Across Afghanistan, an estimated 1 in 2 children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2022. Over 1 million of whom are at risk of dying if immediate action isn’t taken! UNICEF is working hard to reduce malnutrition rates in Afghanistan through accessible, everyday solutions. Our most inexpensive, and yet most invaluable solution is the use of “Ready to Use Therapeutic Food” (RUTF) - A ‘miraculous’ fortified peanut paste that helps children recover from malnutrition in a matter of weeks.
Between the months of August and November in 2021, we helped treat an estimated 121,000 malnourished children aged under-five. Parwana was one of them! As Afghanistan spirals deeper into a fast-unravelling humanitarian crisis, we want people to better understand how malnutrition is affecting their communities - and how easily they can help! We need to support the children of Afghanistan now, in their hour of need, as they fight for their lives.
Every day counts for a malnourished child, and getting an early diagnosis can make every bit of difference. So goes the story of Parwana who arrived just in time at a UNICEF-supported health facility for treatment. Her arms were frail, skin cracked, cheeks pale, and she weighed far too little for someone of her age and height. She needed help right away.
A simple plastic tape was used to measure the circumference of Parwana’s upper arm to determine if she was acutely malnourished - as expected, the diagnosis is confirmed.
Following Parwana's diagnosis, her mother went to the pharmacy for RUTF sachets. UNICEF, the sole provider of RUTF in Afghanistan, has been sending hundreds of thousands of lifesaving sachets all over the country. The impact of eating the nutritious peanut paste is almost immediate. With regular visits, testing and RUTF top ups, Parwana began to regain her strength as each day passed. After only two weeks of treatment her cheeks regained their rosy glow, her arm circumference had grown, and she was on her way to a healthier weight.
Even though children like Parwana are now in treatment, the situation is dire for millions going hungry due to the on-going food crisis. After a dry winter, a weak harvest and drought, almost half of the people in Afghanistan do not have enough food to eat.
To meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable families and children, we are scaling up our efforts in 2022. While continuing to distribute life-saving RUTF sachets, UNICEF is doubling the number of nutrition counsellors and mobile health and nutrition teams in Afghanistan so that children in the most remote areas can be tested and treated. Additionally, we are providing supplies and funding at 1,400 nutrition sites throughout the country, where nurses and health workers will be supported to identify and treat children promptly.
It was thanks to the immediate support of donors to our 2021 appeal that we were able to provide life-saving services, including ready-to-use therapeutic food to nourish starving children. This year, we have the ambitious goal of treating 1 million children with malnutrition in Afghanistan. And we need your support to do it!