Nearly One-Third Afghans Face Food Shortages

By Christina Zhang
Christina Zhang
Christina Zhang
August 9, 2011 Updated: August 10, 2011

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) estimates that nearly 9 million Afghans—about a third of the population—face food shortages due to a drought affecting wheat crops, reported IRIN, the U.N.’s humanitarian news network.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock estimates that there will be a national cereal shortage of 2.2 million tons, according to FEWSNet, a USAID-funded network aimed at providing information about food issues across the globe.

The food shortages affect Afghanistan’s central highlands and northwestern regions and are expected to last until next spring’s wheat harvesting, added FEWSNet.

“The current drought in certain provinces is hugely damaging to the life of the people and their livestock,” said President Hamid Karzai during a Cabinet meeting on July 30, according to IRIN.

“All water sources, including underground water, have dried up in my village and now I need to pay a tanker to bring me water,” Sultan, an Afghan farmer who is only seeing 20 percent of his usual harvest, told IRIN in Kabul.

“I feel so sad. … After two months my wheat is still only 20 cm [7.87 inches] tall,” said Sultan.

FEWSNet reported that though families will mainly rely on higher priced imported wheat to fill the gap, middle income households will only last a few months before using “irreversible coping strategies.” Poorer households will already be selling livestock or migrating to deal with the food shortages.

The WFP struggles to provide aid to hungry Afghans because of a funding cut this year, leaving a deficit of $200 million, stated a WFP press release.

“We have had to make some very difficult decisions about how to refocus our work in Afghanistan because of the funding shortage,” said WFP Deputy Country Director Bradley Guerrant, in the release.

“As a neutral humanitarian agency, we have to take an impartial, needs-based approach rooted in humanitarian principles to ensure support for those who need it most,” said Guerrant.

The WFP can only provide assistance to 3.8 million people and is cutting long-term programs to meet the current crisis at hand, focusing on “the neediest and most vulnerable Afghans—especially women and children,” noted the release.