On Monday Diane Sawyer hosted a special on Afghanistan for ABC News. She posed the question: Are we winning the war? Well, we are certainly losing the war there against hunger and poverty.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says there are “7.3 million vulnerable and food-insecure Afghans.” You cannot win the peace in Afghanistan if hunger and malnutrition are so widespread.
Part of Sawyer’s coverage for Afghanistan might as well have started back in December when she hosted a 20/20 special, “Be the Change: Save a Life.” One of the features was about the life-saving food for children, called plumpynut.
Sawyer even remarked that every needy country should have a supply of this food. Plumpynut, or its variations such as supplementary plumpy or plumpydoz, is a special peanut paste that saves children from life-threatening or damaging malnutrition.
Afghanistan most certainly needs plumpynut as it has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in the world. One in five children dies before their fifth birthday. Nutrition and health for children and mothers is a most pressing issue facing this country.
Right now the World Food Programme is facing a shortage of funding for its hunger fighting programs in Afghanistan. WFP depends on voluntary funding from the international community. Supplementary plumpy is one of the foods in need.
WFP says there are “shortfalls in Ready-to-use Supplementary Food which will impact over 175,000 children under five (Mother and Child Health Nutrition Programme) country-wide in the coming months.”
Cutting food rations for Afghan children is hardly a way to go about winning the peace. This is certainly an area where policy makers in the U.S., and its allies, are deserving of criticism. WFP currently faces a $220 million shortage in funding to fight hunger there for the rest of the year.
Other agencies, including the Red Cross, Save the Children, Oxfam, the Aschiana Foundation, and Catholic Relief Services also need support for their much-needed relief work in Afghanistan.
It is right for Sawyer and others to scrutinize Afghanistan and whether there can be an end to the fighting, and a beginning of real peace. But this has to be examined in a comprehensive sense.
The issue of hunger and malnutrition, all too often ignored in the media and policymaking, needs to become a top priority.
This means food for infants in Afghanistan as well as for the 600,000 street children in the country. It means restoring funding for school feeding and expanding it to reach all children.