Qatar, Doha – Millions of Afghans face the risk of starvation and a “catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” the head of the United Nations’ World Food Programme has warned, saying the agency needs $200m by the end of the year to continue its operations in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley spoke to Al Jazeera on Tuesday while touring a compound in Doha housing more than 500 refugees who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital Kabul on August 15.
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Beasley said 14 million people in Afghanistan – one-third of the population – are facing food insecurity. That includes two million children who are already malnourished.
“We need this funding now because the winter months are coming. We have four million people in the most difficult areas where winter just compounds the opportunity to reach them,” he said.
On top of years of conflict, Afghanistan’s food security has also been threatened by drought and the coronavirus pandemic.
Afghanistan is now facing economic collapse, with foreign countries and institutions saying they will withhold aid and money to Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the country.
Beasley said the WFP would start to run out of food in September without the additional funding.
He said the Taliban had provided assurances to the WFP it could continue to deliver aid to Afghanistan unimpeded. He said the chaos and violence at Kabul airport over recent days does not affect the WFP’s operations in Afghanistan as the agency brings food and aid into the country by truck.
“Whether it’s the Taliban or others, we are receiving the cooperation we need. We’ve told everyone on the ground that we need neutrality, impartiality, independence. So far everyone has given us what we need to reach the people.”
He said the group, which now controls all but one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, has even provided protection and security around food warehouses against looters and gangs.
“So far they [the Taliban] have calibrated, cooperated and given us the access we need,” Beasley said. “I hope it continues … and I expect it to continue,” he said.