Millions of Afghans will face hunger this winter unless urgent action is taken, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has warned.
More than half of the population – some 22.8 million people – face acute food insecurity, while 3.2 million children under five could suffer from acute malnutrition, WFP said.
“Afghanistan is now among the worst humanitarian crises in the world, if not the worst,” said David Beasley, executive director of WFP.
“We are counting down to the catastrophe.”
Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August after the United States withdrew the last remaining troops and militants invaded the country and regained ground.
The takeover weakened an already fragile economy that was heavily dependent on foreign aid. Western powers have suspended aid and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have also suspended payments.
A nation is considered aid dependent when 10% or more of its gross domestic product comes from foreign aid; in the case of Afghanistan, according to the World Bank, about 40% of GDP is made up of international aid.
Many Afghans are now selling their goods to buy food. The new Taliban administration has been barred from accessing assets overseas, as nations consider how to deal with the hard-line group, which means wages from civil servants and other workers have been withheld.
“I have been receiving my salary for more than five months,” a teacher from Herat told the BBC. “Life is hard. I sell everything we have in the house. We sell our animals, we cut our trees to sell wood.”
“The people here are poor,” said a man in Kandahar. “Yesterday I saw a woman who was rummaging through the garbage cans of the local hotel, picking up the leftover food. I asked her why she did this and she said she had no other solution, she was trying to find food for her children. . ”
WFP warned that the looming winter has threatened to further isolate Afghans who depend on humanitarian assistance to survive. And for the first time in Afghanistan, urban residents suffer from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, the organization said.
“It is urgent to act efficiently and effectively to accelerate and increase our deliveries to Afghanistan before winter disrupts much of the country, with millions of people – including farmers, women, young children and the elderly – starving in l ‘freezing winter,’ said QU Dongyu, director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
In the month of September, the WFP warned that only five percent of Afghan families had enough to eat each day. Basic ingredients such as cooking oil and wheat had skyrocketed in price. In October, the organization warned that one million children were in danger of dying from severe acute malnutrition without immediate life-saving treatment.
In September, the international community pledged more than $ 1 billion (£ 720 million) at a conference in Geneva to support Afghans, with about a third going to WFP.
But according to WFP on Monday, the United Nations humanitarian assistance program remains funded for only a third. The organization said it could require up to $ 220 million (£ 159.6 million) per month to meet the business, calling its current financial commitments a “drop in the ocean”.
The food crisis in Afghanistan has been exacerbated by water shortages and a severe drought, the country’s second in four years.
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