More than 22 million Afghans will suffer “acute food insecurity” this winter, UN agencies said on October 26, warning the already unstable country faces one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
World Food Programme executive director David Beasley said: “This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance.”
The crisis is already bigger in scale than that facing Yemen or Syria, and worse than any food insecurity emergency apart from the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials told AFP.
“Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst – and food security has all but collapsed,” Beasley said in a statement.
“We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands.”
According to the statement issued by the World Food Programme and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, one in two Afghans faces Phase 3 “crisis” or Phase 4 “emergency” food shortages.
Phase 4 is one step below a famine, and officials told AFP that Afghanistan – already struggling to emerge from a 20-year civil war – is facing its worst winter in a decade.
In August, the hardline Islamist Taliban overthrew the US-backed regime and declared an interim government, vowing to restore stability.
But the Taliban still face a range of international sanctions and a campaign of bloody attacks by rival hardliners the Islamic State – while climate change has made Afghanistan’s droughts more frequent and intense.
In the west of the country, thousands of poor families have already sold their flocks and fled, seeking shelter and assistance in packed temporary camps near major cities.