Afghanistan faces tsunami of hunger

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Kabul, Feb 4

The US government's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has said that the war-torn nation is currently facing a "tsunami of hunger" amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis and the collapsed economy.

On Thursday, SIGAR released its 44th quarterly report to the US Congress examining the $145.87 billion reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, which said that "record drought, rising food prices, internal displacement" as well as economic breakdown and collapse of public services constitute a "humanitarian emergency", reports TOLO News.

The authority underscored the findings of Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, an organisation active under the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), saying nearly 19 million Afghans experienced acute food insecurity in "September and October 2021".

"Some 22.8 million Afghans will be at potentially life-threatening levels of hunger this winter, 8.7 million of whom will face near-famine conditions," said the report from Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

"WHO and WFP estimate that 3.2 million Afghan children under age five will suffer from acute malnutrition this winter, with one million at risk of dying."

SIGAR's cited the UN Development Programme (UNDP) report released in September 2021 that said that up to 97 per cent of Afghanistan's population was at risk of slipping below the poverty line by mid-2022 as a result of the worsening political and economic crises.

The US remains the single largest humanitarian aid donor to Afghanistan, according to SIGAR.

"As of January 2022, the US was providing $782 million in humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in the region."

SIGAR's report cites the UN Office on Drugs and Crime that Afghanistan's statement that opiate production in 2021 was the third highest recorded since surveying began in 1994.

"The UNODC report said the gross output of the Afghan opiate economy was between $1.8 billion and $2.7 billion in 2021, comprising the equivalent of 9–14 per cent of Afghanistan's GDP, exceeding the value of all of Afghanistan's officially recorded licit exports for 2020," SIGAR said.

The SIGAR report highlighted the UNDP's findings, saying that restrictions on women's employment could immediately cost the Afghan economy $1 billion, resulting in the country's GDP dropping by another 5 per cent.

"Women made up over 20 per cent of Afghanistan's workforce before the Taliban takeover," the report added.

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