Afghanistan could face hunger crisis with food running out this month, UN warns

Food in Afghanistan could run out this month, a senior UN official has warned.

The suggestion threatens to add a hunger crisis to the challenges facing the country’s new Taliban rulers as they endeavour to restore stability after decades of war.

About a third of the country’s population of 38 million were facing “emergency” or “crisis” levels of food insecurity, according to Ramiz Alakbarov, the local UN humanitarian co-ordinator.

With winter coming and a severe drought ongoing, more money was needed to feed the population, he said.

The UN’s World Food Programme has brought in food and distributed it to tens of thousands of people over recent weeks.

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But of the 1.3 billion US dollars needed for aid efforts, only 39% had been received, he said.

“The lean winter season is fast approaching, and without additional funding, food stocks will run out at the end of September,” Mr Alakbarov said.

The Taliban, who seized control of the country ahead of the withdrawal of American forces this week, now must govern a nation that relies heavily on international aid and is in the midst of a worsening economic crisis.

In addition to the concerns about food supplies, civil servants have not been paid in months and the local currency is losing value. Most of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves are held abroad and currently frozen.

In the wake of the US pullout, many Afghans are anxiously waiting to see how the Taliban will rule.

When they were last in power, before being driven out by the US-led invasion in 2001, they imposed draconian restrictions, refusing to allow girls to go to school, largely confining women to their homes and banning television, music and photography.

But more recently, their leaders have sought to project a more moderate image.

Schools have reopened to boys and girls, although Taliban officials have said they will study separately.

Women are out on the streets wearing Islamic headscarves – as they always have – rather than the all-encompassing burqa the Taliban required in the past.

While many Afghans fear a return to the Taliban’s brutal rule, they are also concerned that the nation’s economic situation holds little opportunity – and tens of thousands sought to flee the country during the airlift.

Thousands who had worked with the US and its allies, as well as up to 200 Americans, remained in the country after the efforts ended with the last US troops flying out of Kabul international airport just before midnight on Monday.

US president Joe Biden defended his handling of the withdrawal a day later.

The challenges the Taliban face in reviving the economy could give Western nations leverage as they push the group to fulfil a pledge to allow free travel, form an inclusive government and guarantee women’s rights.

The Taliban say they want to have good relations with other countries, including the US.

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