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FAO urges action to save lives of millions in Afghanistan

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KABUL: The UN agencies are extremely concerned at the escalation of humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, urging a global action to pull millions of Afghans back from the brink.

Food insecurity, acute starvation, and hunger continue to plague numerous regions worldwide, with Afghanistan ranking among the most affected countries.

U.N. agencies are sounding the alarm about the risk of starvation in Afghanistan. The World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) both call for attention to save lives from food insecurity. 

The FAO Director General, Qu Dongyu said, “immediate action” is needed “to pull people back from the brink of hunger, help them rebuild their lives and provide long-term solutions to address the root causes of food insecurities.” Executive director of the WFP, Cindy McCain added that there will be “catastrophic consequences” unless there is action “to help people adapt to a changing climate and ultimately prevent famine.” 

There are 15.3 million people living in acute food insecurity in Afghanistan in 2023, representing 35% of the population. Afghanistan is marked as a hotspot of highest concern for food insecurity in the FAO-WFP outlook report on hunger hotspots for June to November 2023. 

Afghanistan has experienced natural hazards in the past, such as droughts. It is currently facing below-average rainfall combined with above-average temperatures, leading to water scarcity for crop growth this season. 

The economic situation in Afghanistan has further deteriorated due to a reduction in foreign aid from humanitarian funding and from exports, caused by ongoing sanctions imposed by the donor governments on the Taliban.

The Taliban’s ban on female education, employment and participation in the humanitarian response poses a challenge to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and places more constraints on those most vulnerable: women and children. Approximately 3.2 million children and 804,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished, according to the FAO-WFP findings.

Last month, for example, the UN found that 85% of Afghans were living below the poverty line, an increase of 15 million people since 2020. They polish shoes, wash cars, beg in the streets or work in mines. Female-led households that previously relied on cash and food assistance have lost those sources of livelihood since the ban on organizations by the Taliban in December. A survey by the REACH initiative found that the prevalence of child labor is higher in female-led households than male-led households.

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