The World Food Program is warning of a dramatic rise in the number of hungry people in Afghanistan as fighting and displacement in the war-torn country intensify.
A United Nations assessment of the food security and nutrition situation in Afghanistan finds one in three Afghans face acute food insecurity. That means an estimated 14 million people in the war-torn country are barely able to meet their daily minimum food needs.
Because of the dire situation, the World Food Program says malnutrition levels are soaring, and some 2 million children need nutrition treatment to survive.
WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says the Afghan people are facing both an artificial and natural disaster, rendering them unable to feed their families. He says a poor harvest is projected as the country has been hit by a second drought in four years.
"We fear the worst is yet to come and a larger tide of hunger is fast approaching," Phiri said. "It is not a secret the situation has worsened and is becoming increasingly unpredictable. The conflict has accelerated much faster than we all anticipated. And the situation has all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Since the U.S. and NATO have accelerated their troop withdrawal from the country, Taliban insurgents have seized more than half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals. The militant group reportedly is closing in on the capital, Kabul.
While the drama is playing out, the hunger levels and suffering of the Afghan people are growing. Phiri says the WFP has provided food aid to more than 4 million people in the last three months.
Given the magnitude of the emergency, he says the WFP is planning to more than double the number of beneficiaries and hopes to reach 9 million people by December.
"Fighting has posed difficulties in moving humanitarian workers and assistance around the country," Phiri said. "Aid workers are working under extraordinary circumstances in Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the challenges, the World Food Program’s plan is to preposition food closest to peoples’ homes.”
The WFP has food stocks in warehouses across the country and a fleet of trucks to transport them but is appealing for $200 million to help pay for the operation.