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Afghanistan crisis

What next for Afghanistan? A hunger crisis

We must act quickly to prevent famine in a country where 3.1 million children are already at risk of acute malnutrition.

Since the change in government in Afghanistan, a food crisis has been unfolding across the country. Nearly 23 million Afghans are now facing hunger and 1 million children are at risk of dying unless they receive immediate treatment for malnutrition.

“The suspension of aid infusions to the government budget, the freezing of assets, and the uncertainty about sanctions have combined to send the economy into a tailspin,” says David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC). “The result is a predictable and preventable humanitarian catastrophe.”

Food prices have skyrocketed as the economy collapses, and families cannot afford what they need to survive. Ongoing drought intensified by climate change has also taken a toll on food supplies.

Nearly all Afghans arriving at IRC-run clinics in recent weeks are women bringing their malnourished children for urgent care. Our health teams are seeing a deeply concerning rise in the number of patients with Severe Acute Malnutrition, the most extreme and dangerous form of malnutrition.

An Afghan man sits on the ground holding a sieve and sifting a pile of grain during a drought.

Unless people can access the food they need to break the cycle of malnutrition, Afghanistan—which has already endured decades of war—faces the very real risk of famine.

Photo: IRC

In all, some 22.8 million people — more than half Afghanistan’s population — could face acute food insecurity this winter according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Of these, 9 million people are projected to face emergency levels of food insecurity, on the brink of famine.

At the same time, public health services are drying up—a result of the pause in international development financing. Sixty percent of Afghan health clinics the IRC assessed do not have the capacity to deliver vital nutrition programs.

Unless people can access the food they need to break the cycle of malnutrition, Afghanistan—which has already endured decades of war—faces the very real risk of famine.

What can be done to prevent famine in Afghanistan?

More funding for frontline humanitarian agencies to scale up health and nutrition programs is urgently needed to save lives. But that’s not enough.  

World leaders must act. “Agencies like the IRC have been warning of the humanitarian disaster that awaits us all if the international donors allow the Afghan economy and public health services to implode,” says Miliband. “Now the impending cost of failure is in front of our eyes: 23 million people in a food crisis."

A displaced Afghan farmer sits holding her baby inside a tent.

Nearly 23 million Afghans are now facing hunger and 1 million children are at risk of dying unless they receive immediate treatment for malnutrition.

Photo: IRC

How the IRC helps in Afghanistan

The IRC began responding in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across nine provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country.

We support 62 health clinics throughout Afghanistan, provide cash for displaced families, connect people with livelihoods opportunities, and provide safe learning spaces and community-based education, among other services. We also work with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects.

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