Economy

1,500 Afghans at risk of hunger in Samangan receive food assistance

By Muhammad Qasem

Residents of Dara-e-Sof Payan district in Samangan province receive aid packages distributed by the Wold Food Programme (WFP) on May 26. [Courtesy of Ismael Sadaat]

Residents of Dara-e-Sof Payan district in Samangan province receive aid packages distributed by the Wold Food Programme (WFP) on May 26. [Courtesy of Ismael Sadaat]

KUNDUZ -- The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed food aid to some 1,500 residents at risk of hunger in Dara-e-Sof Payan district, Samangan province, local officials say.

The aid package included 373 tonnes of wheat flour, 42 tonnes of chickpeas, 3 tonnes of cooking oil and other foods, said Fazel Rahman Sayee, spokesperson for the Provincial Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Department in Samangan.

"Each household received 225kg of wheat flour, 28kg of chickpeas, 2kg of salt, and other food items on May 29," he said. "The assistance package was distributed among those who have been identified as the most vulnerable and poor."

The assistance was provided by WFP and distributed to the target beneficiaries by Hungarian Interchurch Aid after a thorough survey in 28 local shuras in the district, he said.

The aid is meant to alleviate some of the families' economic woes, especially those who have suffered human and financial losses in recent months and are now facing extreme poverty, Sayee said.

Alleviating poverty and hunger

"22.8 million [Afghans] are identified as acutely food insecure," the WFP says on its Afghanistan home page.

Humanitarian assistance helped avert a food security catastrophe over the harsh winter in Afghanistan, but hunger still persists at unprecedented levels, according to a United Nations (UN)-backed report published May 9.

"Record levels of hunger persist in Afghanistan as lingering drought and the deep economic crisis continue to threaten lives and livelihoods," the WFP said in a statement that day.

"Food assistance and emergency livelihood support are the lifeline for the people of Afghanistan," said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP country director and representative in Afghanistan, according to the WFP statement. "We mounted the world's largest humanitarian food operation in a matter of months, reaching more than 16 million people since August 2021."

"We are working with farmers, millers and bakeries; training women and creating jobs to support the local economy," she said. "Because the people of Afghanistan would much prefer jobs, women want to be able to work, and all girls deserve to go to school."

"Allowing the economy to function normally is the surest way out of the crisis; otherwise, suffering will grow where crops cannot," she added.

Afghanistan's food security situation remains "dire", said Richard Trenchard, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's representative in the country, also in the WFP statement.

"Humanitarian assistance remains desperately important, as do the needs to rebuild shattered agricultural livelihoods and re-connect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country," he said.

"Unless these happen, there will be no way out of this crisis."

Lifesaving assistance

Recipients of WFP assistance expressed appreciation for the distribution of food and urged other aid organisations to create employment opportunities so they can work and earn a living for their families.

"I received assistance that my family of six can survive on for a month," said Nasratullah, 55, a resident of Chahar Norak village in Dara-e-Sof Payan district.

"The assistance provided by the humanitarian organisations has been timely and effective," he said. "Most households had nothing to eat, and if such assistance wasn't provided, they would have faced hunger."

"People needed the assistance more than ever because most elderly and children are at risk of starvation," he added.

Mohammad Omar, 43, a day labourer from Adam Tash village, said the food aid has been essential for his family.

"My children did not eat proper food for the past several months," he said. "During these months, I could earn only enough to buy bread for them."

"Sometimes, we had to eat twice instead of three times a day," he said. "If I cannot find a job, my children will die of starvation."

Poverty and unemployment have sharply increased in Afghanistan during the past 10 months, Abdul Manan Ibrahimi, a resident of Samangan province, said.

"Given the depth of the economic challenges, the assistance provided by the international community and relief organisations to Afghans affected by conflict and insecurity is very important and indispensable," he said.

However, distributing aid is not enough, he said.

"We demand that in addition to providing food and non-food assistance, these organisations should consider creating job opportunities for Afghans," Ibrahimi said.

"The more aid and collaboration are provided to Afghans, the more their social problems and challenges will be alleviated," he added.

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I agree with Mr. Ibrahimi, we must look for permanent solutions in order to solve these problems permanently. There is a famous proverb saying that instead of giving fish to the people, show them fishing. Just a few days ago I read on a news website that the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a tweet that 18 million people in Afghanistan will need immediate food and assistance next month. In the meantime, the organization has said that it needs money for assisting 8 million people out of the 18 million people in Afghanistan. The WFP has stressed that it is cutting food supplies from one group of hungry people in order to feed others. After the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, poverty in the country is rampant and poverty continues to expand. A report by the UK-based non-profit organization Save the Children also shows that about 10 million children in Afghanistan are struggling with hunger. The organization called for immediate food assistance to save Afghan children and added that aid alone is not sufficient to address the country's worst hunger crisis. Well, what would be the situation of the people if the World Food Programme did not receive the needed amount of money?

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Although the Afghans seriously need humanitarian assistance and we should be thankful for the timely action of the World Food Program and other donors, it should be said that this assistance can’t be the permanent solution to the Afghans' problem. For how long will these aids last and for how many years the donor countries and organizations will continue funding these projects? I don’t think these aid organizations and agencies would have sufficient financial resources to implement such projects and provide assistance to the beneficiaries in the upcoming winter; therefore, it is essential that the donor organizations focus on the sustainable solutions by promoting small scale businesses that would help the vulnerable people to have a stable income, by this at one hand the donor organizations won’t run into financial and logistical obstacles and on the other hand the people will earn a living by their own and will get rid of the permanent need.

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