18.9 million face ‘potentially life-threatening levels of hunger’: SIGAR

Around 18.9 million Afghans out of a total population of around 40 million face “potentially life-threatening levels of hunger—including nearly six million facing near-famine conditions—from June to November 2022,” says the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in its latest report.  

The SIGAR report – which is published quarterly for the U.S. Congress – paints a dire picture of the situation in Afghanistan. For 10 consecutive months since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, more than 90 percent of the population has experienced insufficient food consumption, the WFP states.  

As well, SIGAR notes that nearly half the Afghanistan population suffers from high levels of food insecurity at the crisis, emergency, or catastrophe (famine) levels and that all 34 provinces are grappling with “crisis or emergency levels of acute food insecurity.” That insecurity means that “nearly half the Afghan population continues to employ crisis coping strategies, such as rationing out food or skipping meals, to meet their basic needs.” 

The SIGAR report highlights the extreme vulnerability facing women and children. The most vulnerable are women and children, explains SIGAR, citing a recent estimate from World Food Programme (WFP) that at least 4.7 million children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers are in danger of acute food insecurity. In particular, SIGAR notes that “households headed by women remain especially vulnerable, with an estimated 96 percent facing insufficient food consumption amid Taliban restrictions on the movements of women and girls.” 

Even after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, when most aid from international donors ceased, the United States continues to be the country’s single largest donor, SIGAR states, though at a much lower level. The U.S. has provided more than $1.1 billion in assistance since August 2021, reports SIGAR.  

But that assistance is a fraction of what is needed. Most UN agencies are reporting shortfalls in the aid they believe needed for Afghanistan. UNICEF’s US$2 billion campaign is only 40 percent funded, SIGAR notes. And in September, the WFP said it needed another US$1.14 billion in funding to sustain its operations until March 2023, including prepositioning food in remote areas before winter sets in.  

“The situation can be best described as a pure catastrophe,” said UN Deputy Special Representative Ramiz Alakbarov in August. He offered a chilling portent of the future when asked what would happen if funding wasn’t provided before winter. “You’ve seen people selling organs, you’ve seen people selling children,” he said. “This has been widely covered in the media, and this is what we will be seeing again if support is not provided.” 

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