UN warns six million people in Afghanistan face famine risk

ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar reports on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Words by ITV News' Roohi Hasan

The UN issued a global warning this week to all its member states, that two thirds of Afghans are facing severe hunger and in urgent need of aid, with six million facing the risk of famine.

As Afghanistan faces its worst winter in 15 years, with minus 29 degrees in some areas, more than a hundred people are known to have been killed so far, including children.

This comes less than 18 months after the withdrawal of American and British troops and subsequent Taliban takeover leading to a deterioration in the humanitarian situation of an already desperately poor country.

Omar Abid, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s agency UNICEF, told ITV News: “Afghanistan is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and we need to be supportive of it.”

“We ask the international community not to forget the women and children of Afghanistan.

"The humanitarian needs are so huge, there are 28 million Afghans that need assistance, 21 million of them women and children. If they don’t get support, they will end up in a very bad and catastrophic situation.”

UNICEF, worked with ITV News to film the latest plight across the country in various locations:


Firstly, in an IDP or internally displaced people’s camp on the outskirts of the capital Kabul where 600 displaced families are facing temperatures of minus eighteen at night with little access to basic services.

Yet all they have for protection are flimsy makeshift shelters are makeshift, the children face going out amidst the ice with barely anything on their feet.

The camp's 600 displaced families are facing temperatures of minus 18 at night with little access to basic services. Credit: UNICEF

Zarmina is her family’s main breadwinner and has tragically already lost three children due to the harsh winter. Her daughter, Golshan, says money lenders come to their house everyday demanding to be paid for a loan he took when her sister was sick.

“I used to them that my father’s not at home, she says, “but they threatened to take me if their money was not paid”.


Secondly, in an overwhelmed Kabul hospital which was seeing two hundred cases a day but is now facing a fourfold increase to around 800 patients a day – many of them children with Severe Acute Malnutrition whose parents can no longer feed them.

Rahman is one of them. He is worryingly underweight for a seven-month-old and has complications from pneumonia too. His mother has already lost another baby to this disease.

Hospital admissions are facing a fourfold increase to around 800 patients a day. Credit: UNICEF

Abdul-Basit is three months old, and his mother says it is very difficult to keep the children warm.

We see another child is inconsolable in tears. Mothers speak of their heartbreak as they can’t breastfeed their babies as they aren’t eating.


Thirdly, in a nutrition clinic where children are screened and weighed and given basic nutrition and referred to hospital if worse. The nurses say the most critical children are those with hungry families.

One mother Azeeta, who brought her child to be examined, told us: “Life is hard. One day goes by with something to eat and another day nothing to eat.”

'Life is hard. One day goes by with something to eat and another day nothing to eat,' one mother at the centre said. Credit: UNICEF

“Those that cannot afford to buy sacks of coal, they buy plastic bags filled with the remains of coal. I take that and heat it up and then put it under the Sandali (heater) to keep the hands and feet of my children warm.”

In another part of the clinic, mothers are taught to make meals out of very basic commodities.


Finally, we saw the plight of those in the most remote areas around Afghanistan where the last few months of winter has hit most brutally.

Here aid efforts need to reach locals through the terrible snow and temperatures of almost minus thirty degrees Celsius. And medical assistance is not always close by.

This winter another challenge is the Taliban banning women from working for NGOs, hindering their aid delivery getting to those in most need and is costing lives one of the aid agencies said.

Credit: UNICEF

Whilst the UN is not directly affected by the ban, some of their work too is carried out by local and international NGOs.

Some aid efforts continue with determined staff, whilst the world appeals to the Taliban to change course.

If you would like to donate to help the Afghans in urgent need: