Afghanistan already has a lot on its plate, but not enough food

Following the August 2021 Taliban takeover, a severe economic crisis gripped Afghanistan, exacerbated by droughts, floods, and earthquakes

Sanjeeb Mukherjee New Delhi

For 25-year-old Ghafar, the food aid being sent by India and other countries has come as a lifeline in the war-torn and economically ravaged country of Afghanistan, according to his testimony to the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP).
Ghafar’s family, indicate the WFP documents, is one of 17,000 families, or nearly 120,000 people, that collect food during the five-day-long distribution in Dasht-e-Barchi — a settlement in western Kabul that is home to the historically oppressed Shiite Muslim Hazara community with an estimated population of 1.5 million people.

Following the August 2021 Taliban takeover, a severe economic crisis gripped Afghanistan, exacerbated by droughts, floods, and earthquakes.
In August 2022, Afghanistan topped the list of countries with insufficient food consumption and has sadly remained there since.

According to WFP estimates, currently, 19.9 million people are estimated to be acutely food insecure, including 6 million people a step away from famine.
For such families, the food aid sent by India and other countries has provided much-needed succour.

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The relief from India is not limited to food supplies alone but extends to training and handholding of women by India-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to make them self-sufficient.
As part of food supplies, every family receives 50 kilogram (kg) of wheat flour, 4.55 litres of vegetable oil, 6.25 kg of pulses, and 500 gram of salt distributed several times a month.

In addition, families with children aged six to 59 months and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers receive specialised food/supplements to prevent malnutrition.
Last week, India entered into a fresh agreement with WFP for the distribution of another 10,000 tonnes of wheat to the country, while sources said details of another 10,000 tonnes are being worked out.

This will be in addition to the 40,000 tonnes of wheat already delivered to Afghanistan through border outposts since February 2022.
On February 28, 2022, India sent the first batch of 10,000 tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan to support Afghans in need of pressing humanitarian assistance.

In response to appeals made by the UN for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, the Government of India decided to gift 50,000 tonnes of wheat to the people of Afghanistan.
The supply, according to the details worked out, is being facilitated by the Food Corporation of India and transported from the integrated checkpost, Attari (India) to Jalalabad (Afghanistan) by Afghan transporters.

“The severe economic crisis that engulfed the country after August 2021 has driven families across Afghanistan to the brink, compounded by droughts, floods, and other climate shocks. Last year, WFP massively scaled up its assistance across Afghanistan, supporting 23 million people — 12 million of whom were women and girls. The generous in-kind contribution of a total of 50,000 million tonnes (mt) of wheat from the Government of India has helped us reach some of the most vulnerable, food-insecure families, including widows and women-headed households,” Hsiao-Wei Lee, WFP Afghanistan representative and country director told Business Standard.
Elisabeth Faure, representative and country director of WFP India, said that the partnership with India also allowed WFP to extend assistance to vulnerable women in Herat, who were former beneficiaries of the NGO Sabah Bagh-e-Khazana Social Association.

“This NGO was formed by the master trainers of Self Employed Women’s Association, who trained in India the most vulnerable young women and widows and with them set up a vocational training centre and a business resource centre in Kabul to continue the livelihood activities for Afghan women. Their assistance was expanded to Mazar-i-Sharif, Baghlan, Parwan, Heart, and Kandahar. Women face additional challenges and greater vulnerability during food crises and conflicts. Women across all 34 provinces of Afghanistan continue to receive WFP assistance,” said Faure.
India has always been actively extending humanitarian food assistance to countries in need.

In recent times, in 2020, India provided 270 mt of food aid to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea as part of its assistance to friendly countries to overcome natural calamities and the Covid-19 pandemic.
In 2021, India delivered 500 tonnes of food aid to Mozambique.

In 2022, India contributed 85,000 mt of wheat to Yemen under the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Most of these supplies were routed through WFP.

  • Since August 2022, nine of 10 Afghan families cannot afford enough food — the highest in the world
  • Currently, nearly 20 million Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from and 6 million of them are one step away from famine
  • A massive two-thirds of the population — more than 28 million people — need humanitarian assistance this year, 10 million more than two years ago
  • Levels of moderate acute malnutrition are the highest ever recorded in the country and half of all provinces show a high or very high prevalence of global acute malnutrition among children under age five
  • An estimated 4 million children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers will suffer from acute malnutrition this year

First Published: Apr 24 2023 | 6:15 AM IST

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