At least 70 people have died in a wave of freezing temperatures that has gripped Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, as severe weather exacerbates a humanitarian crisis in the poverty-stricken country.
Since January 10, the mercury has been dropping in Kabul and several other provinces, with the central Ghor region recording the lowest reading of -33°C (-27°F) over the weekend.
“This winter is by far the coldest in recent years,” Mohammad Nasim Moradi, head of Afghanistan’s meteorological office, told AFP.
Another week of cold weather
In the countryside, homeless families are seen staving off the cold by huddled around campfires, while in the snowy capital, local coal heaters are kindled by the luckiest.
“We expect the cold wave to continue for another week or more,” Moradi said.
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The disaster management ministry said 70 people and 70,000 head of livestock – a vital commodity in the poorer sectors of Afghan society – had died over the past eight days.
Many central and northern provinces witnessed road closures due to heavy snowfall, according to photos posted on social media.
This is the second winter since US-led forces withdrew and the Taliban swept through Kabul, replacing the Washington-backed regime.
Since then, aid has dropped dramatically and the US has frozen key national assets, resulting in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
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More than half of the country’s 38 million people face hunger this winter, and nearly four million children are malnourished, according to aid agencies.
Last month, several NGOs still operating in Afghanistan suspended operations in protest of a Taliban government order banning women from working with humanitarian organisations, except in the health sector.