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Arzoo and her siblings at home in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Arzoo and her siblings at home in Kabul, Afghanistan.   -   Copyright  Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children

Afghanistan crisis: Pictures show children's fight for survival six months since Taliban takeover

Six months since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, a humanitarian crisis has developed that has devastated the lives of children across the country, say Save the Children. 

The NGO says its newly released pictures tell the story of children fighting for survival, as families make impossible decisions about which child they can afford to feed and which children need to work on the streets to put food on the table.

The pictures -- by photographer Jim Huylebroek -- form part of a series called Children on the Edge of Life and give a glimpse into Afghanistan’s worst food crisis since records began. Almost five million children stand on the brink of starvation due to the devastation caused by the conflict and subsequent economic collapse in Afghanistan, says the NGO. The situation has been made even worse by drought.

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) says 97% of the population is expected to be living below the poverty line by the second half of 2022. 

If the country's humanitarian crisis is left unaddressed it could lead to more deaths than 20 years of war, claims the IRC. 

Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Laalah sits with her siblings outside their home in Balkh province.Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children

In the north of the country, 12-year-old Laalah lives with her mother and four siblings in a tent in the basement of a half-constructed building.

Her father Maalek struggles to find work as a labourer and sometimes has no choice but to send his sons to find rubbish to sell or burn to keep their home warm.

“Whenever kids are free from school they go out and collect rubbish,” he said. “They go onto the streets and collect and sell cans so they can afford their school expenses or food.

“My dream is to find somewhere, to build a place for them. To be able to build a house to live in so that they can stop being homeless like this.”

For her part, Laalah holds out hope that she will be able to go to school in the future.

“I want to go to school,” she said. “To be either a teacher or doctor. I want our living to be good, to eat good food.”

Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Laalah walks up the stairs with her baby brother Faakhir in her home in Balkh provinceJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Streets in KabulJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
A baby being assessed for malnutrition at a mobile health clinic in Jawzjan, AfghanistanJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Streets in KabulJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
3-year-old Samira and her grandfather Abdul in Jawzjan, Afghanistan.Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children

But it’s not just Afghan schools that have suffered from the withdrawal of aid and the freezing of financial assets. Hospitals across the country have been brought to the brink of collapse due to the lack of funding for health workers and the absence of critical medicine for sick children, according to Save the Children.

When medicines are available, they are often too expensive for families to afford – an issue exacerbated by their inability to provide food for their children, adds the NGO. 

Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Harija, 6, in Jawzjan, Afghanistan.Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
View of displacement camps in Balkh Province, AfghanistanJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Noori, 12, at home in Kabul.Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Streets in KabulJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Desert communities digging wells and collecting rain water. Jawzjan, AfghanistanJim Huylebroek / Save The Children

In Kabul, 12-year-old Arzoo and her family only eat bread most days, because her father hasn’t been able to work for months and can’t afford anything else. To make matters worse, her parents and 18-month-old brother are ill, but they can’t afford to see a doctor.

Arzoo’s mother Ferisha said people in Afghanistan are desperate for food, but “there is nothing”. Her main aim is that her children can get out of the crisis.

“My hope is that they study and make progress,” she said. “One can only have this hope.”

Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Arzoo's siblings at homeJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Arzoo and her mother, Ferisha, at homeJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Arzoo's siblingsJim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Arzoo and her sister, Hadya, 6Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Jim Huylebroek / Save The Children
Arzoo's father, AshequllahJim Huylebroek / Save The Children

Additional sources • Save the Children