SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 26 May 2024, Sunday |

Drought leaves Afghans hungry as economic collapse looms – U.N.

Many Afghans were struggling to feed their families due to a terrible drought long before Taliban insurgents seized control last month, and relief groups warn that millions may now risk famine as the nation becomes further isolated and the economy unravels.

“There are no national safety nets in place right now…

Since the 15th of August (when the Taliban took over), we’ve seen the crisis intensify and grow in tandem with the nation’s impending economic collapse “By videolink from Kabul, Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the World Food Programme’s country director in Afghanistan, told Reuters.

In an August video provided by the WFP, Afghan women wearing head to toe-covering burqas and men in turbans line up for supplies at a U.N. food distribution centre in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. A bearded man leaves carrying a sack of 46 kilos (101.4 pounds) of fortified wheat flour on his back.

“There are no crops, no rain, no water and people are living in misery. This is a great mercy from God and it really helps poor and needy people,” Delawar, who lives in Balkh province whose capital is Mazar, says in the video after getting rations for his family of eight.

Food prices have spiked since the second drought in four years ruined some 40% of the wheat crop, according to the WFP.

Millions of Afghans could soon face starvation due to the combination of conflict, drought and COVID-19, it has said. It has urgently appealed for $200 million, warning that WFP supplies will run out by October as winter sets in.

“The situation that we have unfolding at the moment is absolutely horrendous and could morph into just a humanitarian catastrophe,” said McGroarty.

“The Taliban depend on the U.N. and they know it – they can’t feed the population,” said another U.N. official who has worked in Afghanistan but declined to be identified.

Moreover, civil servants’ salaries are not being paid, the currency has depreciated, and banks have limited weekly withdrawals to $200 since the Taliban takeover, McGroarty said.

WFP has maintained operations throughout Afghanistan and has been able to import food from Uzbekistan and Pakistan, reaching 200,000 people with supplies in the past two weeks, she said, and hopes to restore an air bridge to Kabul airport.

‘PALLOR AND PAIN’

McGroarty, an Irish aid veteran, has met some of the 550,000 Afghans uprooted by fighting and drought this year, now living in makeshift tents. In June, she visited food centres in Mazar that distribute wheat flour, oil, lentils and salt.

    Source:
  • Reuters