One by one, women poured into the mud brick clinic, the frames of famished children peeking out beneath the folds of their pale gray, blue and pink burqas.
Many had walked for more than an hour across this drab stretch of southern Afghanistan, where parched earth meets a washed-out sky, desperate for medicine to pump life back into their children’s shrunken veins. For months, their once-daily meals had grown more sparse as harvests failed, wells ran dry and credit for flour from shopkeepers ran out.
Now as the crisp air grew colder, reality was setting in: Their children might not survive the winter.
“I’m very afraid, this winter will be even worse than we can imagine,” said Laltak, 40, who like many women in rural Afghanistan goes by only one name.
Nearly four months since the Taliban seized power, Afghanistan is on the brink of a mass starvation that aid groups say threatens to kill a million children this winter — a toll that would dwarf the total number of Afghan civilians estimated to have been killed as a direct result of the war over the past 20 years.
While Afghanistan has suffered from malnutrition for decades, the country’s hunger crisis has drastically worsened in recent months. This winter, an estimated 22.8 million people — more than half the population — are expected to face potentially life-threatening levels of food insecurity, according to an analysis by the United Nations World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization. Of those, 8.7 million people are nearing famine — the worst stage of a food crisis. [Continue reading…]