10 Oct 2008

War and Drought Threatens Afghanistan

A pitiable harvest this year has left small farmers all over central and northern Afghanistan facing hunger, and aid officials are warning of an acute food shortage this winter for nine million Afghans, more than a quarter of the population. Aid officials say that neglecting Afghanistan’s poorest provinces, like Bamian, could push people into crimes or the insurgency.

The crisis has been generated by the harshest winter in memory, followed by a drought across much of the country, which come on top of the broader problems of deteriorating security, the accumulated pressure of returning refugees and the effects of rising world food prices.

The failure of the Afghan government and foreign donors to develop the country’s main economic sector, agriculture, has compounded the problems, the officials say. They warn that the food crisis could make an already bad security situation worse.

The British charity Oxfam, which conducted a provisional assessment of conditions in the province of Daykondi, one of the most remote areas of central Afghanistan, has appealed for international assistance before winter sets in. “Time is running out to avert a humanitarian crisis,” it said.