The harsh winter weather, with temperatures already well below zero degrees in many areas, families struggling to heat their homes and keep their children warm, and a higher risk of pneumonia and acute respiratory illness (ARD), Afghanistan children are facing the problems of hunger, disease and cold, says the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Children living in high altitude areas are particularly vulnerable and need urgent help to save their lives, including winter clothes, blankets and fuel for heating. Some 25-30% of deaths in children under five are due to respiratory tract infections and 90% of these deaths are due to pneumonia.
“We are approaching a critical juncture for Afghanistan’s children, as winter brings with it a multitude of threats to their health,” said Abdul Kadir Musse, UNICEF Afghanistan Representative a.i. “There is no time to lose. Without urgent, concerted action – including ensuring we have the resources to deploy additional cash transfers and winter supplies – many of the country’s children will not live to see spring.”
As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan, outbreaks of life-threatening diseases are putting children at risk. Pneumonia, acute respiratory illnesses, measles, acute watery diarrhoea and other preventable illnesses affect children as acute malnutrition puts millions of people at risk.
According to UNICEF, more than 66,000 cases of measles have been reported so far in children in 2021. Outbreaks of acute watery diarrhoea, malaria and dengue have also occurred. Four cases of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV-1) have been confirmed this year. In addition, the UN agency estimates that one in two children under five will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2022 due to the food crisis and insufficient access to water, sanitation and health services.
Almost 105,000 children aged six months to five years have been vaccinated against measles and 8.5 million children, including more than 2 million living in previously inaccessible areas, have been affected by the national polio campaign in Afghanistan.