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May-23-02

Hunger Exacerbates Conditions in Afghanistan

In a preliminary draft report commissioned by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Tufts University famine expert Sue Lautze characterized the situation in Afghanistan – exacerbated by a three-year drought – as “still in acute disaster phase” and urged continued diligence in international emergency assistance. Based on 1,100 interviews with Afghan households, Lautz’s report documented conditions so desperate that the sale of daughters into marriage to afford food and water for the family “was very routine, up to the point where [families] who didn’t have a young girl to put into marriage were lamenting it.” According to Vice President for Policy at Refugees International Joel Charney, “This is the most comprehensive look we’ve had at the village level food security situation…I hope it will serve as a wake-up call.”

In a news release issued earlier this month, the World Food Program (WFP) disclosed that 275,000 tons of food is needed to feed 9 million Afghans, comprising 40 percent of the population. Until harvest begins in July, the agency must overcome a critical 75,000-ton shortage worth $28 million. According to WFP Country Director for Afghanistan Burke Oberle, “This break in the food pipeline means that WFP food distribution could come to an almost complete stop in the month of June, just when millions of poor Afghans are struggling with the most difficult pre-harvest time known as the 'lean months'.”

According to the USAID, the US has spent $230 million on assistance to Afghanistan since October 1, 2001 and provided over 50 percent of the WFP Afghanistan aid this year. An immediate increase in food supplies, however, is urgently needed.

Media Resources: Associated Press, 5/23/02; World Food Program, 5/2/02; USAID, 5/23/02

   

     

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