Amid startling UN estimates that about 23 million Afghan citizens will face acute hunger in coming months, desperate families have started to sell their children in exchange for food.
Since the return to power of the Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan in August, conditions in the country have worsened. Halted agricultural trade relations compelled food exporters to scramble to secure alternative export routes, and an unprecedented surge in food prices have led hungry Afghans to sell their children.
This, according to Canada-based think tank International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS).
“There are reports that 95% of Afghans do not have enough food to eat while half of the population is expected to face acute levels of hunger as winter sets in early November,” IFFRAS said.
As the situation worsens, reports indicate that the new Taliban regime does not have the funds even to procure food items and other essentials.
Data released by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) points out that across cities, towns and villages, virtually no family can afford sufficient food, with children and older people most at risk.
“We manage with very simple food, including bread and tea, potato soup … so that our life moves forward until these problems get solved,” an Afghan resident told WFP.
According to WFP, the international community cannot allow Afghanistan to be a collective failure. It added that the crisis must be halted to prevent catastrophe.
“Things were already desperate, and now continuing drought, escalating displacement, the collapse of public services and a deepening economic crisis have driven the entire country to the precipice.”
Saffron farmers stop cultivation
The Taliban takeover was also detrimental to agriculture in the country – the most important livelihood in the country.
According to National Public Radio’s Peter Kenyon, saffron farmers have had to tolerate great losses.
Speaking with Kairullah, a farmer who works his land in the Herat province in western Afghanistan, Kenyon learned that saffron farmers now fetch less than $1/kg for saffron. Farmers used to be able to earn as much as a thousand dollars for a kilo.
“This year there has been very little saffron export from Afghanistan because the previous government collapsed. And unfortunately, the new one came to power and the international flights got banned. So saffron swelled in the hands of the farmers and nobody could sell their crops,” Kairullah told NPR.
As a result, not only have these saffron farmers stopped saffron cultivation, but some have also decided to destroy their already existing crops to farm other crops. Others, NPR reports, have left Afghanistan due to extreme poverty and obviously deserted their farming lands.
Those remaining are hopeful that international aid groups will find a way to return to Afghanistan, despite their concerns about the new government.
Countdown to catastrophe
According to David Beasley, WFP executive director, Afghanistan is now among the countries experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst.
“This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance, and unless the economy can be resuscitated. We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands,” he said.
The United States’ special representative for Afghanistan, ambassador Thomas West, on Monday began his first trip to Europe and Asia to discuss developments in the South Asian nation.
In a tweet West wrote, “I look forward to advancing America’s vital interests and supporting the Afghan people. The international community must act together to be effective.”
West’s first stop will be Brussels, where his discussions with allies and partners will focus on the way forward on Afghanistan.