Nearly 20 million Afghans face extreme hunger, UN says

Humanitarians have warned that nearly 20 million people in Afghanistan – almost half the population – are suffering from acute hunger in a UN-backed assessment released on Monday. The country’s most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) research has identified a pocket of “catastrophic” food insecurity in the northeast, affecting thousands of people. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a sister agency of the World Food Program (WFP), and a number of non-governmental groups collaborated on the study in January and February. Despite the fact that humanitarian aid helped stave off a food catastrophe in Afghanistan throughout the harsh winter, hunger remains at historic levels. The food security situation in the country, according to FAO Representative Richard Trenchard, is serious.

“Humanitarian assistance remains desperately important, as do the needs to rebuild shattered agricultural livelihoods and reconnect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country. Unless that happens, there will be no way out of this crisis,” he said. The IPC was developed in 2004 to determine the severity and extent of food insecurity and acute malnutrition situations in a country. The report projects a slight improvement in food security in Afghanistan from June to November, with the number of people facing acute food insecurity falling to 18.9 million.

This is partly due to the upcoming wheat harvest, which runs from May to August, as well as increased food aid this year and increased support for agriculture. “Food aid and emergency livelihood support are the lifeline of the Afghan people. We have mounted the world’s largest humanitarian food operation in months, reaching more than 16 million people since August 2021,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, Country Director and WFP Representative in Afghanistan. However, the report warns that any gains will be limited as persistent drought and economic crisis continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across the country.

Partners were particularly concerned that a small pocket of “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity – IPC 5, the highest phase of the scale – was detected, marking a first since the introduction of the scale in Afghanistan in 2011. The report says that although the upcoming harvest will bring some relief to millions, this relief will be short-lived for many. Fallout from the war in Ukraine continues to put pressure on wheat supply, food, agricultural inputs and fuel prices in Afghanistan. Additionally, access to seeds, fertilizers and water for irrigation is limited, job opportunities are scarce, and people have taken on huge debts to buy food in recent months.

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  • Nearly 20 million Afghans face extreme hunger, UN says
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