Three million Afghans one step away from famine: UN

Three million Afghans one step away from famine: UN
2 min read
15 October, 2018
More people are now displaced from climate change-fuelled drought than conflict in Afghanistan.
Drought-displaced Afghan man in Herat province [Getty]

The worst drought in Afghanistan's living memory could cause three million Afghans to face famine if they do not get "urgent" aid, the UN warned on Monday.

A dry spell mainly across the northern and western parts of the war-torn country has devastated crops, livestock and water supplies.

Hundreds of thousands have also fled their homes as a result. 

The drought comes at a terrible time for the country, which is already grappling with a 17-year conflict and preparing to hold a parliamentary election that is three years late. 

The UN is spearheading international efforts to reach 2.5 million of the three million most in need of food by mid-December, UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan Toby Lanzer told AFP.

"Those people are surviving on less than one meal a day and in all likelihood that meal is bread and tea," Lanzer said.    

Lanzer said the three million people hardest hit were in the "emergency" phase four of a widely-used food insecurity index -- one level below famine. 

The figure was "among the highest in the world" and required "the most urgent response". 

"If we don't (reach them) there's a risk that these people go into level five," Lanzer said. 

Aid groups distributed basic commodities, including wheat flour fortified with minerals, vegetable oil and lentils, to 600,000 people last month, Lanzer said. 

They hope to reach another 600,000 by the end of October. 

Another eight million people were in the "crisis" phase three of the food insecurity index, which includes people with "food consumption gaps with high or above usual acute malnutrition".

Lanzer said the figures were "far worse than we had anticipated" and he warned the situation could worsen as temperatures plummet during the winter months.

The drought affecting more than half of Afghanistan was triggered by a huge shortfall in snow and rain last winter.

Experts say climate change is fuelling or causing the rain and snow shortages that have led to drought. 

Eighty percent of conflicts in Afghanistan are over resources, including those related to food insecurity, according to the UN's Enivornment Programme.

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