KABUL – In a dire turn of events, the United Nations’ food agency announced on Tuesday that it will drop its food assistance to an additional 2 million people in Afghanistan this month due to a severe lack of funding.
The decision means that a staggering 10 million individuals will be deprived of the agency’s vital support in the country this year, as revealed in a statement by the World Food Programme. With these new cuts, the agency will only be able to provide food assistance to approximately one-fifth of the 15 million Afghans who desperately require it.
Hsiao-Wei Lee, the Director of WFP in Afghanistan, expressed the grim reality: “Amid already worrying levels of hunger and malnutrition, we are obliged to choose between the hungry and the starving, leaving millions of families scrambling for their next meal. With the few resources we have left, we are not able to serve all those people teetering on the edge of utter destitution.”
This unfortunate situation has arisen against the backdrop of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in August 2021, a development that led to the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces after two decades of war. Despite promises of a more moderate rule, the Taliban have implemented strict measures, including prohibiting Afghan women from working at local and non-governmental organizations.
Aid agencies have been a lifeline for Afghans in the face of economic collapse and the Taliban takeover. In March, WFP had to reduce rations from 75 to 50 percent for communities experiencing emergency levels of hunger. Subsequently, in April and May, they were forced to cut off aid to 8 million people. These cuts are particularly devastating for women, who now have limited options for making a living and feeding their children.
Tragically, these reductions mean that 1.4 million new and expecting mothers and their children are no longer receiving specialized food designed to prevent malnutrition. WFP anticipates a significant increase in admissions to nutrition centers as children’s hunger intensifies in the coming months.
For the next six months, WFP urgently requires $1 billion in funding to reach their planned 21 million people with lifesaving food and nutrition assistance, as well as livelihood support. This includes funds to pre-position food for communities that will be isolated during the harsh Afghan winter.