Conflict, Covid and the withdrawal of international aid hastens the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan‘People are going to die very soon’: food scarcity in Afghanistan as economic free fall intensfies
Only one Afghan family in 20 has enough to eat as the economy continues to plummet after the Taliban takeover, the United Nations has warned.
The economic catastrophe engulfing the country means aid agencies are in a race against the oncoming winter to provide food and shelter to millions.
War and Covid had pitched the country into a humanitarian crisis long before the Taliban ousted Ashraf Ghani’s government, but the end of international aid to the country has made it worse.
Some three-quarters of the Afghan government budget was funded by aid before the Taliban took over and donors put their funding on hold. Foreign cash reserves have been frozen.
Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said he had toured camps for the poor where residents had no food. “They have no food at all for the coming weeks. The little income they had in the previous economy is gone. We are now in a race against the winter. A race against death.”Advertisementhttps://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.482.0_en.html#goog_634055210
Surveys by the World Food Programme, the food assistance branch of the UN, found just five per cent of families have enough to eat every day. Half of households reported they had run out of food altogether at least once in the past two weeks.
The closure of foreign firms and international aid projects, as well as unpaid government payrolls, means the catastrophe is hitting the urban middle classes and not just the rural poor. Only 10 per cent of households headed by someone with a secondary or university education were able to buy enough food.
“The economic freefall in Afghanistan has been abrupt and unrelenting, adding to an already difficult situation, as the country grapples with a second severe drought in three years,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Afghanistan director last week.
Even before the current crisis, the country had one of the world’s highest rates of stunting in children under five, with a lack of food impairing the growth of development in two-in-five children.
The economic meltdown means the situation is likely now to get worse.
Afghan media reported that in the poor western province of Ghor, some 300 children suffering from malnutrition had been taken to the provincial hospital in the past six months. Seventeen of those had died.
“People are going to die here in Afghanistan very soon,” Mr Egeland said.