It's a growing practice in Afghanistan now to have to give up a child to save another, reports ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine
Among the most desperate in Afghanistan is one mother who felt she had to make the impossible choice between her twin babies.
In the grips of a deadly winter – during which it is said a million children under the age of five are at risk of dying from starvation – a family so poor and destitute could no longer support their children.
This mother, who wished to remain anonymous due to the stigma around an increasingly common choice in the country, made the heart-breaking decision to separate the siblings.
“We have nothing, so how could I afford to take care of both of them? Said the woman, who had her twins long before the country fell to the Taliban.
“I suffered from having to split them up, it was a very difficult decision... more than you could imagine.”
The crisis has sparked leading UK aid agencies to launch a joint fundraising appeal to raise money for the children in Afghanistan this winter.
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Afghanistan Crisis Appeal will raise funds for member charities to urgently respond to conflict, economic collapse, drought, famine and Covid-19 in the country.
DEC charities, including the International Rescue Committee UK, British Red Cross, Save the Children and CAFOD, say “fast” action is needed to help the eight million people at risk of starvation over winter.
The appeal, to be broadcast on television and radio from Wednesday, will fund DEC charities to provide emergency food and nutrition support for children, support healthcare facilities, provide winter kits to help families stay warm, supply clean drinking water and protect women and girls.
Donations from the public will be matched pound-for-pound by the UK government – up to a total of £10 million.
A £10 donation can provide treatment to a child suffering from malnutrition for three weeks and £20 can feed a family for a week.
A donation of up to £100 could provide emergency food to a family for three months.
Saleh Saeed, DEC chief executive, said: “We can’t just sit back and let that happen. We must act fast to reach them with the food they so badly need.
“Our members are on the ground and already helping but we urgently need to scale this work up to reach many more in need. People are starving – eight million are on the brink of famine.
“We’re urging people to donate to help families feed their children, protect themselves against freezing temperatures and to provide vital medical supplies to deal with malnutrition, hypothermia and acute respiratory infections, otherwise many young children will simply not survive the coming months.
“Thanks to the UK government, donations from the public will be doubled up to £10 million.”
Tufail Hussain, UK director of Islamic Relief, told of the “desperation” of people in Afghanistan during a press conference on Tuesday morning.
He said children are being sent out by their families for up to 14 hours to find food or money.
Mr Hussain added: “We just need the support of the generous British public to be able to reach as many as possible before the winter sets in… we have to act now to save lives.”
To make a donation to the DEC Afghanistan Crisis Appeal, visit www.dec.org.uk, call the 24-hour hotline on 0370 60 60 610 or send a cheque.
To donate £10 text SUPPORT to 70150.
Maryann Horne, of the British Red Cross, said: “There’s a sense of desperation today with no light at the end of the tunnel.
“As the humanitarian agencies present across the country what we’re doing today is sounding the alarm bell.
“This is no longer about making things better, this is about saving lives and being able to reach those who most need it in time before the winter sets in and before it’s too late.
“That is why every single penny of this appeal counts, the generosity that is shown will be put to best use by all the partners on the ground at a critical time.”
Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, said: “The British people have shown incredible generosity and the UK is determined to do all we can for the people of Afghanistan.
“We have doubled our aid this year to save lives, protect women and girls and support stability in the region.”