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Afghanistan cold snap kills over 160, Taliban officials say

January 28, 2023

Afghanistan is seeing its coldest winter in 15 years, with temperatures as low as -33 degrees Celsius. The country is also dealing with a major hunger crisis.

Afghan children walk in snow
Over 160 people have died due to harsh winter conditions, Taliban officials sayImage: Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua/IMAGO

A cold snap in Afghanistan has killed over 160 people, officials say.

Afghanistan is seeing its coldest winter in 15 years, with temperatures as low as -33 degrees Celsius (-27 degrees Fahrenheit) since January 10.

The country's disaster management agency said on Saturday that the death toll had risen by 88 over the past week and now stood at 166, based on data from 24 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

Crisis in Afghanistan compounded by extreme temperatures

Ministry official Abdul Rahman Zahid said in a video statement that the deaths were caused by floods, fires and leaks from gas heaters.

Around 100 homes were destroyed and almost 80,000 livestock died in the cold.

"The Afghan winter … as everybody in Afghanistan knows, is the big messenger of doom for so many families in Afghanistan as we go through these many years of humanitarian need … we see some of the consequences in loss of life," UN aid chief Martin Griffiths told the Reuters news agency.

Woman pushes wheelbarrow loaded with vegetables and child along street covered in mud, water and snow
This is the second winter since the Taliban took power in KabulImage: Wakil KOHSAR/AFP

Afghanistan's humanitarian crises

The World Health Organization (WHO) said this week that harsh weather was preventing help from reaching the northeastern province of Badakshan, where 17 people died of "acute respiratory infection."

Afghanistan is also dealing with a major hunger crisis. Aid agencies have warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of around 38 million are facing hunger and nearly 4 million children are suffering from malnutrition.

Since the takeover by the Islamist Taliban in 2021, foreign aid has declined dramatically and the US has seized key central bank assets, aggravating the country's humanitarian crises.

Last month, Afghanistan's Taliban government banned women from working in humanitarian groups, after which many organizations announced they would stop working in the country. Female NGO workers in the health sector were given an exception and some organizations resumed operations.

sdi/dj (AFP, Reuters)