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Food insecurity startles Afghans: UN

KABUL: The United Nations and its partner agencies said that a large number of Afghan people have resorted to selling their properties or turned to relatives and friends for help as food insecurity doubled in the last year.

The Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC), a non-profit organization in Afghanistan, in its report “The 2015 Seasonal Food Security Assessment in Afghanistan (SFSA)” said that at the peak of the lean season the number of Afghans facing severe food insecurity increased from 4.7 percent of the population 12 months ago to 5.9 per cent today.

This means more than 1.5 million people are now considered severely food insecure, an increase of more than 317,000. Another 7.3 million people – more than one in every four Afghans – are classed as moderately food insecure, found the report.

Of greatest concern is the finding that the proportion of severely food insecure people who have already exhausted their capacity to cope with these emergencies has increased – meaning many more are now forced to sell land, take children out of school to work, or depend on relatives for support, it said.

The SFSA report indicates that the number of people engaged in these last ditch actions has doubled over the past year to more than 20 per cent of food insecure people across the country.

This will leave even more Afghan people significantly vulnerable to extreme poverty.

“When people resort to these measures, they have no resilience against future shocks,” said Claude Jibidar, Representative and Country Director of the UN World Food Program (WFP) in Afghanistan.

“Although Afghanistan will produce slightly more wheat this year, a large number of poor and hungry people will not be able to purchase food from the market,” said Tomio Shichiri, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in Afghanistan.

“It is a question of access to food rather than its production. Special attention needs to be given to female-headed households and displaced people to improve their access to, and improvements of agriculture-based livelihoods,” he said.

The report shows that female-headed households are almost 50 per cent more likely to be severely food insecure than other households in Afghanistan, having a much poorer diet than their peers and a much lower income.

A lack of funding could exacerbate this problem even further. “It is the last resort when farmers start selling productive assets such as livestock, machinery or land,” said Abdul Majid, FSAC Coordinator.

This is not only a loss for farmers but for the entire community – as skills and means for agricultural production will be lost – saturating the urban labor market, he said.

It is striking to know that one third of the Afghan population is food insecure and their situation continues to worsen, said Assadullah Zamir, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

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