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Afghans face harshest winter in living memory, warns British Red Cross

British Red Cross
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The British Red Cross warns that Afghanistan’s people are facing one of the harshest winters in living memory unless aid and money reach the country within weeks.

Health clinics run by the charity’s partner, the Afghan Red Crescent, are already seeing malnourished children. In total 3.2 million children under five expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.

Afghanistan faces the convergence of multiple crisis. The long-running drought has meant that food is scarce, while the pandemic has affected livelihoods. Sanctions on banking services have sent the economy into free-fall.

Speaking from Kabul, Maryann Horne, Senior Advisor on Humanitarian crises for the British Red Cross, said:

“Here in Kabul, the alarm bells are ringing for a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The guns may have fallen silent, but people are now afraid of hunger, the cold and the future. They don’t have cash or jobs and there doesn’t seem to be any solution in sight.

“I’ve been struck by just how desperate the situation is becoming. Urban poverty is a new phenomenon and is spreading in areas where people were relatively well off. Millions face unimaginable food shortages, malnutrition and are being pushed further into extreme poverty.

“Entire families are going hungry and men who support families of up to twelve children with as little as two pounds a day are facing so much pressure. Food prices are increasing dramatically, paid jobs are evaporating and the effects of the drought are rippling across the country.

“The Afghan people are looking to the international community for help but also hope. We cannot give up providing support now, and you can help us. Seeing the needs first-hand and the crisis shaping up from here in Kabul, I know just how transformative donations to the Red Cross can be.”

Conflict, extreme drought, and the Covid-19 pandemic have converged on the people of Afghanistan, with thousands displaced by the recent conflict and millions more suffering food shortages and hunger.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been providing humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan for over 30 years. 40,000 volunteers from the Afghan Red Crescent Society are on the ground today in  34 of Afghanistan’s provinces providing basic relief, such as food, and medical support.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society also plays a critical role in health, running the largest non-governmental network of primary healthcare facilities, 150 health centres and clinics, including 36 mobile health teams covering the entire country. This life-saving medical support has become even more critical now, after weeks of heavy fighting has left thousands injured and hospitals damaged, and extreme drought drives malnutrition rates ever higher.

The Afghan Red Crescent also runs emergency programmes and a Covid-19 hospital in Kabul, which has treated thousands of patients while also distributing essential items, like food, water and cash to families. 

To date, the British Red Cross Afghanistan crisis appeal has raised over £4.3 million. The money raised provides food, basic medical supplies and medicines, shelter, water as well as ensuring people get vital medical treatment, including in isolated rural areas.

Donations also support British Red Cross work supporting thousands who have arrived in the UK from Afghanistan. Our staff and volunteers are supporting in a range of ways including providing emotional support and essential items as many families remain in hotels and are waiting for longer-term settlement


Notes to editors

**British Red Cross **

For over 150 years, the British Red Cross has helped people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them recover and move on with their lives.

Profile – Maryann Horne, Senior Advisor for Humanitarian crisis at the British Red Cross

  • Maryann Horne is on mission in Kabul, Afghanistan as part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, working closely with the Afghan Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

  • She has returned to Afghanistan this month after working there for three years with displaced and refugee populations.

  • Humanitarian and conflict advisor (20 years + field experience).

  • Specialised in emergency and disaster operations, principled humanitarian action, access and protection. Track record of humanitarian operations in conflict and working with a large range of international and local actors.

  • Experience in working with the UN, national governments and state and non-state actors in conflict or disaster areas.