UK aid agencies are launching an appeal to raise money to stop millions of children starving in Afghanistan this winter.
The Disasters Emergency Committee, which combines the efforts of 15 British charities, says action is needed to save a million children aged under 5 who are at risk of dying in the next three months.
Nada Al-Nashif, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, said hunger was pushing Afghan families into desperate measures including child labour, early marriage and even the sale of children.
A million children under the age of five are at risk of dying over the next three months, it is said.
An appeal will be broadcast from Wednesday to raise money for emergency food provisions, health care and winter kits to help families stay warm. The British government has pledged to match public donations up to £10 million.
The UN’s World Food Programme said an estimated 98 per cent of Afghans are not eating enough. Seven in 10 families have to borrow food. The UN plans to scale up the distribution of food to help 23 million people in Afghanistan next year.
“We must act fast to reach them with the food they so badly need," said Saleh Saeed, the chief executive of the DEC.
"Our members are on the ground and already helping but we urgently need to scale this work up to reach many more in need. People are starving. Eight million are on the brink of famine.
"We're urging people to donate to help families feed their children, protect themselves against freezing temperatures and to provide vital medical supplies to deal with malnutrition, hypothermia and acute respiratory infections, otherwise many young children will simply not survive the coming months.”
The group said a donation of £100 could provide emergency food for a family for three months.
The DEC has run 73 major appeals after disasters outside of the UK and has raised £1.7 billion since it started operations in 1963.
£30 million was raised for the Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh from persecution in Myanmar in 2017 and the same amount was raised to pay for food, clean water and medical help in Yemen.
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said: “The British people have shown incredible generosity and the UK is determined to do all we can for the people of Afghanistan. We have doubled our aid this year to save lives, protect women and girls and support stability in the region.”
To make a donation to the DEC Afghanistan Crisis Appeal visit www.dec.org.uk.