The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has warned it does not have enough money to feed more than 3 million Afghans who will depend on aid in the coming winter. A WFP spokesperson says a further 3 million Afghans are short of food and 2 million are affected by drought, which has wiped out much of the wheat crop in the south and the west. The WFP says it has received only a third of the donations it needs to feed the Afghans.
Persistent drought has ravaged food production in Afghanistan, while in recent days, flash floods have killed nearly 60 people in the west of the country. Dozens are still missing after the floods.
Aid and development work have been furthered hampered by the deteriorating security situation. Civilians make a quarter of the 4,000 people killed this year in fighting between NATO forces and Taliban insurgents concentrated in the areas worst affected by the drought. (BBC, Nov. 19)
At a conference on Afghan reconstruction in Delhi, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai said: “The job is not over and the stakes are still very high… The security of the region and the world at large are not yet fully safeguarded. We … recognise that Afghanistan’s stability is an asset for this region whereas unstable Afghanistan will undoubtedly put the vision of a peaceful and prosperous region in serious jeopardy.” (BBC, Nov. 18)
With foreign aid lagging, an opium economy is filling the economic void. Afghanistan’s opium cultivation surged by 59% this year, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN agency, said in Kabul that the record harvest of 6,100 tons was “staggering” and “very bad news.” The southern part of Afghanistan, where NATO took control from US-led troops on July 31, was “displaying the ominous hallmarks of incipient collapse, with large-scale drug cultivation and trafficking, insurgency and terrorism, crime and corruption,” Costa said in a statement.
Afghanistan now produces 92 per cent of the world’s supply of opium used to make heroin, Costa maintains. In Helmand, where most British troops are stationed, the area under opium cultivation has soared by 162% as a result of corruption and efforts by insurgents to encourage production, according to Costa added. He says proceeds are used to fuel the insurgency in which 22 British troops have died since the NATO handover alone.
Afghanistan’s drug trade now accounts for at least 35& of the economy and is the largest source of employment, foreign investment and income generation. (FT, Sept. 4 via RAWA)