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UNICEF warns aid shortage will push Afghan children into deadly malnutrition


UN agency warns essential food aid in Afghanistan is handicapped by a lack of funding, as the country faces a widespread humanitarian crisis

ISLAMABAD — A UN agency warned on Thursday that essential food aid to Afghanistan is hampered by a lack of funding, as the country faces a widespread humanitarian crisis.

“Thousands of children could die from severe acute malnutrition,” said Melanie Galvin, nutrition officer at the UN Children’s Fund. She was speaking in a video message on the official UNICEF Twitter account.

Galvin added that 875,000 children in Afghanistan will suffer from life-threatening acute malnutrition this year. She said UNICEF Afghanistan is facing an urgent funding shortfall of $21 million to buy essential supplies to treat malnutrition and also to train health workers across the country.

“In Afghanistan, we face a critical funding gap for ready-to-use therapeutic foods,” she said.

RUTF is an energy-dense paste made from powdered milk, vegetable oil, sugar, peanut butter, and powdered vitamins and minerals.

In the short term, severe acute malnutrition is life-threatening. In the long term, it can impact growth and mental development in ways that affect a child throughout their life. Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods or RUTFs can quickly treat this malnutrition.

“It’s a very efficient and effective little packet that we give to children, and they can be cured in as little as eight weeks,” Galvin said.

The international community has not officially recognized the Taliban, which seized power in 2021, imposing a series of restrictive measures that have drawn widespread criticism. With the freezing of Afghan assets abroad, the economy has further soared, compounding the hardship of ordinary Afghans.

In April, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Afghanistan needed $4.62 billion in aid for nearly 24 million Afghans in need.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.