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Nearly three in ten children in Afghanistan will face a crisis or emergency in 2024

ISLAMABAD (AP) — About 6.5 million children in Afghanistan are expected to experience a hunger crisis by 2024, according to the nongovernmental organization Save the Children.

Nearly three in 10 Afghan children will face crisis or emergency levels of hunger this year as the country feels the immediate impact of floods, the long-term effects of drought and the return of Afghans from neighboring Pakistan and Iran, according to a released report late Tuesday by Save The Children.

New figures from global hunger monitoring body Integrated Food Security Phase Classification predict that 28% of Afghanistan’s population, about 12.4 million people, will face acute food insecurity before October. Of those, nearly 2.4 million people are predicted to experience emergency levels of hunger, which is one level above famine, according to Save the Children.

The figures show a slight improvement from the last report, released in October 2023, but underline the continued need for aid, with one in two Afghans affected by poverty.

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In May, heavy rain and flash flooding hit northern Afghanistan, killing more than 400 people. Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged and farmland was turned to mud.

Save the Children operates a ‘clinic on wheels’ in Baghlan province, which was worst hit by flooding, as part of its emergency response programme. The organization added that an estimated 2.9 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by 2024.

Arshad Malik, country director for Save the Children in Afghanistan, said the NGO has treated more than 7,000 children for severe or acute malnutrition so far this year.

“These figures are a sign of the enormous need for continued support for families, who are experiencing one shock after another,” said Malik. Children are feeling the devastating effects of three years of drought, high unemployment and the return of more than 1.4 million Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, he added.

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“We need long-term, community-based solutions to help families rebuild their lives,” said Malik.

More than 557,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since September 2023, after Pakistan began a crackdown on foreigners it believes are in the country illegally, including 1.7 million Afghans. It insists that the campaign is not specifically targeting Afghans, but that they make up the majority of foreigners in the South Asian country.

In April, Save the Children said a quarter of a million Afghan children need education, food and homes after being forcibly returned from Pakistan.

Malik added that only 16% of the funding for the 2024 humanitarian response plan has been covered so far, but almost half the population needs assistance.

“This is not the time for the world to look away,” he said.

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