With the rise in the number of children being treated at malnutrition wards and humanitarian watchdogs sounding alarms over possible mass starvation, what awaits Afghanistan is no less than a disaster.
Food insecurity is widespread across Afghanistan and the international community is to blame for it.
That’s according to Adam N Weinstein of the Quincy Institute.
“The international community is actively creating a preventable famine. Food scarcity now exists country-wide and people are living on stale bread and tea. Mass starvation will soon follow.”
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August, Western aid organisations withdrew their aid, throwing the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The United States also froze nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank and halted shipments of cash to the nation, leaving the economy in tatters.
As a result, more than 95 percent of Afghans do not have enough food to eat and as winter approaches, more than half the population of Afghanistan - a record 22.8 million people - will face acute food insecurity, the United Nations World Food Programme said this week.
#Afghanistan: I'm here at a children's ward in a hospital in #Kandahar. These babies did nothing to deserve this. Yet, they're struggling to survive.— David Beasley (@WFPChief) November 11, 2021
What's heartbreaking is that this situation is completely avoidable. There's a cure for hunger, it's called FOOD. pic.twitter.com/J78JVdUJCY
Before the Taliban took power, former President Ashraf Ghani had the support of the international community to aid Afghans facing food shortages, but that funding was cut off when Ghani’s government collapsed.
Today, families lacking money and food are forced to make desperate choices, selling anything they own, including their children.
Weinstein said the international community is using humanitarian aid as a bargaining chip to force the Taliban to demonstrate change.
“The cessation of direct foreign aid to the government is happening because few countries want to be seen as helping the Taliban,” said the researcher at the Quincy Institute.
“Attaching conditions to food aid essentially pins the international community against the Taliban in a game of chicken using human lives as collateral. It is grotesque.”
The current Taliban government launched a wheat-for-work scheme program in which labourers in Kabul will be paid in wheat instead of cash. They pledged to distribute 11,600 tonnes of wheat in the capital,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, told TRT World.
Western countries suspended aid, the World Bank and IMF halted payments & blocked access to foreign assets because the Taliban took over. Now Afghanistan is running out of food. Is this a food crisis or murder?— Azad Essa (@azadessa) November 9, 2021
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has 66,000 tonnes of flour in stock, we are giving them to the people in return for work. This process is continuing now in Kabul and some other provinces as well. This is what we can do right now,” he said.
“The international community is not interested in solving the humanitarian crisis but wants to seek revenge that is affecting Afghans. They have linked humanitarian aid to politics.”
The crisis wasn’t built in a day
Even before the Taliban seized power, the country was grappling with worrying levels of malnutrition caused by a second paralysing drought in just three years.
And then the impacts of decades of war and conflict, joblessness and poverty over the years combined with the crippling post-Taliban economy has brought the country to where it is right now.
“I have never seen a crisis plummet at scale so rapidly in my 20 plus years with WFP,” Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the Afghanistan country director for the World Food Programme (WFP), told TRT World.
McGroarty said it is going to cost about 220 million dollars a month to just do the minimum to help pull the country out of the current crisis.
But that too won’t be enough to fix everything.
“We need the economy resuscitated,” she said.
Obaidullah Baheer, along with a few young Afghans, set up a funding page at Fundly, in an effort to gather donations to distribute food packages among poor families in the country.
Their packages include basic items such as flour, rice and sugar - a ration pack worth close to $100 that Baheer said can feed a family for a month.
Baheer believes that placing sanctions is an outdated foreign policy tool and that it does not work as “the first and foremost people that feel the pain of sanctions are the common people.”
“It cannot happen with the international community attempting to twist arms because that has never produced results. It's just increasing the scale of the suffering in Afghanistan for now,” he said.
“Aid is a Band-Aid solution to a much larger problem. And unless the economy of Afghanistan is revived, the situation will keep being the way that it is because if you provide the help to families that can suffice for a month, what do you do after that month has ended?”
Adam, the researcher at Quincy Institute has warned that if the current situation persists, thousands of Afghans will starve to death this winter and the country will become unstable which will only worsen the human rights situation.
“It will also present a golden opportunity for groups like Daesh-K,(also known as the Islamic State's affiliate in Afghanistan )”
The armed group has claimed some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan in recent months in which hundreds of people have been killed and many more injured.