Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years leaves families struggling to survive. A series of recent avalanches have killed more than 90 people in Badakhshan province, an extremely isolated mountain region in northeast Afghanistan.
While relief efforts continue to assist avalanche survivors, snowbound villages throughout the province also desperately need health care and nutrition as their food supplies run low and as increased cases of pneumonia and other illnesses ravage the population.
In Darang, a village of 400 families situated near the Tajikistan border, 29 children under the age of five have reportedly died in the past month. Medair staff travelled three hours by horseback to reach Darang and found children suffering from acute malnutrition, pneumonia, and other health complications.
Families are running dangerously low on food. In 2011, severe drought led to a poor harvest in the region and with the heavy snowfall and the avalanches this winter, many people have been unable to reach markets or health care facilities.
Darang’s residents have also run out of fodder to feed their livestock, leaving their animals too emaciated to be eaten or sold. Furthermore, Darang, like many other villages in Badakhshan, will soon be at serious risk of landslides and flooding when the heavy snow melts in the spring thaw.
“These recent avalanches have highlighted just how vulnerable village families in Badakhshan are,” said Claire Skinner, Medair Country Director for Afghanistan. “Far too many children are malnourished and families are living on the brink of survival. This harsh winter has pushed many of them beyond their means to cope.”