Afghanistan is on the brink of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, UN agencies warned this week, specifying that more than half the population faces an “acute” food shortage.
Around 22 million of the approximately 38 million inhabitants of the Asian country will suffer food insecurity this winter, due to drought caused by climate change, and to which is added the chaos generated by the seizure of power by the Taliban.
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“This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migrating or starving, unless we can step up our life-saving aid,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program (WFP), in a statement issued. jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The crisis in Afghanistan already exceeds those facing Yemen or Syria and is worse than any food insecurity emergency except for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, indicated officials of these organizations.
“Afghanistan is now among the worst humanitarian crises in the world, if not the worst, and food security has almost collapsed,” Beasley said in a statement.
A visit by journalists to the provinces of Herat and Badghis revealed how families have been forced to sell their daughters to marry young people in order to cover their debts and ensure enough food to survive.
According to the statement issued by WFP and FAO, one in two Afghans faces a phase 3 “crisis” or phase 4 “emergency” food shortage.
Phase 4 is one step short of famine. Officials stressed that the country, already struggling to emerge from a 20-year civil war, is facing its worst winter in a decade.
Faced with the serious crisis, the FAO Director-General said: “It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to accelerate and expand our delivery to Afghanistan before winter collapses a large part of the country, with millions of people – including farmers. , women, children and the elderly – go hungry in the freezing winter ”.
In August, the taliban Islamists overthrew the US-backed regime and declared an interim government, promising to restore stability.
But the Taliban suffer a series of international sanctions and a campaign of bloody attacks by the Islamic State terrorist group, while climate change has made Afghanistan’s dry spells more frequent and intense.
Waiting for a wet winter
In the west of the country, thousands of poor families have already sold their herds and fled for shelter and assistance in crowded temporary camps near major cities.
On Sunday, the Taliban announced an aid program that involves giving wheat in exchange for work, which is intended to hire thousands of people.
“We are trying to get our people out of the current situation and help them. Global humanitarian aid has also arrived, ”said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
“We try to organize and distribute, including food and clothing. All concerns will be resolved, ”Mujahid promised.
“Regarding the drought, we expect to have a wet winter. But if the drought continues, we will take the appropriate measures in the spring, “the spokesperson added.
UN agencies warned that its humanitarian response plan has only received a third of its funding.
“Hunger is increasing and children are dying. We cannot feed people promises; funding commitments must be converted into cash, ”Beasley warned.
“The international community must come together to address this crisis, which is rapidly spiraling out of control,” stressed the executive director of the World Food Program.
11.4 The FAO is seeking millions of dollars, in urgent funds and another 200 million dollars, for the agricultural season until 2022.
“We are counting down to catastrophe, and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our own hands.”
– David Beasley, Executive Director of PMA