UN: Crippling Winter Puts Nearly 100,000 Children At Risk in Quake-Hit Afghanistan – Voice of America – VOA News

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The United Nations has called for increased humanitarian aid to help tens of thousands of children in western Afghanistan who are suffering in life-threatening winter conditions in the aftermath of a string of devastating earthquakes last October.

The U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, issued the warning Monday, 100 days after repeated earthquakes struck the impoverished country’s western Herat and surrounding provinces.

The de facto Taliban government and aid agencies estimated the disasters last October killed more than 1,000 people, primarily women and children, and destroyed 21,000 homes, with countless families losing livelihoods, livestock, and crops.

“Three months on, the impact of Herat’s earthquakes lingers, with many families still living in tents or sleeping in the open despite the biting cold,” UNICEF stated.

It added that the crippling winter gripping Afghanistan, including the earthquake-affected Herat region, is threatening lives and slowing efforts to rebuild.

“Children are still trying to cope with the loss and trauma. Schools and health centers, which children depend upon, are damaged beyond repair or destroyed completely,” said Fran Equiza, UNICEF country chief.

“As if this was not enough, winter has taken hold, and temperatures hover below freezing. Children and families without homes live in life-threatening conditions at night, with no way to heat their temporary shelters,” Equiza said.

The UNICEF said that in the 100 days since the initial emergency response, it had converted tented health facilities into more permanent structures in shipping containers and treated thousands of affected people, most of whom were women and children.

The agency continues to truck clean water to nearly 19,000 people in Herat and plans to distribute cash assistance to help families cover their basic needs to survive the winter. UNICEF has established dozens of facilities to help several thousand children, half of them girls, continue basic education.

“But thousands still need our help. UNICEF is concerned about the survival of 96,000 children affected by the earthquakes if we are not able to provide the services they need to recover,” Equiza warned.

“We count on continued support to ensure that children not only survive the winter but have a chance to thrive in the months and years to come.”

The U.N. says at least 23 million people, around half of them children, need humanitarian aid in Afghanistan “due to the residual impacts of a protracted conflict, extreme climate shocks, and the country’s severe economic decline.”

The return of the Islamist Taliban to power in August 2021 prompted United States-led Western nations to swiftly halt all development aid to the country and isolate the Afghan banking sector. The punitive actions fueled economic upheavals characterized by high unemployment and a fragile recovery.

Additionally, aid workers say the Taliban’s sweeping restrictions on Afghan women’s access to education and work in line with their harsh interpretation of Islamic law have undermined humanitarian activities across the country.

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