Afghanistan on the brink of facing a food crisis

Even as Afghanistan’s economy is falling apart, international countries are reluctant to engage with the Taliban and the sanctions imposed against the new government are posing a major threat to the supply of food in the country.

 

Following the takeover of the erstwhile government by Taliban insurgents in August, 2021, there was an overarching economic upheaval which plunged Afghanistan into an acute situation. The sanctions imposed by major international organisations including global ones like the International Monetary Fund, has worsened the prospects of its populace. The US government continues to block access to USD 10 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves.

Many international forums and political commentators blamed the two decade long conflict on deep-structural corruption, security challenges as well as the ongoing global healthcare emergency.

Image credit: Sohaib Ghyasi, Unsplash


Hunger and food security still remain to be one of the main concerns for the Afghans. The UN World Food Programme has called for immediate action to protect millions of people from starvation. Over 22.8 million of them – which constitutes close to half of the country’s population, are facing food insecurity. And, the situation is only likely to worsen from November onwards as warned by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report.


Impact on children

While 3.2 million children under the age of 5 are presently prone to malnutrition, many are in immediate need of treatment for severe malnutrition. As per the United Nations, nearly 14 million Afghans are “facing acute food insecurity”. The Global World Hunger index recently ranked Afghanistan 101 out of 116 positions in 2021. The crisis is so widespread that nearly 72 percent of the population are living below the poverty line. Since March, more than 17 children have reportedly died due to starvation.

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been repeatedly cautioning that Afghanistan is on the brink of collapse: “Afghanistan is now stuck among the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” the Executive Director, World Food Programme, David Beasley said. “We are on a countdown to catastrophe,” he warned.


Image credit: Joel Heard, Unsplash.


Even though the world community pledged to provide humanitarian assistance in September, the World Food Programme has argued that the USD 1 billion offered to Afghanistan is quite less than the USD 220 million per month required to secure and remove the risk of facing hunger in the country.


Growing concern

As the winter approaches, millions of Afghans might be forced to decide between facing starvation and an inevitable migration. Owing to the long infighting between the Afghan forces and the Taliban, as many as 3.5 million people have been displaced according to the United Nations. Those who moved to makeshift camps couldn't afford to travel back to their homes.

The plight of the people is such that one in two Afghans are going through the “Phase 3 crisis” or “Phase 4 emergency food shortages” (which means they are just one step below from experiencing famine), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, noted.

Meanwhile, to limit the damage and prevent a large population of Afghans from plunging into a food crisis, it is imperative to engage with the Taliban regime and reach out to those in need. The role of international organisations is deemed critical to bring in humanitarian relief supplies and provide steadfast financial support.

 

Edited by Roshni Shroff

Written by Umer Beigh

 

Some resources to get to know more about the situation in Afghanistan:

Taliban are back - what next for Afghanistan?

Half of Afghanistan's population face acute hunger as humanitarian needs grow to record levels