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One in 10 Afghan children under five malnourished, 45 percent stunted: UN

In Pictures

Roya carefully spoon-feeds her daughter fortified milk in a ward for malnourished children, praying the tiny infant will avoid a condition that stalks one in 10 children in Afghanistan after decades of conflict.

The nine-month-old had been hospitalised three times already in remote Badakhshan province because her mother had trouble breastfeeding.

“She has gained a bit of weight. She has a bit of a glow,” 35-year-old Roya said, cradling Bibi Aseya at the Baharak district hospital.

“She drinks milk as well, but she still doesn’t smile,” she added. “I would stay awake day and night. Now I can sleep.”

Poor nutrition is rife in a country plagued by economic, humanitarian and climate crises two and a half years since the Taliban returned to power.

Ten percent of children under five in Afghanistan are malnourished and 45 percent are stunted, meaning they are small for their age in part due to poor nutrition, according to the United Nations.

Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest rates of stunting in children under five, said Daniel Timme, communications chief for UNICEF.

“If not detected and treated within the first two years of a child’s life, the condition [stunting] becomes irreversible, and the affected child will never be able to develop mentally and physically to its full potential,” he said.

“This is not only tragic for the individual child but must have a severe negative impact on the development of the whole country when more than two out of five children are affected.”

A plunge in international aid and medical professionals leaving the country have weakened an already vulnerable health system, and women and children are particularly impacted, NGOs said.

Hasina, 22, and her husband, Nureddin, are