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Help orphan children in the freezing winter in Afghanistan as the problems increase with the arrival of the winter each year in the country. The temperature typically reaches as low as -15 degrees centigrade. In high-altitude provinces such as Bamyan, Ghazni, Nooristan, Wardak, and Paktia people affected by the winter do not have the financial capability to purchase fuel and heaters to provide their heating needs. However, prices of food items double during winter, and roadblocks due to avalanches and heavy snow causes a shortage of food and edible things in rural areas.
There are four major challenges that Afghan people are facing during winters in the following categories.
Unemployment is one of the biggest issues that cause people to suffer a lot in the freezing winter in Afghanistan. It leaves the families with not sufficient or no income to purchase food and fuel. According to WFP, more than half of the population faces severe hunger and almost 9 million will face famine.
Around 61% of the families reported having been reducing daily expenditure each year to survive the winter. Almost 68% of the households borrow money and have a high chance of trapping in risk of debt during the winter. However, the prices of the goods increase and even can be out of reach. In fact, it is very hard and challenging for a single breadwinner to support 8 or more people in a household. Normally Afghan families are large in number and the unemployment rate causes many obstacles for the head of a family.
Decades of conflicts in Afghanistan have made millions of people displaced. Since the fall of the previous regime in the hands of the Taliban, around 5.7M people were displaced due to conflict, violence, and natural disasters based on a report by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). Displacement itself brings many challenges and risks for living and the future. Apart from other obstacles that displaced people are facing, the harsh freezing winter climate is the major one.
Freezing winters in Afghanistan bring with it a rise in respiratory problems such as pneumonia and Acute Respiratory Illness (ARI). As a result, there is a constant increase in hospitalizations, illness, and even death during the winter. Families struggle to heat their homes and keep their children warm. But longer exposure to cold can increase the risk of respiratory tract infections that causes even death. Some 25-30% of deaths below the age of five are due to respiratory tract infections, with 90 percent of these deaths due to pneumonia. Children living in high-altitude regions are vulnerable and require urgent life-saving assistance including winter clothing, blankets, and fuel for heating.
However, vulnerable families who cannot afford to buy wood or fuel, burn plastic and other materials to heat their homes. As a result, this causes breathing health issues for everyone because burning plastics release toxic compounds including phthalates and dioxins. Phthalates have been linked with multiple health issues, from insulin resistance to various reproductive issues. Infants and children may be especially vulnerable. And according to the WHO, dioxins causes problems to reproductive health, immune, developing nervous, and endocrine systems.
Winter in Afghanistan is a peak hunger period as it provides very limited opportunities for food production and income generation . In the winter season, most of the pastures are covered with snow and green fodder availability is compromised. About 70% of Afghans live and work in rural areas, mostly on farms, and 61 percent of all households derive income from agriculture. Agriculture has traditionally dominated Afghanistan’s economy and contributed a large part to its growth.
Households’ good stocks gets reduced in the winter. On an average, households’ harvests last only 5 months meaning that majority of the households will not have food during winter.
Small farmers exhaust their production during the post-harvest summer and early winter months. The lack of agriculture interventions and demand for labor in the agriculture sector reduces significantly during the same period.
The freezing winter in many provinces in Afghanistan presents challenges for children to access education. Children are required to make up for lost learning time during winter. Most schools are not equipped for heating throughout the winter months when schools are generally closed.
As per the analysis by Save the Children, nearly 800,000 children face a freezing winter in Afghanistan without proper shelter. In addition, nearly 8.6 million children live in households that do not have enough blankets. More than 3 million children do not have adequate heating to keep them warm. Winter in Afghanistan is a peak hunger season. Already, some children are reported to have starved as soaring food prices leave families struggling to afford them. Thomas Howells, acting Country Director for Save the Children in Afghanistan, said: “With the country facing its worst hunger crisis ever recorded, millions of children will be going to sleep cold and hungry this winter. The shocking reports of children starving to death should make us all feel ashamed.”
However, winter temperatures in Afghanistan plummet to as low as -12.1 degrees centigrade in some provinces. Orphan children sleeping outside without proper winter clothing or heating are at serious risk of hypothermia, acute respiratory infections, and in the worst cases, death.
Moreover, price hikes and the collapse of the economy have pushed many families into dangerous territory. Most of them are unable to afford fuel or firewood to heat their homes. Fuel costs have risen by around 40% over the past year, and enough firewood to last a family through the winter costs around US$200.
Many households resort to burning plastic or other harmful materials to keep warm. This increases the risk to children’s health in the winter months.
Hayat Orphanage is supporting many households across the country where orphan children reside. We also help the orphans in our orphanage in the Laghman province with heating supplies for winter. Moreover, we provide them warm clothes, socks, shoes, hats, and gloves. However, helping orphan children in Afghanistan would not have been possible without your support and donations. Since 2013, Hayat Orphanage have been on the ground to support the orphans from harassment by providing shelter and financially helping them to cover their daily expenditures. We provide them proper education so that they stand on their own feet.
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