A famine has become “more and more likely” in Afghanistan, with more than half the country facing hunger, a new UN report has warned.
The worsening humanitarian crisis comes after a 15-year insurgency intensified earlier this year and the country’s humanitarian agencies have been hit hard by the threats, the report said.
“Unless protection and basic needs are addressed and better funding is secured, the prospect of a drought-like situation becoming an emergency scenario in one or more regions is becoming more and more likely,” said UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock.
The UN said that the conservative prediction was that the fighting would force as many as 1.3 million people to flee their homes over the next year.
Food insecurity is “alarming” and aid agencies fear worsening conditions could lead to “catastrophic consequences”.
The Afghan Taliban have said they will not stop fighting the government of President Ashraf Ghani, although talks have continued.
Among those affected is Kabul’s impoverished countryside, which has borne the brunt of the 15-year conflict.
Food and fresh water in villages are “minimal”, so even a few weeks without adequate food could lead to famine, said UN food agency spokeswoman Bettina Luescher.
“The fields are dried up. There are big clouds of dust, the temperature has dropped very fast. People are struggling to survive on their bare hands and knees.”
She added that while most provinces’ crops had failed, even more vulnerable areas were hit particularly hard and some districts had not seen rain in months.
The prospect of a drought-like crisis is increasing in the lush plains and hills south of Kabul, where water has dried up and crops fail.
Ms Luescher said: “If that area is [drought-like] one district which is very severe is completely cut off.”
The risk of hunger spreads to other areas if worse-hit areas do not have enough water.
“All provinces are critical, but the most serious challenge is in the south, where the Taliban continue to press the urban areas,” said the UN.
“This will prove the most difficult terrain to access.”
Twenty-eight international aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, including 19 by the Taliban, the UN’s human rights office said last month.
(FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE)