Drought leaves Afghans hungry as economic collapse looms: UN

GENEVA: Many Afghans were struggling to feed their families amid severe drought well before Taliban militants seized power last month and millions may now face starvation with the country isolated and the economy unravelling, aid agencies say.

“In the current context there are no national safety nets…Since the 15th of August (when the Taliban took over), we have seen the crisis accelerate and magnify with the imminent economic collapse that is coming this country’s way,” Mary-Ellen McGroarty, World Food Programme country director in Afghanistan, told Reuters by videolink from Kabul.

Food prices have spiked since the second drought in four years ruined some 40% of the wheat crop, according to the WFP.

Millions of Afghans could soon face starvation due to the combination of conflict, drought and COVID-19, it has said. It has urgently appealed for $200 million, warning that WFP supplies will run out by October as winter sets in.

“The situation that we have unfolding at the moment is absolutely horrendous and could morph into just a humanitarian catastrophe,” said McGroarty.

“The Taliban depend on the U.N. and they know it – they can’t feed the population,” said another U.N. official who has worked in Afghanistan but declined to be identified.

Moreover, civil servants’ salaries are not being paid, the currency has depreciated, and banks have limited weekly withdrawals to $200 since the Taliban takeover, McGroarty said.

WFP has maintained operations throughout Afghanistan and has been able to import food from Uzbekistan and Pakistan, reaching 200,000 people with supplies in the past two weeks, she said, and hopes to restore an air bridge to Kabul airport. – Reuters