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Heartbreaking images from Afghanistan food crisis: How to help

Suffering from severe malnutrition and diabetes, 11-year-old Rukia Jan sits in the emergency room at the Indira Ghandi Children’s Hospital in Kabul in October. Rukia has been suffering from diabetes since she was 6 years old, but her parents, who are very poor, aren’t able to afford to treat her disease causing extreme health issues. The family has seven children, and they traveled many hours to Kabul from Balkh province near Mazar-e-Sharif. (Paula Bronstein)

Nearly four months since the Taliban seized power and the United States pulled its troops from Afghanistan, the country is facing numerous humanitarian crises, including a critical food shortage that some aid groups say could kill a million Afghan children this winter.

The New York Times reported this week that an estimated 22.8 million people — more than half the country’s population — are expected to face potentially life-threatening food insecurity. According to an analysis by the United Nations World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization, 8.7 million people are nearing famine — putting Afghanistan on the brink of a mass starvation. And children are among the most vulnerable.

Afghans waiting in long lines for humanitarian aid.

Afghans wait in long lines for the World Food Program’s humanitarian food aid of oil, lentils and wheat flour along with a supplementary feeding program for children in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November. (Paula Bronstein)

The crisis has been triggered in part by an economic collapse since the Taliban takeover, as U.S. sanctions against the militant group have isolated the country and made it harder for international relief organizations to deliver aid.

At the same time, Afghanistan’s health care system is on the edge of collapse, with more than $600 million in health care aid frozen after the Taliban swept into Kabul.

People gathered at the Indira Ghandi Children’s Hospital.

The crowded outpatient department at the Indira Ghandi Children’s Hospital in Kabul in October as people waiting for medical care fight to get in. (Paula Bronstein)

There are, however, several ways to help. In October, the United States issued two general licenses, clearing the way to allow the U.S. government and certain international organizations, like the U.N., to engage with the Taliban to provide humanitarian assistance.

How to help

Below is a list of some of those organizations, along with links to donate.

• The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which is seeking $38 million to fund health care and other emergency services across Afghanistan >>>

• The U.N. Development Program, which is paying the salaries of Afghan health care workers >>>

• The International Rescue Committee, which provides shelter, education, clean water, health support and other aid for children and families in Afghanistan >>>

• The World Food Program, which is aiming to deliver lifesaving food to 14 million people this year >>>

UNICEF, which delivers aid to millions of children around the world, including those in need in Afghanistan >>>

More images from Paula Bronstein’s coverage of this ongoing crisis:

Afghans wait in long lines at a World Food Program distribution site in Kabul.

Afghans wait in line.

Paula Bronstein

A mother holding a toddler.

Paula Bronstein

Afghans waiting in line.

Paula Bronstein

Afghans waiting in line with their children.

Paula Bronstein

An Afghan family walking with a wheelbarrow of supplies.

Paula Bronstein

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Crowds wait to be seen by medical staff in the outpatient department of Indira Ghandi Children’s Hospital in Kabul.

Families waiting in the hospital’s outpatient department.

Paula Bronstein

Families wait to be seen by medical staff at the hospital.

Paula Bronstein

Women and children in a hospital waiting room.

Paula Bronstein

Mothers and their babies in a hospital waiting room.

Paula Bronstein

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Young patients are treated at the Indira Ghandi Children’s Hospital in Kabul. Critical funding for the Afghan public health system from the World Bank, along with IMF support, was cut in August over concerns about Taliban restrictions on women. Hospitals nationwide are now running out of drugs, and staff are working unpaid.

Eleven-year-old Rukia Jan.

A doctor examines 11-year-old Rukia Jan, who suffers from severe malnutrition and diabetes. Rukia has been suffering from diabetes since she was 6 years old, but her parents, who are very poor, aren’t able to afford to treat her disease causing extreme health issues. The family has seven children, and they traveled many hours to Kabul from Balkh province near Mazar-e-Sharif. (Paula Bronstein)

An exhausted girl sitting near a hospital bed.

Seen here in the pediatric ICU, Nasrida, 15, is emotionally exhausted looking after her 18-month-old nephew Khalil, who is suffering from severe malnutrition. Khalil’s mother was forced to stay home to care for her other children. (Paula Bronstein)

A baby on an exam table at the hospital.
A baby is seen suffering from severe malnutrition and kwashiorkor. (Paula Bronstein)
A grandmother praying for her grandson.

In the sub-ICU ward, a grandmother prays for her grandson, Mohammed, who is suffering from liver failure. (Paula Bronstein)

A mother holding her 8-month-old child.

In the pediatric ICU, 8-month-old Sharima, who is suffering from malnutrition and weighs about 10 pounds, is held by her mother, Bibi Sana. (Paula Bronstein)

A baby on a bed in the hospital.

In the pediatric ICU, a baby fights to stay alive. (Paula Bronstein)

A mother holding her 3-year-old son.
In the pediatric ICU, Guldana, 30, from Baghlan holds her 3-year-old son, Omid, who is suffering from malnutrition and kwashiorkor. (Paula Bronstein)

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