An ethnic Hazara political leader and former member of Afghanistan's parliament says the bodies of eight orphan children who starved to death have been found on the west side of Kabul.
In a statement posted to Facebook on October 24, Mohammad Mohaqiq said the children died in a neighborhood in Kabul's 13th district about three weeks ago. He said they were buried by a local mullah and by residents of the neighborhood where they were found.
A local mullah named Mohammad Ali Bamiani provided details about the deaths of the children, saying the eldest was about eight years old and the youngest was an 18-month-old infant.
"They had no one," Bamiani said. "Their parents were both dead and they had no close relatives."
Bamiani said he went into the house where the bodies of the children had been discovered.
He said "they were so hungry that they couldn't even stretch their legs."
Afghanistan's Taliban-led government has not yet commented on the deaths.
The United Nations has warned that Afghanistan faces a major humanitarian crisis, including mass starvation, if aid is not provided soon.
UN agencies say that, with winter approaching, some 18 million Afghans are desperately in need of food and shelter.
Delivery of the international aid many Afghans have relied upon for the past two decades has largely been halted since the Taliban seized power in August.
Western governments have frozen about $9.4 billion in state funds that the ousted Afghan government held in foreign bank accounts before the Taliban seized power.
The Taliban has warned that the dire economic situation in Afghanistan threatens to cause a flood of refugees to leave the country unless those funds are unblocked.
On October 24, the Taliban-led government launched a program that it says will help combat hunger by offering thousands of people wheat in exchange for labor.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the scheme will be implemented around Afghanistan's major towns and cities and is meant to employ 40,000 men in Kabul alone.
Calling the plan "an important step for fighting unemployment," Mujahid said recipients of wheat would have to "work hard" by digging water channels and catchment terraces for snow in the hills to combat drought.
The Taliban spokesman said the food-for-work scheme will target those who are currently unemployed and are at the highest risk of starvation during the coming winter.
He said the program will last two months and would involve the distribution of 11,600 tons of wheat in Kabul with about 55,000 tons elsewhere in Afghanistan -- including the cities of Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and Pol-e Khomri.
Meanwhile, the Taliban says Amir Khan Muttaqi, the acting foreign minister of the Taliban-led government, met on October 23 with the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons, to discuss Afghanistan's economic crisis.
In a statement released on October 24, Taliban spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said Lyons assured Muttaqi that UN staff will be increased to help provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.
Balkhi also said Lyons had promised to visit the United States and raise the issue of Afghanistan's blocked state financial reserves.
Balkhi also claimed that the Taliban is "completely prepared to deliver humanitarian aid to all those in need in the country."
But there are strong doubts within the international community, and among Afghans, about whether the Taliban would disburse humanitarian aid fairly -- particularly, to those from ethnic Hazara, ethnic Tajik, and ethnic Turkic minorities or to other groups that have fought against the Taliban for years.
The Taliban's self-declared government has not yet been formally recognized by any country as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.