Acute malnutrition has become one of the health sectors’ key concerns in Afghanistan, especially as thousands of women and children in Zabul, Ghor, Ghazni, Badghis and Kandahar provinces are reportedly suffering from malnutrition – which has already claimed the lives of at least 80 in the past year.
A source at the provincial hospital of Ghor, who wished to remain anonymous, said that 42 children and 10 mothers died of severe malnutrition at the hospital last year and more than 20,000 children and mothers are currently suffering from malnutrition.
A number of doctors also raised concerns about the increase in patients dealing with malnutrition in Afghanistan.
“Unfortunately, the number of children and mothers suffering from malnutrition [being treated] in the provincial hospital is increasing day by day. Last year, we had 42 children and more than 10 mothers who died [of malnutrition]. In the first few weeks of this year, between 200 and 300 people visited the hospital on a daily basis, and a large number are receiving treatment. The increase in malnourished patients in this province is worrying,” a source at the Ghor hospital said.
He added that the provincial hospital and the district medical centers are not only facing a shortage of facilities but also a lack of expert physicians. He also said more than 60 percent of children and mothers in the province do not have access to medical care.
A number of families from remote areas, who were at the provincial hospital for medical treatment, said that people are facing many problems due to the lack of doctors and healthcare facilities.
Jamila, 32, whose child is suffering from malnutrition, said: “In our village, there is no doctor or medicine, we have to take our children to the hospital with many problems. My child’s health has improved in the past few days and the doctors are taking care of my child.”
The lack of healthcare facilities and medical staff is not however unique to Ghor province as many other provinces around the country are facing the same problem.
Fourteen children died in Zabul
In Zabul province, more than 1,300 children have been treated for malnutrition in the province in the past year. Fourteen died, sources said.
“Last year, [the provincial hospital] registered 1,300 children suffering from malnutrition, and unfortunately, 14 children died from acute malnutrition in the hospital, and the number of patients is increasing; between five and nine people visit the nutrition department of the hospital (Zabul) every day,” the source added.
Twelve children died of acute malnutrition in Badghis
Badghis province is also dealing with the same problem and last year, about 20,000 children were treated at the provincial hospital for malnutrition last year. Of these children, 12 died.
A source, who declined to give his name, told Amu TV: “We registered nearly 20,000 children suffering from malnutrition, and this year, malnourished children have been brought [to the hospital] in the last few weeks. Unfortunately, last year, more than 12 died in the hospital, and most of the children have recovered and been discharged.”
Kandahar and Ghazni sees 18% rise in malnutrition among children and women
According to sources in these two provinces, no deaths have been recorded in the past year but between 40 and 50 children are brought to hospitals in Kandahar and Ghazni every day.
UNICEF has also expressed concern about the rising levels of poverty and food insecurity that millions of children in Afghanistan are facing.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has meanwhile said that 97 percent of the Afghan population does not have access to enough food.