Food shortages in Afghanistan as coronavirus worsens country’s humanitarian crisis

Oct 2020

By Ben Farmer and Akhtar Makoii, for the Telegraph

Photo @GettyImages

“Afghanistan’s Covid-19 outbreak has pushed another five million people into food shortages, dramatically worsening the humanitarian situation in a country already racked by conflict.

The arrival of the new coronavirus has seen work dry up and livelihoods shrink, the United Nation’s food assistance branch was warned.

The World Food Programme said the numbers deemed to be hit by “severe food insecurity” had leapt from 12 million at the start of the year, to an estimated 17 million now.

Drought, economic slowdown, fighting and displacement had already strained the finances of many families in one of the world’s poorest countries, and left them struggling to put food on the table.

Since the arrival of Covid-19, lockdowns to prevent the spread of the disease have battered those who make a living from daily labouring and small-time trade. Some rural families have been denied work over the critical harvest season and farmers have struggled to get produce to market.

“This is a tremendous increase of severe food insecurity compared to the beginning of the year,” said Parvathy Ramaswami, deputy director for WFP in Afghanistan. “We looking at 5 million more people who are going into winter, which are the worst months, who need support.”

Afghanistan’s harvest this year was only slightly below average, but food is beyond the reach of many.

“The socio-economic impacts due to Covid have been absolutely massive,” said Ms Ramaswami. “Our early projections before Covid were that 12.4 million people are in severe state of food insecurity in Afghanistan. These people needed assistance to survive. Then came Covid, and our assessments led us to include another 3 million people in our assistance programmes. Now, our recent analysis indicates that more than 17 million people are experiencing severe food insecurity.”

Street vendors and labourers in the Western city of Herat said the lockdowns, even if not strictly enforced, had devastated their income”.

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