The deepening food crisis in Afghanistan is threatening the country's people with mass starvation, according to a special report released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The report warns that the food supply situation in countries bordering Afghanistan is also seriously undermined by a prolonged dry spell. "This year's food production in Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan has suffered a significant reduction due to serious drought." In the past, millions of Afghans have met part of their food needs with supplies from those States.
While the majority of Afghans are facing severe food supply difficulties, some 7.5 million most affected people are in desperate need of food aid to survive. FAO plans to deliver 52,000 tonnes of food aid per month to feed the most vulnerable people, both refugees, who number 1.5 million, and the 6 million resident Afghans.
Currently, transport and distribution problems are hampering the delivery of aid, according to the agency, which has plans to airlift some supplies before winter sets in around mid-November.
The current adverse situation coincides with the planting season for wheat, which accounts for 80 per cent of the country's total cereal production. "With the population largely on the move, serious shortages of inputs and a disruption of farming activities by military operations, cereal production in 2001 to meet consumption needs during 2001/02 (July/June) is set to decline significantly," FAO said.
The FAO report underscored that the changed situation had exacerbated Afghanistan's longstanding food insecurity, noting that even before the events of 11 September, the country was "gripped by a grave food crisis following three consecutive years of drought and intensifying economic problems due to continuing civil conflict."