UN food agency ends aid to 2 mn Afghanistan over lack of funding

UN food agency ends aid to 2 mn Afghanistan

WFP officials in Afghanistan said it can only give emergency aid to 3 million people per month

Centreline Report

UNITED NATIONS, A global funding shortfall is forcing the World Food Programme (WFP), a Rome-based UN agency, to drop 2 million people from food assistance in Afghanistan on top of the 8 million the organization stopped helping earlier, the programme said  Tuesday.

WFP officials in Afghanistan said it can only give emergency aid to 3 million people per month.

“Amid already worrying levels of hunger and malnutrition, we are obliged to choose between the hungry and the starving, leaving millions of families scrambling for their next meal,” said Hsiao-Wei Lee, WFP’s Country Director Representative based in Kabul.

In March, the UN food agency had to reduce rations from 75 to 50 per cent for communities experiencing emergency levels of hunger. In the following two months, it was forced to cut off food assistance to eight million people.

This brings the total number of people forced to go without WFP support this year in the country to a staggering 10 million – whilst more than one-third of the population go to bed hungry every night.

The UN agency emphasized that this will add to an already “dire situation” and have severe consequences for civilians. This is particularly true for women who are increasingly being marginalized in Afghan society, owing to their narrowing options for making a living or to feed their children.

Since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021, they have issued a cascade of restrictive orders that amounts to “extreme institutionalized gender-based discrimination” and a systematic chipping away of the rights of women and girls, according to UN-appointed human rights experts.

The cuts also mean that approximately 1.4 million new and expecting mothers and their children are no longer receiving specialized food designed to prevent malnutrition, which will cause a sharp rise in admissions to nutrition centres, the agency warned.

Echoing that message, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that Afghanistan is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with a “serious risk of systemic collapse and human catastrophe”.

Two years since the Taliban took control, 29.2 million people are now in need of assistance – over two-thirds of the country’s population.

To respond to the funding crisis, WFP has urged the international community to provide an additional $1 billion over the next six months, in order to reach 21 million people with lifesaving aid. This includes pre-positioning food for remote communities ahead of the looming, harsh winter.

“A small window of opportunity remains to avert catastrophe in Afghanistan, but we are running out of time,” said Ms. Lee.

“The cost of inaction will be paid by the most vulnerable women and children reeling from the impact of 40 years of conflict, a crippled economy and a worsening climate crisis.”

WFP also reported it is going through “a crippling funding crisis”, forcing it to scale back life-saving assistance globally when acute hunger is at record levels. Almost half of WFP’s country operations have had to cut the size and scope of their assistance programmes.

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