In the wake of the Taliban terrorist group’s takeover, Afghanistan is facing a dire humanitarian crisis as poverty levels skyrocket. Over six million Afghans are now at risk of severe famine. The devastating impact of this crisis is disproportionately affecting women, who are often the last to receive access to basic necessities like food, water, shelter, and healthcare due to societal restrictions on their behavior, education, and work, as well as limited access to community resources.
On Thursday, April 13, 2023, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a report on the dire poverty and food crisis in Afghanistan, warning that without urgent funding to support those in need, the country could face the highest levels of famine seen in the last two decades.
According to the report, a staggering $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid is needed for Afghanistan in 2023. However, as of the end of the first quarter of this year, only $250 million has been received, representing just over 5.4% of the total required budget.
The OCHA report highlights that almost 20 million people in Afghanistan are currently experiencing extreme hunger, with six million of them “one step away from famine”. This places Afghanistan as the country with the highest number of people at risk of famine worldwide.
According to the report, aid organizations in Afghanistan are facing a lack of funding. As a result, many of these organizations have been forced to reduce the amount of aid they can provide, which only exacerbates the dire situation.
“Levels of moderate and acute malnutrition are also the highest ever recorded in the country, with an estimated four million children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year,” the report reads.
The report also states that “On 20 March, the World Food Programme announced that at current funding levels, they can only provide crucial food assistance to four million out of the 13 million people planned to receive assistance in April. That means nine million vulnerable and hungry Afghans will not receive food assistance.”
According to the OCHA report, aid agencies have sent aid to more than 26 million Afghan citizens in 2022.
However, the report also expresses concern about the reduction of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which has left rural families without sufficient support. Many of these families have already exhausted their food reserves before the harvest season, leaving them vulnerable to malnutrition and famine.
OCHA is optimistic that the provision of funds from the United Nations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan will facilitate the expansion of the distribution process for such aid. “Aid agencies have called on the international community to urgently provide humanitarian funding and prioritize the basic needs of the most vulnerable people of Afghanistan. Humanitarian aid is the last lifeline for millions of people in Afghanistan,” the report reads.
Despite the fact that agriculture accounts for 80% of the occupation of the Afghan people, the country’s name ranks at the top of the list of the world’s most hunger-stricken nations. Afghanistan has a land area of 65 million hectares, out of which only 7.8 million hectares are arable, roughly equivalent to 12% of its total territory. However, weak governance coupled with nearly fifty years of crises have impeded this geographic area from meeting the basic food needs of its population.
As per global standards, a single farmer can produce food for up to 100 individuals. However, in Afghanistan, 25 million farmers have not been able to cater to the food requirements of 35 million residents in the country. The issue of malnutrition, resulting from the lack of proper nutrition, is a significant challenge faced by the people of Afghanistan.
According to the most recent World Hunger Index report, published on October 15, 2022, around 5.1% of Afghan children pass away before reaching the age of five, and malnutrition is the leading cause of such deaths.
In Afghanistan, the issue of the food supply is a major challenge that has caught the attention of the world. Despite the low living standards in the country, the standard of nutrition remains inadequate, further adding to the concern surrounding this issue.
The severe shortage of food and shelter, which was exacerbated by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, has now impacted the entire population. However, due to the restrictions imposed by the Taliban group and the misogynistic culture dominating society, women and girls are at a greater risk of hunger, homelessness, and lack of healthcare compared to men.
In Afghanistan, there is a widespread belief, which is primarily misogynistic, that places men at the forefront in every household, and they are entitled to the best and most significant share of food and other means of livelihood. In many impoverished and rural households, it is a common practice for sons to have greater access to food and protection facilities than their female counterparts.
Considering the aforementioned circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that a significant percentage of the 24 million individuals who, according to OCHA statistics, require immediate humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, and the 6 million who are reportedly one step away from famine, are women and girls. The UN Commission on the Status of Women’s research also revealed that Afghan women are viewed as “self-sacrificing beings or forced to make sacrifices” within the country’s social fabric, resulting in them being the last ones to gain access to food and facilities essential for survival.