Following reports that at least 28 children living in camps near Kabul have already died because of freezing temperatures, Save the Children is warning that even more could die from cold in what is Afghanistan's worst winter for 15 years.
The children’s charity has launched a rapid response to get help to families as more heavy snowfall is predicted for this coming week and temperatures are expected to drop as low as -17 degrees centigrade. Most of the deaths were reported to have been children aged under five - the most vulnerable in such extreme weather.
Kabul has been badly affected by the freezing conditions, along with northern and central provinces in Afghanistan. Here many children are already severely weakened by malnutrition because of a major food crisis caused by drought and high food prices.
Save the Children has already distributed thousands of knitted hats to children - vital in keeping small children warm. The charity is also distributing over 2000 plastic sheets for shelter, along with blankets for children and more hats.
Bob Grabman, Save the Children's country director in Afghanistan, said: "This has been a brutal winter and children have little to protect them from the biting cold. Many are trying to survive without decent shelter or blankets, without fuel, food, warm clothes or shoes.
“At night the temperature falls dangerously low, threatening the lives of newborns and small children. It’s crucial we get urgent help to families so children are protected."
Many children in the north of the country are already struggling to survive on just bread and tea because of a major food crisis that is affecting three million people, one million of them children. Their parents are no longer able to afford enough food to feed their families, as crops have failed due to poor rains and the price of wheat has increased by nearly 60%.
There are over 30 informal settlements in Kabul, with an estimated population of at least 20,000 people, who have been forced to flee their homes because of insecurity and economic necessity. Families are mostly living in basic mud houses or flimsy tents that offer little or no protection from the elements.
Despite a fifty per cent drop in child mortality over the past decade - a sharp decrease helped by foreign aid investment in health and education - life for children in Afghanistan remains unbelievably tough.
Bob Grabman continued: "Children are dying because they are already so weakened by malnutrition, and the cold makes them even more vulnerable to fatal diseases such as pneumonia.
Notes to editors:
Save the Children is running nutrition programmes across northern Afghanistan, supporting hospitals to treat severely malnourished children, running nutrition programmes and providing families with cash for work, so they can afford food for their children
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