The hunger crisis is dangerously escalating in Afghanistan. Drought has struck 14 provinces putting over two million people at risk of severe hunger and malnutrition. The response of international donors has been poor despite warnings being issued by aid agencies. Only 7% of the UN drought appeal has been funded to this point.
Fields of Dust: This should be a wheat field, but nothing has been harvested from here this year. The poorest farmers don’t have any irrigation systems for their fields and rely entirely on rain – which came late and sparse in the winter of 2010/2011. In the 14 provinces of Afghanistan affected by the drought, farmers have lost an average of 80 percent of the rain-fed harvest. (WFP/Silke Buhr)
Mazuri-Bibi is in her kitchen with her two children. Her entire food stocks are here: a bag of wheat from last year’s harvest, which will last her a month (WFP/Silke Buhr)
Earlier this fall Oxfam warned that in the 14 drought-affected provinces, "Many people in these areas were already suffering from chronic hunger. Nearly three quarters of the people living in the affected areas told relief agencies in August that they would run out of food in less than two months."
Today a joint statement from Oxfam and other aid agencies said the drought and food shortages are taking their toll in communities, "from the closure of schools, forced migration in order to find food and work and already vulnerable families forced deeper into debt in order to get through the winter."
Manohar Shenoy, the Afghanistan country director for Oxfam says, "Time was already running short. With snow falling in the highlands, the situation for many people has now become critical."
Many Afghan children had already lost their school feeding ration earlier this year when low funding for the UN World Food Programme forced cutbacks.
Shenoy says, “To survive, already vulnerable people are pushing themselves and their families to the extreme: sliding even deeper into debt and selling all rather than just some of their livestock. Meanwhile the chronic child labour problems in Afghanistan are being exacerbated, as younger children are being forced to work more, for less money. In the worst cases, destitute families are forced to marry off young girls and sell teenage sons to agents who then send them to work in cities. This not only causes anguish, but reverses important gains that Afghan society has made."