Millions of Afghans will face starvation this winter unless urgent action is taken, the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.
More than half the population – about 22.8 million people – face acute food insecurity, while 3.2 million children under five could suffer acute malnutrition, the WFP said.
“Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises, if not the worst,” said David Beasley, the executive director of the WFP.
“We are on a countdown to catastrophe.”
Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in August after the US pulled out the last of its remaining troops and the militants swept across the country retaking ground.
The takeover weakened an already fragile economy that was heavily dependent on foreign aid. Western powers suspended aid and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund also halted payments.
A nation is considered aid-dependent when 10 per cent or more of its gross domestic product comes from foreign aid; in Afghanistan’s case, about 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was international aid, according to the World Bank.
Many Afghans are now selling their possessions to buy food. The new Taliban administration has been blocked from accessing overseas assets, as nations assess how to deal with the hardline group, meaning wages to civil servants and other workers have been withheld.
“It has been more than five months that I have received my wages,” a teacher in Herat told the BBC. “Life is tough. I am selling whatever we have at home. We are selling our animals, cutting our trees to sell the wood.”
“People are impoverished here,” said a man in Kandahar. “Yesterday I saw a woman who was going through the rubbish bins at the local hotel, collecting the leftover food. I asked her why she was doing so and she said she didn’t have any other solution, she was trying to find food for her children.”
The WFP warned that the looming winter threatened to further isolate Afghans dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. And for the first time in Afghanistan, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, the organisation said. -BBC