Afghanistan is Starving to Death
Afghanistan has long been a tragedy well before the 100+ days since the Taliban regained control. The prolonged conflict, alongside factors including COVID-19, economic stress, and drought have led to unprecedented food scarcity. Millions are at risk of starvation -- mothers, young children, and the elderly in particular. Climate change exacerbates Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis.
Filipe Ribeiro, a representative from Médecins Sans Frontières, told VICE World News that Afghanistan's health system is fully dependent on international funding -- and when the Western-backed government fell and the extremist Taliban took over, the World Bank cut this funding off. The World Bank is currently working to redirect frozen funds to Afghanistan for humanitarian aid-only projects.
Democracy Now: "Hell on Earth" - Millions of Afghans Face Starvation as US & West Freeze Billions in Gov't Funds, November 16, 2021.
Why This Matters
According to Germanwatch's Global Climate Risk Index 2021, Afghanistan is ranked as the 6th most climate insecure country in the world. Even before the Taliban regained power, the country has struggled through extreme drought, devastating floods, and food insecurity.
Agriculture is the source of income for 60% of Afghanistan's economy -- thus, climate change already poses a severe threat to the livelihoods of the population. When coupled with additional unrest, this risk only compounds.
Economy And Public Health System In Freefall
Afghanistan's economy is facing major problems from all sides -- global financial institutions and international donors have fled given the Taliban's terrorist history, and citizens have limited access to their bank accounts. Some families left in poverty without food have married off their young daughters in exchange for a dowry.
Access to medical care is also alarmingly limited at the moment. Just 17% of Afghanistan's health clinics were in operation in the weeks following the Taliban's entrance -- and without access to funding from international donors, the crisis will only grow. Shelley Thakral, a representative from the World Food Programme (WFP), told VICE World News that:
With climate, with conflict, with the current situation where people are now facing an economic crisis -- all of this affects food security, and all of this affects people's health and wellbeing. It's very concerning, when you've got at least 23 million people facing food insecurity, and in addition to that 3.2 million children who are facing severe malnutrition.
South China Morning Post: 95% of Afghans face starvation due to ongoing drought and poor economy, September 24, 2021.
Act, And Act Urgently
The World Bank has estimated that by 2050, 216 million people could be displaced by climate change. For countries like Afghanistan that are already vulnerable, displacement to this scale puts enormous pressure on already unstable systems.
According to Thakral, the WFP needs $220 million monthly in order to effectively mitigate the situation. With a brutal winter approaching and 23 million Afghans at the brink of starvation, the risks are only growing.
DW: Afghanistan is facing a brutal winter, according to World Food Program, November 23, 2021.
WW0: Facebook Live conversation on national security, climate migration and the climate crisis, September 9, 2020.