ACTION ALERT: Afghanistan’s Starving Children

February 15th, 2012 - by admin

Emma Murphy / ITN & MSNBC Nightly News & John Cookson / RAWA – 2012-02-15 23:56:17

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Afghans Malnourished Children
Emma Murphy / ITN & MSNBC Nightly News

(February 15, 2012) — In Afghanistan’s hospitals the evidence of the malnutrition crisis that is killing the country’s children is haunting.

Babies whose heads seem too big for their bodies, whose skin hangs from their bones, whose cries are shallow because they are so weak. Children like Mohammed — he screams relentlessly but there are no tears.

His body is too dehydrated to produce tears. At three he’s the weight of a six-month-old baby.

This is a crisis that is now at emergency levels

This is a crisis that is now at emergency levels, killing 30,000 children every year. Drought and poverty are at its root.

According to Save the Children, who are working in the country, 60% of children here — more than 15 million — are chronically malnourished. Their lives hang in the balance, simply because they’re not eating the right nutritious food, so their bodies are starved of essential nutrients, proteins and fats.

And if mums are malnourished when they’re pregnant, their babies will be too.

This leads to a condition called stunting, which has devastating effects. Stunted children are physically shorter, have lower IQs, are more likely to drop out of school and are less likely to be able to get a good job. And if they are malnourished before the age of two, the damage is irreversible.

With the help of international aid, Afghanistan has made dramatic progress in reducing child deaths — from one in five children dying to one in ten over the past ten years.

But now hunger stalks this country — threatening its children and its future.

Afghanistan’s Starving Children:
It’s Not a New Problem, as this 2007 Report Clearly Shows

John Cookson / Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)

* An average of 165 children of every 1,000 born die within a year.
* One in four children does not live past the age of five.
* Average monthly household income in Afghanistan is $6.
— Source: Save the Children

Al Jazeera has discovered that despite billions of dollars of aid being poured into Afghanistan in the past five years Afghan children are still dying because of hunger and poverty. John Cookson travelled to Kandahar province in the south of the country were it is too dangerous to get aid through to the starving population.

KANDAHAR (March 9, 2007) — In a refugee camp in the Panj-Wayee district Al Jazeera found that the population is in desperate need of a hunger relief programme, but aid agencies are unable to travel in the area because of the risk of attacks by the Taliban or bandits looking to kidnap for ransom.

Children in the camp are dying from treatable illnesses such as diaorrhea, but have had no medical help for a year. “There is no work, there is no food, there is no money, our kids are dying because of hunger,” one man told Al Jazeera. The 2,000 men, women and children who live in the camp originally fled a drought region but are unable to return because of the fighting between NATO forces and the Taliban.

Ironically, the winners in this story are the Taliban who are offering the men of the camp food and money for work of sorts, as fighters for the group. They are easy recruits for the Taliban, to use them against the government and NATO by paying them,” Aemal Sherirzad, of the Senlis Council, an international foreign policy thinktank, said.

In Kandahar hospital, doctors and nurses do what they can for the seriously undernourished children but 25 per cent of children cannot expect to live past their fifth birthday. “I think if both sides stop war and go to the peace, I think it would be better for the people of this country,” Dr Mohammed Siddique, a senior paediatrician, said.

The Save the Children charity says the situation in Afghanistan has arisen because many families do not understand basic good nutrition and poverty prevents the ones that do from providing healthy meals to their children and women of childbearing age.

In January, a report from New York-based Human Rights Watch said Afghanistan’s international supporter had made “little progress in providing basic needs like security, food, electricity, water and healthcare”.

RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, was established in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1977 as an independent political/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and for social justice in Afghanistan. The founders were a number of Afghan woman intellectuals under the sagacious leadership of Meena who in 1987 was assassinated in Quetta, Pakistan, by Afghan agents of the then KGB in connivance with fundamentalist band of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.