The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced this week it’s been forced to cut food aid to millions of impoverished Afghans.
So while much focus has been on the U.S. withdrawal of troops, what is now occurring is a withdrawal of food aid to a hungry and malnourished population.
Children will be forced to go without meals they receive at school. Food for Work and Food for Training projects, which Afghanistan needs to rebuild, will be stopped. The cuts impact about half of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
WFP said on Monday it “had originally planned to feed more than 7 million people in Afghanistan in 2011, but a shortage of donor funds means the agency will now only reach about 3.8 million people this year.”
The organization depends on voluntary donations to feed the hungry. There was plenty of advance warning about this scenario, including columns posted here.
While all this is unfolding, the Congress is proposing budget cuts to international food aid. This will harm efforts to win peace and achieve reconstruction in Afghanistan and many other countries.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, a country where U.S. troops are trying to win the peace, low rainfall this year means a reduced crop. Food prices are high. In an already hungry and malnourished country, things can be expected to get worse in the coming months.
Without food, how can we expect Afghans to work, to learn, to progress? How can we expect peace? Food is the foundation of all these things.
We cannot seriously go about winning the peace in Afghanistan unless we address the country’s basic needs, and that starts with food.
The school feeding program is a perfect example. If given enough funding, we can have every Afghan child receiving a meal and at the same time boosting their education.
Instead we have policies in Afghanistan, as well as other countries, that ignore hunger and malnutrition. It’s not that these programs are all that expensive either. WFP needs about $220 million to restore its regular feeding programs. A coalition of nations could combine on this relatively inexpensive, and essential investment. It’s what the Afghan people need.
Retired Army Col. John Agoglia, former Director of the Counterinsurgency Training in Afghanistan, recently wrote, “When communities have little hope for the future, they have little hope for peace.”
Agoglia, a contributor to a recent Save the Children report, adds “In Afghanistan, you get a strong sense of the long-term impact of basic solutions. When we brought in medicines and some basic food and health care for those village women, we saw an immediate effect.”
It is food that wards off malnutrition and disease, feeds bodies and also minds. Food means hope for Afghan families that have precious little of this.