Media coverage of Afghanistan is understandably focused on the precarious situation of thousands of Americans and Afghans who are desperate to leave. But there is far more to Afghanistan’s dilemma than the crisis at the airport — and the world needs to start confronting a host of other daunting realities.
The United States and other aid donors have responded to the Taliban takeover by stopping the flow of financial aid and freezing Afghanistan’s reserves and other financial accounts. Yet Afghanistan is one of the poorest and most aid-dependent countries in the world. An internal document of the World Food Program warns that, “A humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes. Conflict combined with drought and covid-19 is pushing the people of Afghanistan into a humanitarian catastrophe.”
According this document, more than 1 in 3 Afghans — some 14 million people — are hungry today while 2 million children are malnourished and urgently need treatment. More than 3.5 million — out of a population of 38 million — are internally displaced. Just to make matters worse, a massive drought has devastated crops. More than 40 percent of the country’s crops were lost to drought this year.
On August 13, Central Bank Director Ajmal Ahmady reported that we “received a call that given the deteriorating environment, we wouldn’t get any more dollar shipments.” The Afghan currency, the afghani, “spiked from a stable 81 [to the dollar] to almost 100 then back to 86,” Ahmady said. Food products, mainly wheat, constitute about 14 percent of Afghanistan’s total imports. According to the WFP document, the price of wheat, the main staple food, is now 24 percent above the five-year average, and sustained instability or devaluation of the currency will result in even higher food prices, assuring that hunger will spread. In the same internal document, WFP says that it needs $200 million immediately to pre-position food stocks by October to assist 9 million Afghans per month over the winter.
Read the full article in the Washington Post.