Half of Afghan Children Under 5 Expected to Be Malnourished Amid Food Shortages

Amid severe food shortages in Afghanistan, UNICEF estimates that half of the country's children under 5 are expected to suffer from malnutrition, the Associated Press reported.

"There are millions of people who are going to starve, and there is winter coming, COVID raging, and the whole social system collapsed," Omar Adbi, UNICEF's deputy executive director for programs, said during a visit to a Kabul children's hospital.

The AP said a woman from Kunar province brought her severely malnourished 3-year-old child to the hospital. Nargis, who declined to give her full name, said fighting between the Taliban and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has devastated communities and their access to basic needs.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Afghan Children
UNICEF estimates that half of Afghan children under the age of 5 will suffer from malnutrition. Above, in the city of Bamiyan on Sunday Hazara ethnic children stand on a cliff pockmarked by caves where people still live as they did centuries ago. BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

The world has been watching whether the Taliban will live up to their initial promises of tolerance and inclusiveness toward women and ethnic minorities. However, Taliban actions so far, such as renewed restrictions on women and the appointment of an all-male government, have been met with dismay by the international community.

Protests against the Taliban's policies toward women continued Tuesday, with a demonstration in a Kabul private school by female teachers and students who held up signs saying "Education is a right." The protest was held indoors to avoid backlash from the Taliban, who have recently outlawed demonstrations held without permission from the government.

Afghanistan's Taliban leaders met with Iranian officials in an effort to boost trade relations key to filling the country's cash-starved coffers as it teeters on the brink of economic collapse, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The Taliban met Monday with a delegation from neighboring Iran to regulate trade between the countries, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said. They agreed to increase trading hours at the Islam Qala border crossing from eight hours per day to 24 and to better regulate the collection of tariffs and improve roads. Customs are a key source of domestic revenue for Afghanistan.

The United Kingdom separately sent two envoys to meet with top Taliban officials Tuesday, the U.K. prime minister's spokesperson said. No additional details were provided.

Afghanistan, an aid-dependent country, is grappling with a liquidity crisis as assets remain frozen in the U.S. and disbursements from international organizations that once accounted for 75 percent of state spending have been paused.

Taliban officials said Tuesday they arrested 11 members of ISIS, a rival and bitter enemy of the insurgents, in Kabul. The ISIS affiliate, based in eastern Nangarhar province, has claimed responsibility for a spate of recent attacks targeting Taliban forces in eastern Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Karimi posted on Twitter that the raid was carried out Sunday night in the Afghan capital's Fifth Police District. He provided no further details. The raid came just hours after a bombing that targeted the Eid Gah Mosque in Kabul, killing at least five people.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the mosque attack late Monday, saying in a posting by its Amaq news agency that one of its suicide bombers targeted senior Taliban figures following a mourning service.

Sunday's bombing was the deadliest attack in Kabul since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan with the chaotic departure of the last U.S. troops on August 31. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the horrific bombing on August 26 that killed more than 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. military personnel outside the Kabul airport, where thousands of people were trying to reach the airport to escape Taliban rule.

Taliban Fighters
A Taliban fighter lays down his AK-47 rifle during Friday prayers at a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 10. Felipe Dana/AP Photo