UN food agency reduces food rations in Afghanistan due to lack of funding

The World Food Programme (WFP) in Afghanistan is cutting life-saving assistance for at least four million people in March due to a funding crisis, according to the United Nations (UN) food agency. The WFP has appealed for urgent funding to help families battling a growing hunger crisis since the Taliban takeover in 2021. The agency has warned that without sustained humanitarian support, catastrophic hunger could become widespread across Afghanistan, and hundreds of thousands more people will need assistance to survive.

The lack of funds means that at least four million people will receive only half of what they need to get by in March. As food stocks have run out before the next harvest, which is due in May, WFP says this is traditionally the most difficult time of year for rural families. The cuts come just as already vulnerable Afghans are emerging from yet another freezing winter. Sub-zero temperatures combined with economic distress have pushed millions into despair.

WFP urgently needs $93 million to assist 13 million people in April and $800 million for the next six months. Although donors gave record amounts in 2022, since November last year, WFP had been warning that funds would run out just as the lean season is reaching its peak in March and April.

The country is at the highest risk of famine in a quarter of a century, with half of all families living in crisis-coping mode to survive. For millions in Afghanistan, WFP’s food assistance is now the “last lifeline”. Since August 2022, nine out of 10 Afghan families cannot afford enough food, which is the highest in the world. Nearly 20 million Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from, and six million of them are one step away from famine.

Levels of moderate acute malnutrition are the highest ever recorded in the country. Two thirds of the population, more than 28 million people, need humanitarian assistance in 2023, which is almost triple the number in 2021.

WFP massively scaled up its assistance across Afghanistan in 2022, thanks to generous funding. The agency supported 23 million people, distributing more than one million metric tonnes of food and $326 million in cash or vouchers to help families survive. However, since the Taliban takeover, the economic and political situation in the country has worsened, causing a funding crisis.

The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, called on donors to increase funding to support Afghan civilians. Guterres said that the country’s most vulnerable people urgently need aid, and that the UN is committed to staying and delivering in Afghanistan. He added that the UN had already put forward an emergency appeal to raise funds to cover the humanitarian needs of millions of Afghans, and that donors’ response had so far been limited.

The UN has warned of the dangers of a wider economic collapse and the risk of the Taliban becoming a source of instability and terrorism if the humanitarian crisis deepens. The world must act fast to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan, said the UN.

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