Even though donors have pledged more than $1 billion in aid, some of the money is urgently needed to help those who depend on farming.

Displaced Afghans distribute food donations at an internally displaced persons camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021.
Displaced Afghans distribute food donations at an internally displaced persons camp in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (AP)

Four million Afghans are facing “a food emergency” and the majority live in rural areas where $36 million is urgently needed for the coming months, a UN official has warned. 

The funds are needed to plant winter wheat, feed for livestock, and cash assistance for vulnerable families, the elderly and disabled. 

Rein Paulsen, director of the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Office (FAO) of Emergencies and Resilience, said that 70 percent of Afghans live in rural areas and there is a severe drought affecting 7.3 million Afghans in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces. These vulnerable rural communities have also been hit by the pandemic, he said.

He said the $36 million that the FAO needs urgently for the winter farming season was part of the UN's emergency appeal for $606 million. 

At a conference in Geneva on Monday, donors pledged $1.2 billion — double the amount sought. 

FAO hopes the pledges will fully fund the $36 million needed, but Paulsen noted that they are only promises for now and donors need to quickly provide the cash.

Four million Afghans are facing a humanitarian emergency, characterised by “extreme gaps in food consumption, very high levels of acute malnutrition and excess mortality," the UN official said. 

Agriculture is “indispensable” to the Afghan population as it  accounts for just over 25 percent of the country's GDP, and directly employs some 45 percent of the work force, “and most importantly it provides livelihood benefits for fully 80% of the Afghan population," he said. 

Many vulnerable families rely on livestock for food but 3 million animals are at risk as a result of the drought leaving inadequate pasture.

Paulsen said the winter wheat planting season the most important in Afghanistan is threatened by “challenges of the cash and banking system” as well as challenges to markets and agricultural items.

Since the Taliban takeover on August 15, fears have grown that Afghanistan could face economic collapse. Many banks have been closed, those that are open have limited cash withdrawals, and prices for staples have increased.

He also said more than 400,000 Afghans are displaced from their homes, mainly from rural areas, “and those numbers are rising.” He said keeping farmers in their fields and herders with their flocks is critical to preventing a deepening displacement crisis.

If agriculture collapses further, Paulson warned, it will drive up malnutrition, increase displacement and worsen the humanitarian situation.

READ MORE: UN seeks millions in Afghanistan aid at Geneva conference

FAO in 2021 has supported nearly 2 million Afghans with livelihood and cash assistance, Paulsen said.

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Source: AP