An estimated one million Afghans will likely starve if the World Food Program fails to return staff to the country, according to Reuters.
Three weeks’ worth of food is still available in warehouses in major Afghan cities, but the concern is over rural areas, hard hit by drought, where such supplies cannot be delivered, Khaled Mansour, a spokesman with WFP, told Reuters Television last Thursday.
“Afghanistan was already in a bad situation before the current crisis and it can only get worse,” he said. “There is no point in sending food to warehouses in Kabul and Kandahar if you cannot take it to people who need it.”
The WFP evacuated its staff from Afghanistan as the United States threatened to punish the country for harboring Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden has been pronounced prime suspect in the recent suicide attacks on New York and Washington, in which over 6,000 people are missing or presumed dead.
Many Afghans are fleeing their homes for neighboring Pakistan in anticipation of retaliation strikes, said Stephanie Bunker, spokeswoman for the United Nations Coordinator’s Office for Humanitarian Activities in Afghanistan.
Fifteen thousand Afghans have entered Pakistan since Sept. 12, and thousands wait at the border, Yusuf Hassan, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told Reuters.
Those who are staying face rising food prices and eventual starvation, said Mansour.
“The last time I was there, I saw people eating locusts, eating animal fodder, eating grass,” he added.
During the 1998 drought, many Afghan families spent their savings on food and sold their houses. Mansour said some families in the north even sold their daughters into marriage to avoid starvation.
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.