As Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis worsens, measles is reaping a deadly harvest
The Afghan central bank’s reserves are blocked in the United States. A Taliban official writes to the US Congress. Half of the population is already suffering from malnutrition while little snow is forecast this winter, with a probable drought come spring. Local sources tell AsiaNews that investments in development projects are needed to avoid doubling the number of people needing emergency aid next year. However, international donors fear UN sanctions.
Kabul (AsiaNews) – At least 87 children have died from a measles outbreak in Afghanistan, this according to Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organisation. Vaccines are in short supply, and “For malnourished children, measles is a death sentence,” Harris explained.
World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley had already raised the alarm at the end of October. More than 22 million people, half of Afghanistan’s population, including 3.2 million children, are at risk of acute malnutrition.
It is impossible to know how widespread COVID-19 is, but the coronavirus-related death rate is bound to rise because of a collapsed healthcare system and rampant malnutrition, this despite the country’s youthful population, local sources told AsiaNews.
At present, internally displaced people are the most at risk. During the months of the Taliban advance, some 3.5 million people fled their homes, and are now dying at a higher frequency in refugee camps or on roads.
The latest appeals by international organisations in favour of the Afghan population closely tied reflect the seriousness of the situation, which is affected by the current diplomatic impasse.
In an attempt to go beyond the deadlock, Taleban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi yesterday sent a letter to the US Congress requesting that the reserves of the Afghan Central Bank blocked in US banks, amounting to approximately nine billion dollars, be made available. Muttaqi wrote that if aid does not arrive from abroad, the winter will be catastrophic.
This leaves the US government in a quandary. Helping the Taliban to help the population would mean funding a government of fanatics who have no idea how to run a large and complex country like Afghanistan.
For example, by banning women from working and banning foreign currency transactions, the Taliban have done nothing but complicate country’s the economic and financial crisis.
What is more, as yesterday’s attack in a Shia area of the capital, the "Koranic students" are not even able to keep a lid on the Islamic State group.
No other nation currently wants to invest in development projects in Afghanistan; donors fear that they will run into UN sanctions because the new ministers of the Islamic Emirate are wanted for terrorism or linked to al-Qaida.
The big donors are financing instead emergency work and food aid (as it should be right now) but if the livelihoods of local populations and national food production are not taken into account, the number of people in need of food assistance will double next year, local sources told AsiaNews.
Nature is not helping either. Local agriculture depends on water runoff from mountain glaciers, but a thinning ice sheet and low snow accumulation this winter will mean no water for farming in the spring.
Local farms, which get at least 70 per cent of revenue from the Afghan government and the World Bank, are in danger of closing down and so the progress made in twenty years of work could be wiped out in just a year.
In addition to the pending humanitarian disaster, the economic crisis has all the potential to encourage terrorism, United Nations envoy for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons said yesterday:
“The ongoing paralysis of the banking sector will push more of the financial system into on unregulated informal money exchanges which can only help facilitate terrorism, trafficking and further drug smuggling," Lyons warned, adding: "These pathologies will first affect Afghanistan but then they will infect the region.”