March 28, 2009: A poor Afghan child collects foot from garbage in Kabul. (Photo: RAWA)
Some 24 percent of lactating women are malnourished, over 19 percent of pregnant women have a poor nutritional status (low on minerals, vitamins, food insecure and weak) and about 54 percent of under-five children are stunted, according to a joint survey by UN agencies and the government.
“Special nutrition support assistance will be provided to 550,000 women and children judged to be at high risk of malnutrition,” said the joint emergency appeal which was scheduled to be implemented in the 12 months from July 2008.
Women and children are among the most vulnerable of the millions of Afghans who have been affected by insecurity, high food prices and drought, aid agencies say.
Donors have responded by providing about 70 percent of the over $185 million the World Food Programme (WFP) requested for emergency food assistance in the joint appeal.
Oxfam international on 29 March called on international donors to boost humanitarian aid deliveries: “The health of over a million young children and half a million women is at serious risk due to malnutrition but a humanitarian rescue package [reference to the joint appeal] is only 42 percent funded, with key sectors such as health and education less than two percent funded.”
“The nutritious food aid programme is due to begin around May after all of the required commodities have arrived in Afghanistan and once the implementation details have been finalised and also once the training of the field implementers has taken place,” Susannah Nicol, WFP’s spokeswoman in Kabul, told IRIN.
Logistical hurdles, insecurity and several other factors have often delayed aid delivery, but WFP’s spokeswoman pointed to others: “The reason why it is still in process is because there has to be specialised training; there has to be special food and the whole system has to be set up,” she said.
WFP may need to extend its fortified food assistance to women and children beyond July 2009, but the 550,000 most vulnerable women and children have already got through a very difficult winter without receiving any fortified food aid from WFP.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) told IRIN so far little, if any, medical relief had been provided since the appeal was launched.
Afghanistan is second only to Sierra Leone in terms of having the world’s worst maternal and infant mortality rates. Many young mothers and children die of malnutrition-related diseases, according to UN Children’s Fund and MoPH.