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Friday, October 22, 2021

Crisis in Afghanistan exacerbated by food shortages, need for UN aid

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TORONTO — In clips from Afghanistan this week, a man carries a bag of flour on his back, while another walks away clutching bottles of oil. These are food staples supplied by the United Nations that are desperately needed by families displaced in Afghanistan by the Taliban takeover.

Experts say the situation in Afghanistan is turning into an urgent humanitarian issue. Even before the U.S. troop withdrawal, the country was experiencing a dire food shortage due to drought, the COVID-19 pandemic and decades of conflict.

According to World Food Programme (WFP), 14 million Afghans do not know where or when their next meal will come from.

Now, with the Taliban back in control, organizations say the need for aid is urgent.

As violence intensifies in Afghanistan, UN leaders are warning of a massive humanitarian crisis in the country that is having a devastating impact on civilians, specifically women and children.

“The needs in Afghanistan at the moment are immense,” Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP Country Director for Afghanistan, said in a press release. “We have the devastating impact of the conflict.”

Violence and insecurity have uprooted hundreds of thousands of people. Of those forced to flee, aid groups say about 80 per cent are women and children.

“Acute humanitarian needs are now spiralling,” Caroline Van Buren, the representative in Afghanistan for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said. “They need shelter, healthcare, sanitation and other core relief items.”

While some basic supplies are being delivered, there are parts of the country no longer accessible or safe for aid workers.

“The security situation hasn’t calmed enough for our people and delivery partners to get out into the areas they need,” Andrew Patterson, WFP’s Deputy Country Director, told CTV News.

Further complicating the situation is COVID-19. With the ongoing pandemic, there’s also a lack of medical supplies.

Another problem is severe drought. The UN says over 40 per cent of all crops have been lost and livestock devastated due to the severe weather.

A father and his children fled Afghanistan’s northern region, and say they’re now struggling to survive.

“I have no food to eat,” he said. “How will I take care of my children?”

It’s estimated one in three people in Afghanistan are facing severe hunger with at least two million children considered malnourished.

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