Hunger worries Afghans more than COVID-19

(Ottawa) When the first snowflakes engulfed the Afghan capital, Kabul, earlier this month, Mary-Ellen McCordy thought about the harsh winter on the horizon, and COVID-19 was on her priority list.

Mike Blanchfield
Canadian Press

Unlike the rest of the world, where there are concerns about the Omigran variant and the fifth wave of epidemics, Afghans are increasingly concerned about the famine that is plaguing their country, Mr.Me McCordy is the director of the World Food Program in Afghanistan.

“It’s snowing in Kabul today. It’s incredibly cold, it’s sad, ”he said in a recent interview in the Afghan capital.

“Whenever I go out and talk to people, there are two talking points, ‘How am I going to feed my children?’ And” How can I keep my children warm this winter? “, She testified.

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

This famine is caused by the collapse of the economy as a result of uncontrolled inflation and the depreciation of the currency. The food, oil and fuel needed to heat homes have become unaffordable for many.

The World Food Program and other international organizations still in Afghanistan say it will cost at least $ 220 million a month to feed vulnerable people and overcome the crisis. They say requests for donations from foreign governments and private donors are urgent.

Last week Canada announced $ 56 million in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. The donation was made in response to a request for assistance from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. That amount was in addition to Canada’s pre-payment commitment of $ 57 million this year.

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“Millions of people across Afghanistan are in dire need of assistance. I will do everything I can to provide them with the assistance they need,” said Harjeet Sajjan, the International Development Minister who has served three terms as part of the Canadian Armed Forces.

According to Asunta Charles, director of World Vision in Afghanistan, Kovit-19 has actually been pushed into the background in the western Herat region.

In the country’s third largest city, masks are scarce and mMe Charles must constantly remind her staff that there is still an epidemic and that they are implementing preventive measures.

Last September, while monitoring the epidemic, a quarter of 37 hospitals across the country were closed, screening tests and vaccinations were ignored. At that time, we were targeting a vaccination rate of 20% of the population by the end of the year. According to the latest data, 10% of the population received two doses.

According to MMe Charles, no one is talking about Govt-19 in Afghanistan. The health system is in disarray, children have no medicine, and hospitals can no longer be heated.

Malnutrition is on the rise, the director of World Vision insists, as parents try to sell their children abroad for adoption or sell their organs to support their family.

In Kabul, the cold winter air thickens with pollution from trash cans, leaving people warming themselves, observes Mary-Ellen McCordy.

Clients for emergency food assistance programs have also shifted to the capital, he says. More and more new faces are emerging, including middle-class families, women-run families and farmers affected by crop losses.

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MMe McCordy says he hopes the Christmas spirit and season of good deeds will lead to more donations to help people in need.

“We cannot blame children, the future of this country, for hunger and starvation, just because of the birth lottery,” he laments.

In Herat, Asunta Charles says she recently met a family with five children whose parents discovered carrots in the market. The family ate breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In that example, he said, many Canadians should be ahead of them if they find themselves in front of tables full of mouth-watering dishes.

“If Canadians can think of Afghans and contribute to children eating something on their plate, Christmas will make a little more sense to them,” he hopes.

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