UN warns of ‘urgent need’ to prevent acute Afghan food insecurity – Global Issues

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The unfolding situation has caused significant disruption and threatens Afghanistan’s critical winter wheat season, which is about to begin, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned, ahead of a major fundraising conference set to take place in Geneva on Sept. 13.

“One in three Afghans is acutely food insecure, a situation that appeals to the imagination,” said Rein Paulsen, director of the FAO’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, from Islamabad.

The spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Jens Laerke, warned that “basic services in Afghanistan are collapsing and food and other life-saving aid is running out”.

A ‘very short window’

Mr. Paulsen noted that there is likely to be a “deficit of 25 percent in the national wheat crop” this year. Half of the Afghan’s daily caloric intake comes from wheat, and most of the supply grown in the country will come from the upcoming rainy season, the FAO expert said, adding that there is “an urgent need was towards the end of September”.

“We have to get that planting going. There is a very short time to deal with that. The seeds can’t wait. The farmers can’t wait. We must do everything we can to ensure that those vulnerable households are supported.”

Threats to rural livelihoods

In addition to food insecurity, Mr. Paulsen noted that 70 percent of all Afghans live in rural areas and agriculture provides a livelihood for 80 percent of the population.

Threats to rural livelihoods have been a growing concern for the FAO for months, he said. Without urgent support, farmers and ranchers could lose their livelihoods and be forced to leave the countryside, straining supplies in towns and villages as they become internally displaced.

Since August 2021, the FAO has provided livelihoods in 26 out of 34 provinces in 26 out of 34 provinces and to more than 1.5 million people.

In August alone, the FAO managed to reach more than 100,000 people, despite the upheaval caused by the Taliban takeover.

Flash call for Afghanistan

OCHA is asking $606 million to help nearly 11 million people over the four remaining months of this year, including two million people previously unlisted in the overall humanitarian response plan, the agency announced Tuesday.

About $193 million of the total appeal is dedicated to “new and emerging needs and changes in operating costs,” said Mr. laerke.

Donations will provide “critical food and livelihood assistance to nearly 11 million people, essential health services to 3.4 million” and “treatment for acute malnutrition for more than a million children and women,” said Mr. laerke.

300 unaccompanied minors evacuated

Since August 14, hundreds of children have been separated from their families amid chaotic conditions at and around the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned Tuesday.

The agency and its partners have registered about 300 unaccompanied and separated children who have been evacuated from Afghanistan to other countries such as Germany and Qatar.

UNICEF said it expects this number to rise, and Executive Director Henrietta Fore emphasized: in a statement that these children are “among the most vulnerable” in the world.

“It is vital that they are identified quickly and kept safe during family tracing and reunification processes…preferably with extended relatives or in a family setting”.

UNICEF provides technical support to governments that have evacuated children and to those hosting them. Teams are on the ground at Doha Air Force Base in Qatar and Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, and the agency is calling on the Taliban to grant unimpeded humanitarian access to all parts of Afghanistan to get an accurate picture of the displaced.

Remittances from abroad, essential: IOM

Remittances to troubled Afghan families are needed now more than ever, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Tuesday, and calls on the nearly six million workers living outside the country to continue to provide this vital lifeline.

The financial system is on the brink of collapse, IOM warned, including with remittances in “a predicament”.

After the Taliban took over the country, the United States froze $7 billion in Afghan reserves while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cut funding to the country, including hundreds of millions of dollars in special drawing rights, which could be converted to currency in times of crisis, the IOM said.

The Afghan Central Bank has access to only a fraction of its usual funding. This has meant that the coffers of Afghan banks cannot be easily topped up, leading to ATMs running out and withdrawal limits being introduced.

In turn, prices for essential goods rise. There are fears of food shortages, higher inflation and a collapse of the currency, all resulting in an intensification of the humanitarian emergency across the country.

In 2020, formal remittances to Afghanistan totaled more than $788 million — about 4 percent of Afghanistan’s total GDP. According to the Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) 2016-2017, remittances are a source of income for nearly 1 in 10 Afghan households.

Emergency aid now needs to be better coordinated with Afghans who are abroad, the IOM said.

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