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Honor the noble service of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan by helping to feed Afghan children

Afghanistan suffers from one the highest child malnutrition rates in the world. It will only grow worse now with COVID-19 and the Taliban takeover.

Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee holds a baby at Karzai Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sgt. Gee, of Sacramento, California, was killed in last week’s attack by ISIS-K.
AP Photos

During the final evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan, a photo was taken of U.S. Marine Nicole Gee comforting an Afghan infant. Days later, Sgt. Gee was killed in the terrorist attack at the Kabul airport gates.

Sgt. Gee and 12 other American service members who lost their lives that day were on a humanitarian mission to help people escape the Taliban takeover. The U.S. military tradition of humanitarianism is deep-rooted, going back to the World War I relief efforts for civilians. America can be proud of our soldiers in Afganistan for continuing that tradition, evacuating civilians to safety.

Gee holding an infant is also symbolic because it is the youngest who still need our help the most in Afghanistan. This is a country with one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world, and it is growing worse with the spread of COVID-19, drought and the Taliban takeover.

While many Americans are looking back at our nation’s 20 years of involvement in Afghanistan, we have to look forward and ask how we are going to help Afghanistan’s children. It is only a healthy generation of Afghan children that may someday build a country at peace.

Helping Afghan kids may be the best way we can honor the sacrifices made by U.S. soldiers. Afghan children routinely suffer from stunting of their physical and mental growth because of lack of nutritious food. UNICEF says that only 12% of Afghan children aged 6 to 24 months receive “the right variety of food in the quantity needed for their age.”

Children in Afghanistan also suffer from wasting, meaning they are reduced to skin and bones. Some Afghan children perish from the malnutrition.

Now that Afghanistan has fallen to the Taliban, there will be even more chaos. Children in Afghanistan will need our help more than ever.

The London-based organization Save the Children warns that 5.5 million Afghan kids are projected to face crisis levels of hunger in the second half of 2021. And now food prices are skyrocketing too.

Athena Rayburn, director of advocacy for Save the Children in Afghanistan, warns that “conflict, drought and COVID-19 have already pushed millions of children into hunger and misery in Afghanistan. Now they could be pushed even closer to the brink of famine.”

We could certainly fund the relief agencies in Afghanistan that have a massive task before them. The World Food Program says it “needs $196 million for the next six months to address the sharp escalation of needs across the country.” The WFP aims to feed close to 14 million Afghans in need.

Winter is coming. Many parts of Afghanistan will soon become inaccessible because of heavy snows. WFP needs funding to move food into place before its too late.

You can help by donating to charities in Afghanistan such as WFP, UNICEF, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council and many others. You could write letters to Congress, as well, urging them to support such charities in Afghanistan.

We can still save lives in Afghanistan, especially the lives of innocent children. We can rescue them from deadly malnutrition.

William Lambers, a writer and historian, partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.