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In Afghanistan, food comes before COVID-19


As the first snowflakes blanketed the Afghan capital of Kabul earlier this month, Mary-Ellen McGroarty pondered the harsh winter looming on the horizon and COVID-19 was far on her priority list.

Unlike much of the rest of the world, where concerns about the Omicron variant and the fifth wave of the pandemic are taking hold, Afghans are far more worried about the famine hitting their country, McGroarty said. Director of the World Food Program in Afghanistan.

It is snowing in Kabul today. It’s incredibly cold, it’s lamentable, she said in a recent interview from the Afghan capital.

: ” How will I feed my children? ” and ” How will I keep my children warm this winter? ” “,” text “:” Whenever I go out and talk to people, the two talking points are, ‘How am I going to feed my children? ” and ” How will I keep my children warm this winter? ” “}}”>Whenever I go out and talk to people, the two talking points are, ‘How am I going to feed my children? ” and ” How will I keep my children warm this winter? ”, she testified.

Four months after the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government, famine and malnutrition threaten an estimated 23 million citizens, more than half of the country’s population.

This famine is caused by the collapse of the economy, which has led to uncontrolled inflation and the fall in the value of the currency.

This means that the food, oil and fuel needed to heat homes have become downright unaffordable for many people.

Additional assistance from Canada

The World Food Program and other international agencies still present in Afghanistan say it will take at least US $ 220 million per month to feed the vulnerable population and get through the crisis.

Rows of food bags

Food bags distributed by the World Food Program to the needy in Kandahar

Photo: dpa via getty images / JAVED TANVEER

They add that the appeal for donations from foreign governments and private donors is urgent. Canada announced last week that it was contributing $ 56 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

This donation was pledged in response to the appeal for help from the United Nations and the International Red Cross. This amount was in addition to a previous commitment by Canada to pay $ 57 million this year.

Millions of people are in dire need of help across Afghanistan and I will do whatever I can to get them the help they need.said Minister of International Development Harjit Sajjan, who completed three missions there with the Canadian Armed Forces.

According to the director of World Vision in Afghanistan, Asuntha Charles, COVID-19 is really relegated to the background in the region of Herat, in the west of the country.

Masks are scarce in the third largest city in the country and Ms. Charles must regularly remind her staff that there is still a pandemic raging and that they are enforcing preventive measures.

Last September, a quarter of the country’s 37 hospitals were closed while monitoring the pandemic, screening tests and vaccination were neglected. At that time, we were aiming for a vaccination rate of 20% of the population by the end of the year.

According to the most recent data, barely 10% of the population received two doses.

Sell ​​your child or an organ to eat

According to Ms. Charles, no one is talking about COVID-19 in Afghanistan.

The health system has collapsed, there is no more medication for the children and the hospitals can no longer even heat themselves.

A man carrying a child on his knees in front of some potatoes lying on a sidewalk

A potato vendor on a sidewalk in the city of Balkh

Photo: afp via getty images / MOHD RASFAN

Malnutrition is on the rise, insists the director of World Vision, reporting that parents are trying to sell their children for adoption abroad or sell their organs to support their families.

In Kabul, the cold winter air thickens with the pollution generated by the garbage can fires that people set to warm themselves, observes Mary-Ellen McGroarty.

The clientele for emergency food aid programs has also changed in the capital, she says. More and more new faces are emerging, including middle-class families, female-run households and farmers stricken by crop failures.

Ms. McGroarty says she hopes the spirit of Christmas and the season of good deeds will lead to more donations to help this population in need.

We cannot condemn the children, the future of this country, to hunger and famine, simply because of the lottery of birth., she laments.

In Herat, Asuntha Charles recounts having recently visited a family of five children whose parents had managed to find carrots at the market. The family ate it morning, noon and night.

That example, she said, should stay ahead of Canadians when they find themselves in front of tables full of several mouthwatering dishes.

Maybe Christmas could be a little more meaningful for Canadians if they can think about Afghans and contribute so the kids have something to put on their plate., she hopes.

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