97% of Afghan population now facing food shortages: UN

Millions of Afghans are now experiencing intense food shortages following the collapse of the former government and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) takeover in August.

As Muslims around the world celebrated Eid-Uk-Fitr, experts say that for most Afghans, it was simply another day of struggle to put food on the table.

According to the United Nations, 97 percent of Afghans are experiencing food shortages.

Following the IEA’s takeover in August, most Western aid was stopped. Hospitals and schools are unable to pay their employees, and many people are unable to purchase food, exacerbating an already dire crisis.

In a phone interview from her home in Afghanistan, a woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told Canada’s CTV News that she and her children struggled during Ramadan after months of limited access to food, which meant they had little to eat to break their fast in the evenings.

She says that without an adult male family member, their main source of income has been cut off, and the meal they received from a local charity on Eid for iftar was their first complete meal in months.

“When it comes to food shortages, it is so much worse than we can see,” said Noorain Noorani, the executive director of The Zahra Foundation, a registered charity with offices in Canada and the U.K. working to provide food and safe drinking water to impacted communities in Afghanistan.

“Political instability has continued to lead to displacement, loss of income, and access to education, and is contributing to the ongoing cycle of chronic poverty,” she said.

Over the past few months, the country has suffered a deadly series of bombings, including at mosques in Kabul, Kunduz and Mazar-e Sharif – an increased level of violence that Noorani says is compounding the food crisis.

The Zahra Foundation is one of the many organizations on the ground in Afghanistan that offered meal packages on Eid as Muslims broke their fasts with iftar.

“On Eid, we offered meals to anyone who needed them, and not just the civilians who’ve registered with us. But in the past few months, there are now more people on the waitlist than ever before,” said Noorani.

According to the United Nations World Food Program, more than 22 million people, or more than half of the country’s population, are suffering from acute hunger, with the majority unable to predict when their next meal would arrive.

This is a significant rise from September 2020, when over 14 million people were on the verge of becoming hungry. According to the group, 97 percent of the population had insufficient food consumption in December, and they were adopting ways to cope with their circumstances, such as skipping a meal.

The situation has gotten worse since a drought hit Afghanistan in October 2020. The UN says more than 40 percent of all crops have been lost, and livestock has been devastated due to the severe weather.

The United Nations World Food Programme in Afghanistan reached 376,139 people in Kabul in March 2022 for financial and food assistance, with the latest numbers for those supported in Eid still being tallied.

The IEA-controlled government has been cut off from the international economy since the fall of Kabul in August and the departure of U.S. soldiers, resulting in a currency crisis, widespread poverty, and the collapse of critical public services including health care.

The UN and its partners sought more than US$5 billion for the year in mid-January, more than the agency has ever requested for a single country.

The majority of the aid, US$4.4 billion, would go to Afghans within the nation. The remainder would be used to help the millions of Afghan refugees living in neighbouring countries such as Iran and Pakistan.

But there are concerns that Afghanistan still isn’t receiving enough international support.