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Looming Food Crisis in Afghanistan: 1.1 Million Children on the Verge of Starvation

Since the takeover, the Taliban regime has waged constant unrest and war in Afghanistan. The newest in the queue is in the form of wheat shortage leading the nation to a severe food crisis.

Recent estimates by United Nations estimate a spiking number of hungry, wasting-away children admitted into hospital wards. The report predicts at least 1.1 million children under the age of five are at risk of slipping into severe malnutrition by the end of 2022.

A Starving Afghanistan

The line for food aid begins to snake around the block hours before the gates open. Hundreds of hungry Afghans queue up in the Kabul neighborhood under the keen vigilance of armed Taliban guards to collect their meager monthly rations.

Pointing to her skinny daughter Reyhana, Simin, an Afghan woman waiting for her turn in the queue, says, “She would die if we did not have this aid“. With an unemployed husband, the couple now completely relies on aid services to feed their six children.

Afghans waiting for their monthly rations
Afghans waiting for their monthly rations

The once prosperous, middle-class neighborhood of the Afghan capital is also not spared from the economic collapse and starvation brought upon by the Taliban’s takeover. Millions of empty stomachs now rely on the aid distributions like this; where each family receives a 50 kg bag of flour, some beans, cooking oil, and salt.

Spanning over the country, the food aid feeds over 20 million people and has become a critical lifeline for Afghanistan.

Taliban officials, however, are planning to cut back on the food program as the financial shortfalls widen. In addition, the Russia-Ukraine war, international reluctance to contribute, and global inflation have further added to Afghanistan’s skyrocketing price of food.

And, given the uncertainties, the Taliban is now preparing for the impending winter crisis.

A Disturbing Picture

Approximately 23 million people suffer from severe hunger, with youngsters bearing the brunt of the issue. According to the U.N., 14 million children are at risk of starving, and over 1.1 million children under five will likely suffer from the most severe form of malnutrition this year.

As the country’s poverty level rises and more Afghans become desperate for help; a growing number of hungry, wasting children crowd the already packed medical wards on a regular basis.

To make matters worse, the war in Ukraine is driving up global food costs, and pledges of international support have so far failed to materialize. They are, however, straining to keep up with the ever-worsening conditions. As a result, the most vulnerable suffer, including children and women fighting to feed their families.

According to humanitarian agencies, Afghan children starve to death practically every day. Parents hold underweight newborns in Afghanistan hospitals, despite overcrowded rooms with ill youngsters, in heartbreaking photographs.

The news report below by DW news shows the horrifying reality of Afghanistan:

Afghanistan’s worsening food crisis

But what has led Afghanistan to this nightmare?

Why is Afghanistan Starving?

The roots of Afghanistan’s severe food crisis are multifaceted. First, the international community’s cut-off of non-humanitarian aid, frozen assets abroad, imposed sanctions on the new regime, and the worst drought in forty years have led Afghanistan’s fragile institution to an economic and humanitarian crisis.

With hospital wards packed with malnourished kids, Afghanistan’s hunger crisis is worsening daily. Facing one of the most acute droughts in decades, the aid-reliant middle-Eastern Nation is amidst a massive economic crisis.

The three major contributors to the current food crisis are:

Climate Catastrophe coupled with Taliban Takeover.

The La Nia of 2021 hit the country at the worst possible time. With the political upheaval in Afghanistan, the hardline Islamist party stormed to power in August 2021, buoyed by the United States’ disorderly exit from the country following a 20-year conflict.

Afghanistan’s wheat output decreased by 30% during last year’s harvest, resulting in a country’s food shortage. It was further worsened with the drought that began in 2021, which turned out to be the worst drought in forty years.

Drought in Afghanistan
Drought in Afghanistan Source: The Indian Express

Moreover, with the Taliban cutting on food aid, Afghanistan’s cry for more food is becoming increasingly difficult to answer.

International Sanctions Imposed on Afghanistan

Following the Taliban’s takeover, financial help was abruptly cut off, worsening the country’s dearth of basic necessities. During the US-led era, the international community paid over 80% of the Afghan government’s budget, including ministries and public services like education and healthcare. 

However, post the Taliban takeover, the U.S. has blocked nearly $9 billion of Afghanistan’s central bank reserves to prevent the Taliban administration from obtaining the assets. 

Lack of Funding

The United Nations and other aid agencies supplying help in the country are increasingly running out of resources. Melanie Galvin, chief of UNICEF Afghanistan, highlights the steep fall in funding in the past couple of months.

When the U.S. troops left the lands, most western funding vanished quickly.

In December 2021, Unicef issued its largest-ever single country appeal for aid and funding of $2billion for Afghanistan. Over a million malnourished children are standing on the verge of death. Pushing even the recovered children in diabetes, obesity, and depression, the current food crisis could have lasting health issues for an entire generation.

Afghans Forced to Pay a Heavy Grevious Price

Current Afghanistan is no place to be young. To the starving young children, it doesn’t matter that the Americans have gone and the Taliban is now ruling the country. What matters is that they don’t have enough to eat, and they are forced slowly but inevitably towards demise.

Aid organizations need funding to help the starving children and dying hope.

Nothing is worse than watching your child die out of hunger. Yet, thousands of Afghans are forced to live with this agonizing reality. As cold little bodies line up in the hospitals, the cry for help scorches louder. Decades of fighting have ended, and yet another generation seems born to suffer.