Millions of Afghans will face hunger this winter unless urgent action is taken, the UN World Food Program (WFP) has warned. More than half of the population, about 22.8 million, are facing acute life insecurity, while 3.2 million children suffer from malnutrition, the WFP said.
“Afghanistan is now facing the worst humanitarian crises in the world, if not the worst,” said David Beasley, executive director of the WFP. “We are on a countdown to disaster.”
Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August after the United States withdrew the last of its remaining troops and struck militants across the country, and retreated to the ground. The takeover weakened an already fragile economy, which was heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Western powers suspended aid, and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund also stopped payments. A nation is considered dependent on aid when 10% or more of its gross domestic product comes from foreign aid; in the case of Afghanistan, about 40% of GDP as international aid, according to the World Bank.
The WFP has warned that the dreamy winter threatens to further isolate Afghans who depend on humanitarian aid to survive. And for the first time in Afghanistan, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates as rural communities, the organization said.
“It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to accelerate and rebuild our delivery in Afghanistan before the winter cuts across much of the country, with millions of people – including farmers, women, young children and the elderly – starving in the frozen winters,” said QU Dongyu, director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
In September, the WFP warned that only five percent of Afghan families eat enough every day. Basic ingredients like cooking oil and white were increased in price. In October, the organization warned that one million children are at risk of dying from severe acute malnutrition without immediate life-saving treatment.
In September, more than $ 1 billion (£ 720m) was pledged by the international community at a conference in Geneva to support Afghans, with about a third earmarked for the WFP. But according to the WFP on Monday, the UN humanitarian aid program remains only one-third funded.
The organization said it could require as much as $ 220m (£ 159.6m) per month to justify the task, calling the current financial commitments a “drop in the ocean”. The food crisis in Afghanistan has been compounded by water shortages and severe droughts – the second in the country in four years.