Middle East/North Africa

UN: Nearly half of Afghans facing 'acute' food crisis

Nearly half of the population of Afghanistan is facing "high levels of acute food insecurity," according to a new report from the United Nations's World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nearly 19 million Afghans were facing high levels of acute food insecurity between September and October of this year, which is equivalent to 47 percent of the population, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report.

The UN group uses a five-point scale to assess levels of food insecurity; individuals in phase 3 and higher are considered to be facing high levels of acute insecurity.

Almost 12 million Afghans were in phase 3, "people in crisis," and more than 6.85 million individuals were considered phase 4, "people in emergency," according to the UN group. No Afghans have reached phase 5, "people in catastrophe."

The main forces driving the acute food insecurity are "drought and its impacts on crops and livestock, the collapse of public services, a severe economic crisis and increasing food prices," according to the report.

Afghans who are facing crisis-level insecurity lack food and live in households that are beginning to skip meals, but they still have ways to survive, including selling possessions and working extra hours, Richard Trenchard, the Food and Agriculture Organization's representative in Afghanistan, told The Washington Post.

Trenchard said that once those extra options are depleted, individuals move into the emergency phase.

The report also tracks Afghans in phase 2, "people stressed," and phase 1, "people in food insecurity," but those groups are not considered to be facing high levels of acute food insecurity.

The food insecurity crisis in Afghanistan is expected to worsen in the coming months, according to the UN group, with more than half of Afghanistan's population expected to be facing food insecurity.

October's report is projecting that between November 2021 and March of next year 22.8 million Afghans will be facing "high levels of acute food insecurity," which is equivalent to 55 percent of the country's population.

The number of people in phase 3 and phase 4 are expected to grow, according to the group's projections, but no Afghans will enter the "people in catastrophe" phase.

The report and grim projections come months after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan amid the U.S.'s withdrawal.

The insurgent group's takeover of Afghanistan has led to a decline in the country's economy, the Post noted, especially because of the lack of international aid.

However, the country was facing difficulties even before the Taliban toppled the government; according to the Post, citing the UN, roughly 665,000 people were displaced in Afghanistan between January and September because of conflict.

Additionally, the drought in the country reportedly began in late 2020.

Trenchard said that while the people of Afghanistan will uncover solutions to help themselves out of the crisis, they are currently in need of aid.

"Afghanistan's people are incredibly resilient. They will find a way through this, but at the moment they need that assistance," he told the Post.

He added that the current conditions represent "a dramatic worsening of the humanitarian situation across Afghanistan."