KABUL: In the face of an escalating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been compelled to make yet another distressing decision — cutting off food assistance for an additional 2 million hungry people in September.
This exacerbates an already dire situation, bringing the total number of individuals deprived of vital support from WFP to a staggering 10 million this year alone, all due to a massive funding shortfall. Looking ahead, WFP is left with the capacity to provide emergency assistance to only 3 million people each month, presenting a heart-wrenching dilemma for the organization.
Hsiao-Wei Lee, WFP’s Country Director in Afghanistan, highlights the difficult choice between aiding the hungry and addressing the needs of those on the brink of starvation. This funding crisis leaves millions of families in uncertainty about their next meal, intensifying the prevailing crisis of hunger and malnutrition in the country.
This latest development is a continuation of previous cuts, with WFP having to reduce rations in March for communities facing emergency levels of hunger. Subsequently, in April and May, 8 million people were forced off food assistance. The ramifications of these cuts are severe, particularly for women who often rely on WFP as a crucial lifeline, providing options for making a living and feeding their children.
The recent cuts imply that 1.4 million new and expecting mothers, along with their children, are no longer receiving specialized food designed to prevent malnutrition. WFP anticipates a surge in admissions to nutrition centers as children become more vulnerable to hunger.
Urgent funding is paramount, with WFP requiring $1 billion over the next six months to reach the planned 21 million people with life-saving food, nutrition assistance, and livelihood support. This includes securing funds to pre-position food for communities expected to be cut off during the harsh Afghan winter.
The funding crisis compounds the challenges faced by Afghanistan, grappling with the impact of 40 years of conflict, a crippled economy, and a worsening climate crisis. WFP warns that the cost of inaction will be borne by the most vulnerable, especially women and children reeling from the compounding crises.
This announcement precedes the 78th annual UN General Assembly in New York, where world leaders will discuss key global challenges, including hunger. As the global hunger crisis intensifies, WFP urgently calls on donor governments to prioritize funding for humanitarian operations. WFP, currently ensnared in a debilitating funding crisis, emphasizes the critical need for immediate action to avert a catastrophe in Afghanistan.