Afghanistan

Millions of Afghans face hunger, WFP warns

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Islamabad (Office of the United Nations Co-ordinator for Afghanistan), 10 December 1999 -- Millions of poor Afghans in urban and rural areas may not be able to get enough food to feed their families if the price of wheat does decrease significantly, the World Food Programme (WFP) for Afghanistan warned today in Islamabad.
WFP officials here expressed extreme concern about the increasing cost of wheat in Afghanistan, which follows a bad harvest, the reduction of trade across the Afghan border, and speculation in Afghan markets. Prices have continually increased since the beginning of October and reached their highest level in the second week of December. The aid community will not be able to meet the entire food needs of millions of Afghan people, WFP emphasised. Pakistan is the major wheat supplier to Afghanistan.

Twenty to forty percent of households in Kandahar, Kabul, Ghazni, and various food insecure rural areas have already been already affected by the increase in prices. In Kabul and Kandahar, where imports make up at least 40 percent of the cereal supply, wheat flour prices have gone up by over 80 percent in the past ten weeks. In Ghazni, prices have increased by over 100 percent.

On 21 November 1999, the Iranian authorities agreed to reopen the border with Afghanistan. WFP Herat reported that seven trucks a day (with a capacity of 40 MT) are entering Afghanistan from the Torghundi border (Turkmenistan) and seven trucks a day (with a capacity of 10MT) are daily entering from Islam-Qala border (Iran).

While prices in some Afghan cities initially fell at the news of the opening of the Iranian border, they began to shoot up again one week after the announcement due to limited inflows of wheat.

WFP is currently considering how to respond to the situation in Kandahar City and surrounding food insecure rural areas.

Currently home to the largest number of food insecure people of any Afghan city, Kabul is another area of concern. There, WFP is assisting 266,000 vulnerable people through the bakery projects and 13,000 newly arrived IDPs in the former Russian compound. These programmes should minimise the impact of the current price increase. However if the increase of wheat prices persists, many more households could be affected.

Only an increase in food supplies from neighbouring countries will reduce wheat prices and prevent a major threat to vulnerable Afghans.

For more information, call Rahman Chowdhury, WFP Afghanistan 278331, 828934

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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