Taliban, funding that would allow the nation’s economy to function. The organization writes: “Child pneumonia is surging in the middle of a hunger crisis that is ravaging young immune systems. The health system's collapse, driven largely by frozen financial assets and withdrawn aid, comes at a deadly cost for Afghan children.”

In addition to acute severe malnutrition, pneumonia cases are now also soaring among children, killing many who have no without access to healthcare or hospitals. France24 reports that even those fortunate enough to get to a hospital or clinic, often don’t survive, due to a shortage of oxygen cylinders. A doctor in northern Afghanistan reported he’d never seen so many cases among children of combined pneumonia and severe malnutrition together—a deadly combination. Save the Children sends mobile clinics around the country that are able to reach remote areas, and sometimes find hundreds of mothers and children waiting when they arrive. “Every day, we send several children straight to hospital for oxygen and emergency treatment,” one physician reported.

Prior to the current surge, pneumonia was responsible for more than one in five deaths in children under the age of five in Afghanistan. Add to this UNICEF’s estimate that this year, half the children in Afghanistan under the age of five—one in two—will be acutely malnourished. Salam Al-Janabi, UNICEF’s Afghanistan Communications Specialist, told France24 that “these winter months are really make or break for millions of children in Afghanistan. ... At least a million young children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year. This is treatable, but it makes them vulnerable and then when they get other conditions, it can become fatal.” In bitterly cold weather, he pointed out, hospitals often can’t afford to turn on the heat because of the high price of fuel, so hospitals are extremely cold. In sub-zero weather, there are children without shoes. People can’t afford to buy fuel either, so they burn animal dung for heat. “The situation here at the moment is staggering. It is at a breaking point,” Al-Janabi said.

Mary Ellen McGroarty, the World Food Program’s Afghanistan Country Director, commented similarly, “In all my long career in WFP, I’ve seen this deteriorate, escalate, and implode at a pace and scale that just stunned me. Week on week, we’ve just seen it get worse.” She further stated that the WFP will run out of money by March, with a $1.9 billion shortfall.

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