Hundreds of thousands of Afghans face starvation, WFP warns in urgent new appeal for support
"We have received some donations and pledges over the last few months but they fell short of our appeals. The devastating drought has forced us to accelerate deliveries of food and our resources are quickly depleting," WFP Country Director Gerard van Dijk said.
WFP needs 115,000 tons of food (for a value of approximately $54 million) to maintain its life-saving activities in this war-battered country until the end of next year. The food aid agency is striving to feed over three million severely affected Afghans, twice as many as it fed in the first six months of this year before the drought struck. "The number of the destitute and needy people will rise further in the coming months," van Dijk added.
Since the beginning of the year, WFP, the major international humanitarian food aid agency operating in Afghanistan, has distributed some 110,000 tons of food to 2,346,000 of the poorest Afghans, compared to 61,000 tons for the same period last year.
"If WFP does not receive fresh pledges soon, it will run out of food by February of next year. It is not too early to sound the alarm, because pledges of food donations take a long time to materialize and reach the affected country. If we do not receive new pledges this month, we will have to cut down or stop our operations in Afghanistan at a time when Afghans will be in the midst of the pre-harvest 'hungry season,'" van Dijk warned.
WFP estimates that up to 12 million Afghans are affected by the drought, three to four million severely. The extremely low level of precipitation has destroyed almost all the rain-fed crops and decimated the livestock. The cereal deficit for Afghanistan in 2000/2001 is estimated at over 2.3 million tons, more than double that of the previous year, itself a record shortfall. Afghanistan needs about 4.1 million tons of cereals a year to meet domestic consumption.
The next harvest from rain-fed areas is due in May/June 2001, but van Dijk noted that if rains fail again, "we could see a widespread famine unless adequate preventive steps are taken in time."
About 85 percent of Afghanistan's estimated 21.9 million people are directly dependent on agriculture. With their crops ruined by the drought, millions of Afghans will be forced to sell off the last of their livestock because of lack of fodder. The money they get is likely to be their last source of cash with which to buy food. Purchasing power has already been eroded by mass unemployment, a moribund economy and a 21-year civil war.
With the drought raging for some four months, tens of thousands of families have migrated to urban centers. It is expected that under the deteriorating conditions faced by households in some of the hardest hit areas many more people will be forced to move in order to survive.
"WFP Afghanistan has a significant role to play in preventing large-scale migration to already over-taxed urban areas or to neighboring Pakistan and Iran," van Dijk said.
WFP, meanwhile, is striving to continue its regular life-saving activities in Afghanistan, which include the essential bakeries in Kabul that feed 360,000 people every day.
The effects of the drought have been devastating in all parts of the country with the exception of a small region in the east. WFP emergency food aid focuses on rural areas, where 85 percent of the population live, especially those relying on rain-fed production in the western and northern parts of the country, and families wholly dependent on livestock in the south and central parts.
The World Food Programme is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999, WFP fed more than 89 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
For more information please contact:
Gerard van Dijk, WFP Afghanistan Country
Tel. +92 51 282-6710
Khaled Mansour, WFP Information Officer
Tel. +92 51 227-1265
Mobil +92 300 500989
Heather Hill, WFP Information Officer/Rome
Tel. +39 06 6513 2253
Mobile +39 348 318-7056
For photos please contact:
Tel +39 06 6513 2630
For video please contact:
Tel. +39 06 6513-2629