Drought and low funding for food aid are taking their toll on Afghanistan. This coming fall will see a hunger crisis for millions of already impoverished Afghans. The consequences of this hunger will place in peril hopes for the country’s peace and development.
A report from USAID’s famine warning system points to “significant rainfed wheat crop losses, underperforming irrigated wheat crops, and poor pasture conditions in northern Afghanistan.”
The north is not the only area affected. The famine warning report also says, “Households in the central highlands and Badakshan have not cultivated spring rainfed wheat crops because of abnormally dry conditions.” Afghans in these drought-hit areas will need food assistance as early as the fall.
Over seven million people suffer from hunger in Afghanistan, with many more bordering on food insecurity. Due to this year’s drought and the reduced wheat harvest more Afghans will be joining the ranks of the hungry and food insecure. (WFP/Patrick Andrade)
Food shocks such as drought are a hardship for any population. But in Afghanistan, there are already high levels of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.
To make matters worse, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) continues to be low on funding for its Afghanistan relief mission. WFP relies on voluntary donations and at last report was short $202 million for its mission to feed seven million Afghans in 2011. Already, the low funding has forced cuts in the school meals program that feeds children while boosting their education.
The perfect storm of hunger, malnutrition, and possible famine is taking shape in Afghanistan. An already hungry and malnourished population is facing a cutback in food support. Now with the drought ruining food supplies, Afghanistan also faces a huge shortfall in wheat, even with use of its strategic reserve and various donations.
Challiss McDonough, a WFP spokesperson, says the agency “is concerned that this shortfall may lead to as many as three million people needing food assistance. These new needs come at a time when WFP is facing major resource shortfalls and only last month was forced to cut the number of people to be assisted almost in half.”
To make matters even worse for Afghanistan are proposals in the U.S. Congress to reduce funding for the Food for Peace and other hunger-fighting programs. Food is the vital ingredient Afghanistan needs, but for so many of its population it remains out of reach. The perfect storm of hunger is now descending.