Tens of millions of Afghans do not have access to food, and that number is expected to increase during the winter months as the economic situation exacerbates the crisis.
Roughly 22.8 million Afghans, more than half the country’s population, are expected to face “acute food insecurity” from last month through March 2022, according to projections from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. That would mark a 35% increase from the same time period a year earlier, It would also be the highest ever for the country, with 8.7 million people facing emergency-level food insecurity.
Within that population, more than 3 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year, with a million of them at risk of death, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization projected last month, according to Reuters.
Put another way, 93% of Afghans had insufficient food consumption roughly a month after the Taliban overthrew the Ghani government, 13 percentage points higher than it was on the day it collapsed, according to the World Food Program’s Afghanistan Food Security Update from September.
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"This is a time of the year when, for many, their harvest has run out; they’re also grappling with other health challenges (measles, pneumonia, etc.); there are fewer labor opportunities (i.e., compared to planting season when they had seasonal labor opportunities)," a WFP spokesperson said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. "For these reasons, winter has always been when we plan for the highest levels of food assistance and this is why we are doing everything we can right now to get the most assistance out that we can."
When the Taliban took control of the country, the U.S. State Department approved a noncombatant emergency operation to evacuate Americans, third-country nationals, and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan. The military was able to rescue roughly 120,000 people throughout August, which concluded the United States’s 20-year war in Afghanistan.
The fact sheet, which doesn’t include how many surveys were conducted, just that it spanned 34 provinces, also warned that half of all families ran out of food at least once in the previous two weeks, up from 43% from the Aug. 15 date signifying when the government fell. The percentage of families reporting having challenges to market accessibility increased from 18.8% to 23.4% as a result of security concerns stemming from the Taliban's takeover.
The U.S. froze roughly $10 billion of funds that belonged to the Taliban, which has contributed to the economic downturn. The International Monetary Fund also blocked the release of roughly $450 million in August in the week after the Taliban’s rise.
Since then, Taliban officials have sought to convince the U.S. to give them access to those funds to help Afghans.
“The country is on the brink of economic collapse, with the local currency at an all-time low and food prices on the rise,” the WFP website says. “Almost half of children under 5 [years old] and a quarter of pregnant and breastfeeding women need life-saving nutrition support in the next 12 months.”
The three biggest factors of the food crisis are the drought, conflict, and the collapse of the government, the IPC said in its analysis.
In early August, the local currency, the Afghan, was trading at about 80 to the dollar, but it rose to more than 110 briefly earlier this month, according to the Associated Press.
"A spiralling economic crisis is pushing people deeper into hunger, the afghan currency is at a 10-year low, 2021 has been catastrophic for the people of Afghanistan, an economic implosion with drought, conflict and COVID-19, the collapse of public services are pushing people to the brink of starvation," the WFP spokesperson added.
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Earlier this month, 39 House lawmakers wrote to the State Department and Treasury Department calling for them to act to “prevent a humanitarian disaster” without helping the Taliban government.
“The people of Afghanistan, whom we have fought with and for over the last 20 years, are on the verge of famine and economic collapse and believe that decisive action is needed to prevent a humanitarian disaster,” they wrote. “No one benefits from a failed state in Afghanistan.”
Additionally, the WFP is seeking to get $220 million a month from the U.S. to help feed Afghans.