KUNDUZ -- Families in Takhar province who are at risk of hunger are receiving food aid from the World Food Programme (WFP), with 1,500 receiving assistance in recent days and more than 6,500 to follow, officials said.
In the Takhar provincial capital of Taloqan, families were assessed through the Shelter for Life non-governmental organisation (NGO), said Hayatullah Rasuli, director of the WFP for the northeastern provinces.
Workers distributed a food package of five essential items to 1,500 families on July 23, he told Salaam Times.
Food aid will reach another 6,500 needy families in Takhar by August 22, Rasuli said.
"The food package includes flour, rice, oil, chickpeas, sugar and other necessary items for a family," he said.
"The value of each food package is more than 3,500 AFN ($39)," he added. "We plan to expand this assistance to other districts in the near future and cover needy and poor families in our assistance."
The packages are provided "to alleviate economic pressure on families, especially on those that suffered financial and human losses in recent months and are now facing severe poverty", he said.
United Nations (UN) agencies and partner NGOs have been able to distribute food and non-food items to thousands of needy and low-income families in recent months, and the process is ongoing, he said.
According to WFP Afghanistan, 19 million inhabitants are facing acute hunger across the country, amid a severe drought and crippling economic crisis.
Since the beginning of 2022, WFP has provided more life-saving assistance to more than 18 million Afghans, including 410,000 metric tonnes of food and $115.8 million worth of cash and food vouchers.
WFP works in all 34 provinces and has a fleet of 239 trucks on the road every day, delivering food to some 800 food distribution sites.
The US government is the single largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, providing more than $774 million in humanitarian aid in Afghanistan and to Afghan refugees in the region since mid-August 2021.
This includes more than $573 million from the US Agency for International Development (USAID)'s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and more than $201 million from the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.
While appreciative of food assistance, aid recipients in Takhar province who spoke to Salaam Times called on humanitarian agencies to create jobs, so they can work and earn a living for their families.
"I am a widow and mother of six," said Fatima, 38, a resident of Sarai Sang village outside Taloqan, who goes by her first name only.
"I have been the breadwinner for my children for the last five years, but the difficulties I faced this year are more than I faced in the last five years combined," she added. "I can't feed my children even once a day."
"I received one bag of flour, one bag of rice, one can of oil, 3.5kg of chickpeas, and 1kg of salt," Fatima said. "I am very happy to have food for my children for some time now."
Afghans are in a dire economic situation, said Hafizullah, a 57-year-old day labourer from the Taloqan area village of Khatayan, who goes by his first name.
Growing poverty has made food aid a critical need for his family, he said.
"My children haven't had a proper meal in the last couple of months, since I could afford to buy them only bread," Hafizullah said.
"My children will starve if I can't find work," he said. "I don't know how to make a living for my family."
"The public needs assistance more than any other time," he added, noting that children and the elderly are more at risk of hunger than anyone else.
Food aid can save thousands of lives, Hafizullah said.
Poverty and hunger have grown steadily in Afghanistan during the last 11 months, according to Taloqan resident Sayed Ashraf Mustaghni.
"Given the depth of the economic problems, aid from the international community and aid agencies is critical to Afghans who have been affected by insecurity and conflicts," he said.
But these aid packages are not enough, he said, calling on all NGOs that operate under the UN mandate to do their utmost to help needy families.
"We hope that in addition to providing food and non-food assistance, these NGOs also consider creating job opportunities for Afghans," Mustaghni said.