Islamabad (AP) — A U.N. agency warned Thursday that critical food aid in Afghanistan is being handicapped 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, chief of nutrition at the United Nations Children’s Fund. She was speaking in a video message on UNICEF’s official Twitter account.
Galvin added that 875,000 children in Afghanistan will suffer from life-threatening acute malnutrition this year. She said UNICEF in Afghanistan faces an urgent funding gap of $21 million to purchase essential supplies for treating malnutrition and also training health worker around the country.
“In Afghanistan we are facing a critical funding gap for ready-to-use therapeutic food,” she said.
RUTF is an energy-dense paste consisting of milk powder, 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 a way that affects a child throughout their lives. Ready-to-use therapeutic food or RUTF supplies can rapidly treat such malnutrition.
“This is a highly efficient and effective small package that we give to children, and they can be cured in as little as eight weeks,” said Galvin.
The international community has not officially recognized the Taliban, who seized power in 2021, imposing a series of restrictive measures that have drawn wide criticism. With Afghanistan’s assets abroad frozen, the economy has spiraled further, deepening the hardships of ordinary Afghans.
In April, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Afghanistan needs $4.62 billion in aid for nearly 24 million Afghans in need.