A drought in Afghanistan means millions more people will need food aid this fall at a time when budget cuts are forcing the United Nations to severely scale back feeding programs in the country, the global body said Wednesday.
Poor wheat harvests due to lack of rainfall in the central highlands and the north will likely increase by 2 to 3 million the number of Afghans considered "food insecure," the World Food Program said.
This is on top of 3.8 million people already in need of emergency food assistance and 3.5 million who currently receive aid from WFP to supplement their diet — a program the agency plans to drop because of lack of funds.
Concentrating on emergency relief will affect WFP's efforts to provide vitamins to schoolchildren in a country where over half of children are stunted due to malnutrition, and as well as a program encouraging parents to send girls to school by giving them staples such as oil in return for attendance.
WFP's deputy director for Afghanistan, Bradley Guerrant, said the U.S. government alone has cut its funding for Afghanistan to the organization by more than two-thirds, from $365 million in 2009 to about $110 million this year.
"We had anticipated more money coming from the U.S. government," Guerrant told reporters in Geneva. "But to be fair the U.S. government is still our largest funder."
WFP expects to see a spike in so-called distress livestock sales, when people sell animals at vastly reduced prices to pay for staple foods. Guerrant said the food shortages will last until at least the middle of next year and likely force many to leave their homes in search of food.
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