The combined impacts of drought, conflict, Covid-19 pandemic and an economic crisis in in Afghanistan, have left more than half of the country’s population – a record 22,8 million people – of acute hunger.
This is the finding of the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report issued by the Food Security and Agriculture cluster of Afghanistan, co-led by the Food and Agriculture organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), requiring an urgent international response to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
Speaking today from Kabul via zoom to journalists at the United Nations in Geneva, Mary-Ellen McGroaty, WFP Country Director in Afghanistan, said that “8.7 million people are in what is termed IPC 4, just one step away from starvation. There is a tsunami of destitution, incredible suffering and hunger spiralling out of control across Afghanistan, pushing millions and millions of its people, its children, its women, families in every corner of the country to the brink of survival and the country towards potential chaos”.
The report also notes that this is the highest number of acutely food insecure people ever recorded in the ten years the UN has been conducting IPC analyses in Afghanistan. Prior August, one in three Afghans were severely food insecure. Currently, it’s almost one in every two people in the country facing acute hunger.
“A lot of those young children that are now in hospital are at the very brink. It’s you know, MSF (Médecins sans frontières) and others said they will not make it. So, many of them, particularly children, are not far from starvation,” WFP’s country director said.
Afghanistan’s harsh winter looms threatening to cut off areas of the country where families desperately depend on humanitarian assistance to survive winter.
“Many many innocent Afghans are at risk of dying this winter alone”, stated WFP’s Afghanistan’s country director. “Tragically these numbers confirm that: not only is Afghanistan becoming the world’s largest humanitarian crisis: but also these numbers encapsulate the pace and scale of the crisis so rapidly unfolding in recent weeks”.
According to WFP, an already dire situation has deteriorated on a daily basis over the past two months. Since the fall of the Kabul government in mid-august, the country is witnessing an economic meltdown – a loss of 40% of its GDP and the suspension of international budget support which is over 70 % of the government budget.
“Desperate people will take desperate decisions, from selling their children as we have all seen reported in the media, migrating in search of support, or sadly joining radical groups that offer short term solutions. And this is not a short-term crisis, the continuing economic meltdown will bring further hardship, misery and hunger”, said Mary-Ellen McGroaty.
WFP reached over 4 million people in September and for the month of October it will be around 5 million Afghans that have been assisted with food supplies. WFP and FAO aim to reach 18 million people by the end of the year.
Joining also from Kabul via Zoom, Dick Trenchard, FAO Representative in Afghanistan, said that “Afghanistan is experiencing the emergency unfolding of a humanitarian crisis in an unprecedented scale and in an unprecedented speed. 18.8 million people are today facing acute food insecurity. That’s to say: hunger on a daily basis”.
FAO stressed, that agriculture is also the bedrock of Afghanistan’s economy accounting for 45 percent of the total workforce and 25 percent of the GDP.
“As they have done so many times in the past, Afghanistan’s farmers, livestock owners and herders, will play a key role to bring Afghanistan back from the brink of catastrophe”, said Dick Trenchard. “Let’s remember, 75 percent of Afghan’s people live in rural areas. Agriculture makes an enormous contribution: 25 percent plus to the country’s GDP.”
Therefore, sustaining agriculture is key to keeping the country’s economy afloat. Farmers now need urgent support in the form of seeds, fertilizers, animal feed and training. FAO highlights, that considering seven out of 10 Afghans live in rural areas, triggering rural migration might create a serious problem, adding to the already over 600,000 people that have been internally displaced this year.
“As long as farmers have seeds in their fields and they can stay with their herds, they will stay in these rural communities and we will see catastrophe avert. If we don’t, agriculture stumbles, continues to stumble. Let’s remember, the draught that has affected Afghanistan since late 2020, is projected, is forecast, to continue well until 2022 next year”, said Mr. Trenchard from WFP.
FAO needs USD 11,4 million until the end of the year to provide urgent support to agricultural livelihoods. Funding needs for 2022 are being expected to grow exponentially.