Aug 20, 2021 - Health

UN: 14 million face severe hunger in Afghanistan

Photo of a line of people waiting outside
Afghan people queue up to board a U.S. military aircraft to leave Afghanistan. Photo: Shakib Rahmani/AFP via Getty Images

Some 14 million people in Afghanistan are facing severe hunger following the Taliban's takeover, according to the head of the UN's food agency.

Why it matters: The country has already faced a severe drought — its second in three years — and COVID-19's social and economic impacts. The Taliban's siege has elevated the situation in Afghanistan from dire to catastrophic, World Food Program’s (WFP) country director Mary Ellen McGroarty said.

By the numbers: The drought led to the loss of 40% of crops, which has caused a "devastating impact" on livestock, McGroarty said in a video briefing to UN correspondents from Kabul this week.

  • With the Taliban now in power, hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, she said.

"Really, the race is on to get food where it’s most needed," she said.

  • "We are actively reaching out to the new authorities for unimpeded humanitarian access," McGroarty noted.
    • She urged donors to provide the $200 million needed to get food into Afghanistan before roads are blocked off this winter.
  • WFP was able to access 4 million people in May and plans to expand operations to reach 9 million "over the next couple of months, but there are many, many challenges," she added.

Worth noting: UNICEF also warned this week that 1 million children under the age of 5 are at risk of becoming severely malnourished by end of 2021.

The big picture: Thousands of Afghans are fleeing the country to escape the Taliban, which has spurred calls for open borders.

  • "The United Nations Assistance Mission has warned that without a significant de-escalation in violence, Afghanistan is on course to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since the UN’s records began," the United Nations refugee agency said last week.

Go deeper: The Afghanistan exit

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