Millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken to withdraw Afghanistan from the brink of collapse, a senior UN official warned, calling for the release of frozen funds for humanitarian efforts.
World Food Program (WFP) CEO David Beasley told Reuters that 22.8 million people – more than half of Afghanistan’s 39 million people – were facing acute food insecurity and “marching to hunger” compared to 14 million just two months ago.
“Children are going to die. People are going to starve. Things are going to get a lot worse,” he said in Dubai.
“I do not know how not to get millions of people, and especially children, dying at the rate we are going with the lack of funding and the collapse of the economy.”
Afghanistan was plunged into crisis in August after Taliban fighters ousted a Western-backed government, causing donors to withhold billions of dollars in aid to the aid-dependent economy.
‘Freeze these funds so people can survive’
The food crisis, exacerbated by climate change, was severe in Afghanistan even before the takeover of the Taliban, whose new administration has been blocked from accessing assets held abroad, while nations struggle with how to deal with the harsh Islamists.
Humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, confusion and fear for those fleeing:
“They can choose another way to punish the government, but… the existing punishment is for the people, for the children.” An Afghan doctor tells @OrmistonOnline on how the suspension of international aid to the country harms civilians: https://t.co/VcJNrHUQtS
“What we predict is coming true much faster than we expected. Kabul was falling faster than anyone expected and the economy is falling faster than that,” Beasley said.
He said that money earmarked for development aid should be recycled for humanitarian aid, as some nations have already done, or that frozen funds should be channeled through the agency.
“You have to free up those funds so people can survive.”
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization needs up to $ 220 million a month to partially feed the nearly 23 million vulnerable people as winter approaches.
Aid groups warn of potential migration crisis
Many Afghans sell property to buy food, and the Taliban are unable to pay salaries to officials. Urban communities are facing food insecurity for the first time at rural levels.
WFP used its own resources to help cover food aid until December, after some donors failed to meet promises, Beasley said, adding that with government funding already out, funds may need to be diverted from aid efforts in other countries.
Aid groups are urging countries concerned about human rights under the Taliban to engage with the new rulers to prevent a collapse that they say could trigger a migration crisis similar to the 2015 exodus from Syria that shook Europe.
“I do not think world leaders are aware of what is coming to them,” he said, listing several humanitarian crises in the Middle East, Africa and Central America.