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Millions of Afghans face starvation as crops fail, UN agencies warn

Millions of Afghans face starvation as crops fail, UN agencies warn

Millions of people are facing starvation in Afghanistan, where the food supply has been undermined by the combined effects of consecutive droughts and a crumbling economy, according to a special alert released today by two United Nations food agencies.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warn that the rapidly deteriorating food situation in Afghanistan will continue to worsen in the near future. "There is mounting evidence of emerging widespread famine conditions in the country, reflecting substantially reduced food intakes, collapse of the purchasing power of the people, distress sales of livestock, large-scale depletion of personal assets, soaring grain prices, rapidly increasing numbers of destitute people, and ever swelling ranks of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)."

According to the agencies, some 5 million Afghans who have little or no access to food will require international assistance for up to 10 months just to survive. WFP estimates that Afghanistan needs 386,000 tonnes of emergency food aid. With only 156,000 tonnes covered by current relief commitments, the country faces a gap of over 1 million tonnes of food relief. "A shortfall of this magnitude, coupled with seriously deteriorating purchasing power of the population, if unmet, could have disastrous consequences," the alert warns.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed serious concern about the fallout from renewed fighting in northern Afghanistan. "This upsurge in warfare could send thousands of people fleeing towards Afghanistan's borders, putting additional pressure on countries long-burdened by millions of Afghan refugees," UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler told reporters in Geneva.

Mr. Kessler described intensive efforts by the agency and its partners to provide relief to thousands of Afghans encamped at a makeshift and insecure site called Jalozai near Peshawar, Pakistan. "Progress has been made in providing better health care, additional water supplies and improving the sanitary conditions, but despite the overall improvements, the extreme summer heat, congestion and the unhygienic conditions continue to have adverse effects on Jalozai's Afghans," Mr. Kessler said. Since the beginning of May, a total of 43 people, mostly children, have died at Jalozai, which hosts over 57,000 people.