FILE: BALKH, AFGHANISTAN – NOVEMBER 13: Internally displaced Afghans are seen in a camp in Balkh, Afghanistan on November 13, 2021. (Photo by Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Kabul, Afghanistan – Nearly 20 million people in Afghanistan – almost half of the country’s population – are facing acute hunger, according to a latest UN-backed report published Monday, depicting a “catastrophic” economy in the country since the Taliban takeover last August.

Latest analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) also revealed a pocket of “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity in the northeast, affecting thousands other locals.  

The analysis was conducted in January and February by partners, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sister agency the World Food Programme (WFP), and many non-governmental organizations.

Although humanitarian assistance helped avert possible catastrophe on food security over the harsh winter in Afghanistan, hunger still persists at unprecedented levels, according to the report

Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in the country, described the food security situation as dire, asserting the importance of humanitarian assistance for the desperate families in the war-torn country.

“Humanitarian assistance remains desperately important, as do the needs to rebuild shattered agricultural livelihoods and re-connect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country,” he said, as the UN News quoted. “Unless these happen, there will be no way out of this crisis.”

Meanwhile, the report predicts Afghanistan will witness a slight improvement in food security level from June through November, with the number of people facing acute food insecurity dropping to 18.9 million.   

This is partly due to the coming wheat harvest, which runs from May to August, as well as the scale-up in food assistance this year and increased support to agriculture, as the UN News reported.

“Food assistance and emergency livelihood support are the lifeline for the people of Afghanistan,”said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Afghanistan. “We mounted the world’s largest humanitarian food operation in a matter of months, reaching more than 16 million people since August 2021.”

Continued Humanitarian Assistance and Agriculture Support

Both FAO and WFP continue to scale up their programmes across Afghanistan, providing help to local farmers, millers and bakeries in a maximized efforts for sustainability and growth in the country.

“We are working with farmers, millers, and bakeries, training women and creating jobs to support the local economy,” said Ms. McGroarty of WFP. “Because the people of Afghanistan would much prefer jobs; women want to be able to work; and all girls deserve to go to school.”

“Allowing the economy to function normally is the surest way out of the crisis, otherwise suffering will grow where crops cannot,” she added.

This year, WFP has reached more than 16 million people in Afghanistan with emergency food assistance, while supporting local markets, and working with retailers and local suppliers.  

The UN agency will assist more than nine million people this year through a range of interventions that include support for crop, livestock and vegetable production; cash transfers, and the rehabilitation of vital irrigation infrastructure and systems, according to the report.