President Joe Biden's disastrous withdrawal of U.S. service members from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover of the country have put at least 1 million children at risk of starvation, the executive director of UNICEF said Monday.
Executive director Henrietta Fore issued a statement urging the international community to increase support for UN humanitarian agencies and their partners so they can maintain and expand critical programs for children and families in need.
"We have received informal reports of the recruitment of children by parties to the conflict and are concerned that children may be at heightened risk of experiencing other grave violations of their rights," Fore said in a statement at a high-level ministerial meeting on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
"Without urgent action, the grim situation facing Afghanistan’s children is likely to deteriorate over the coming months because of severe drought and water scarcity, the concerns around financing for the continuity of basic services, the onset of winter and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Fore said Afghan children "have long suffered disproportionately from the humanitarian, security, social and economic crises that have plagued the country for decades."
The situation appears to have gotten worse.
"Nearly 10 million girls and boys depend on humanitarian assistance just to survive," Fore said. "At least 1 million children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year and could die without treatment.
"Nearly 600,000 people, more than half of whom are children, have been displaced by conflict this year [in Afghanistan].
"The number of unaccompanied and separated children is increasing."
Most Western nations have frozen direct aid to Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country on Aug. 15. Countries are leery of sending money to the Islamic militant regime, CNBC reported, and they hope to force the Taliban to respect individual rights, especially the rights of women and girls.
Organizations such as UNICEF offer a way for foreign governments to help the needy in Afghanistan. However, it remains to be seen whether the Taliban will permit such humanitarian groups to operate safely in the country.
Fore explained UNICEF’s unique ability to operate in one of the world’s poorest and most war-torn countries.
"UNICEF has been on the ground in Afghanistan for more than 70 years," she said. "We know what needs to be done for children. And we can get it done."
Although many international aid workers left Afghanistan fearing for their safety following the Taliban takeover, Fore said UNICEF stayed and continued to help the needy.
"In the last two weeks, we have provided 170,000 people affected by drought with safe drinking water and deployed mobile health teams in 14 provinces to continue delivering basic health services for children and women," she said.
"During the last week of August, UNICEF provided 4,000 severely malnourished children under five with life-saving therapeutic treatment, and road missions have begun."
The U.S. on Monday announced an additional $64 million in humanitarian aid, which will be delivered to Afghanistan through groups such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
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