UNITED NATIONS, Dec 02 (APP): With millions in Afghanistan facing starvation as winter arrives, the World Food Programme (WFP), a Rome-based UN agency, on Thursday urged countries to put politics aside and step up support to avert a potential catastrophe.
Humanitarian needs in the country had increased, the agency said, with all 34 provinces facing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.
As a result, some 23 million Afghans require urgent food assistance, a figure never seen before. This includes more than three million children who are at risk of severe hunger and the life-threatening consequences of malnutrition.
“The international community have very real concerns and at this time we need to separate the humanitarian imperative from the political discussions,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Afghanistan Country Director.
“The people of Afghanistan, the innocent people of Afghanistan, the children of Afghanistan who have had their lives upended through no fault of their own, cannot be condemned to hunger and starvation just because of the lottery of geopolitics and the lottery of birth.”
WFP is seeking US $ 2.6 billion for its operations in Afghanistan over the coming year.
WFP said visits to remote areas of the country have revealed the plight of citizens coping amid the impacts of a prolonged drought, economic collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic, coming on top of years of conflict, which culminated in the Taliban’s takeover of the country in August.
The rising cost of wheat has led to an 80 per cent increase in the price of bread,
a “staple” for many families, it said.
In some areas, people are compensating by consuming a variety of wheat that has been known to cause neurological problems. Many are surviving on bread and tea with milk, sometimes even using a non-nutritional whitener when they can’t afford the real thing.
Meanwhile, economic collapse has left many jobless and unable to buy food for their families.
In the northern city of Faizabad, for example, school principals, teachers and government workers are among residents now selling personal effects such as teacups, paint rollers and clothing on the streets.
After almost 10 years, WFP staff are now able to access the village of Aqkoprok, located several hours south of the regional hub of Mazar-i-Sharif. Although students there are now back in school, most teachers have not been paid since July.
WFP reported that Aqkoprok has seen a 30 per cent increase in severe and moderate malnutrition since October, a situation that is reflected across the country.
More than half of Afghanistan’s population is facing acute hunger, and 3.2 million children are suffering from malnutrition.
But with winter setting in, the agency underscored the imperative not to wait a moment longer.