'The situation is dire': Inside Afghanistan's 'fast unraveling' humanitarian crisis

The problem is a protein deficiency, she said, adding that her other four children, aged 3 months, 5, 8 and 11 years, have not been hospitalized but are not much healthier than Nisar Ahmed.

“We don’t see any meat, not even in a month,” she said.

According to the United Nations, Sakina and her family are among the 23 million people – more than half of the Afghan population – who are in urgent need of assistance.

Earlier this month, the UN launched a more than $5 billion funding call for Afghanistan – its largest single-country aid operation to date – in an effort to prop up basic services that have all but collapsed since the Taliban took control of the country in mid-August.

“We are in a rapidly unraveling humanitarian crisis and the scale of the suffering is unprecedented,” said Sam Mort, director of communications, advocacy and civic engagement UNICEF in Afghanistan, said.

“We’re having a drought, we’re in winter,” Mort said. The problem is huge — not only has the country struggled with a prolonged drought and a normally cold winter, 23 million are starving, there have been outbreaks of measles, dengue fever and acute watery diarrhea, she said.

The number of hungry people has risen dramatically since September, according to the United Nations World Food Program 14 million did not have enough to eat. That’s what the world’s largest humanitarian organization focused on food is now saying 8.7 million people are at risk of starvation. Meanwhile, millions of girls are out of school and food prices are rising, putting basic necessities out of reach for many across the country.

Lack of funding has hit Afghanistan’s already struggling economy – international support to Afghanistan has been suspended and billions of dollars of the country’s assets abroad, mostly in the United States, have been frozen following the Taliban takeover.

Taliban soldiers assist Afghans at a UNICEF distribution center in Kabul. Yuka Tachibana / NBC News

The government has essentially been unable to pay salaries and jobs have disappeared across the economy.

More than Half a million people have lost their jobs since the Taliban takeover, the United Nations International Labor Organization said this month, warning that that number is likely to rise to as many as 900,000, particularly because of restrictions on women in the workplace.

Unemployment is often cited as a reason for malnutrition, Mort said.

“Almost every single one of them will say, ‘My husband lost his job,'” she said of the women she talks to. “Whether that was a government job, whether it was an army job, whether it was a construction job, whether it was a business job, all those jobs have dried up. There is no money to buy groceries.”

“The situation is dire,” she added.

The US announced on January 11 that it would provide an additional $308 million in humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, bringing total US humanitarian aid to over $780 million since October.

US and European diplomats met with officials from the Afghan Taliban rulers in Norway last week to discuss how to mitigate the crisis, with Western diplomats calling for the release of additional funds to improve human rights, particularly for women and girls in Norway Afghanistan, knotted.

The fastest possible delivery of humanitarian aid is “our first and most urgent priority in Afghanistan,” said a spokesman for the State Department.

But until aid flows resume in earnest and the economy recovers, Sakina and millions like her will struggle through a harsh Afghan winter, and some will die.

When asked what she would do if Nisar was released from the hospital and they returned home, she was distraught.

“How am I supposed to not worry? you know i’m worried That’s life for us right now,” Sakina said, trying to hide her face even more behind her scarf as she choked and wiped away the tears.

“Not an option, what can we do? We have to accept it as it is.”

Kelly Cobiella, Ahmed Mengli and Yuka Tachibana reported on Maidan Shahr. Petra Cahill and Bill O’Reilly reported from London.

If you want to help, there are several organizations working in Afghanistan.

Bill O’Reilly contributed.

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