The UN has warned that half of Afghanistan’s population will face severe food shortages this winter. It is asking for millions of dollars to help end the crisis.

According to the UN’s World Food Programme, 23 million Afghans could be at risk of malnutrition next year if food supplies run out in the aid-dependent nation.

It says $220million-per-month ‘may’ be needed to keep the country fed, after the collapse of the government and Taliban take-over combined with drought and the Covid pandemic to devastate supplies.

The world’s leaders are wary of cash transfer because it could be used by the new Islamist regime. They also fear that it will legitimize a government that includes terrorists.

23 million people in Afghanistan are facing malnutrition and possible starvation this winter as food supplies run desperately low, the UN has warned (file image)

23 million people in Afghanistan face malnutrition and starvation this winter, as food supplies are extremely low, according to the UN (file image).

David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, said the future facing Afghanistan ‘is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst’ as he sounded the alarm on Monday.

He added that food security has almost completely collapsed. “This winter, millions in Afghanistan will have to choose between starvation and migration unless we can increase our life-saving assistance and if the economy can be revived. 

‘We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands.’

Afghanistan has been dependent on foreign aid for its support since its inception. In fact, 40% of Afghanistan’s GDP was derived from overseas aid before the Taliban took control.

This has almost all but dried up since the Islamists took power after America pulled out troops in the summer. This triggered the near-immediate collapse of a government that it had funded for 20 years.

Corruption was a common feature of the US-supported government. Funds meant for Afghans were diverted to the pockets of contractors and officials as well as warlords. 

The pledge to end such abuses was part of the appeal made by the Taliban to ordinary Afghans when they retook control.

Few people believe the new administration is any different. However, this time the money could be diverted to finance terrorism and not to line people’s pockets.

Alex Zerden, a former Treasury Department official and fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned CNBC last month that the potential for corruption within Taliban ranks is ‘huge’.

The UN says $220million-per-month in funding 'may' be needed to avert crisis, but world leaders are hesitant to hand over money to the Taliban

The UN says $220million-per-month in funding ‘may’ be needed to avert crisis, but world leaders are hesitant to hand over money to the Taliban

He stated that 25% of Afghanistan’s banks are state-owned and the other 25% are national banks, which are used to move large quantities of cash around.

The Taliban control customs and taxation. They were involved in the extortion industry a month ago [and] I don’t think they’re going to change,’ he said. 

Zerden stated that countries might be tempted to donate money directly to aid agencies. However, it is unlikely that they will be set up to receive such large sums.  

Andreas Krieg, an associate professor at King’s College London, warned that humanitarian funds will inevitably ‘get into the wrong hands’ in developing nations run by regimes such as the Taliban.

He stated that it was wrong to use this to justify cutting off the regime entirely. It would undermine any efforts to control the Taliban and moderate their activities.

The UN funded aid to Afghanistan was raised by world leaders last month at $1billion. Now, they must figure out how to get it in the country without the new government.

The World Food Programme tried to reassure donors by saying that there are a number of robust monitoring systems in place to ensure that aid does not go to the wrong people.

A statement was added that “We conduct routine monitoring activities in order to ensure accountability, improve the quality of programmes,”

WFP’s Monday report on the crisis in Afghanistan stated that approximately 7.3million rural Afghans will be affected by food insecurity and malnutrition.

It added that tens more million people living in all major urban centers’ are also facing crises as the country’s economic collapses. The government employees who were paid from overseas have not been paid their wages.

Even before the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan, the country relied on aid for 40 per cent of its GDP and the need has only increased since (file image)

The country was dependent on foreign aid for 40% of its GDP even before the Taliban took over Afghanistan. This has only increased (file image).

According to the WFP, cities are likely to be affected by’very high acute and excessive malnutrition and mortality’. This includes ‘formerly middle-class populations’. 

The UN will need to mobilize unprecedented resources to meet the needs of the world, the report stated.

“WFP” plans to increase its humanitarian assistance when we enter 2022 in order to meet the food- and nutrition needs for almost 23 million Afghans. 

WFP may need to spend as much as US$220 million per month in order to accomplish its task.

The report also asked for $11.4million in urgent funding to tackle the effects of drought, and another $200million to help farmers through next year – with drought conditions set to continue.

The Taliban stated earlier this month that the US had promised to hand over humanitarian aid following a meeting of senior officials.

But an American statement put out after the same meeting was more ambiguous, saying only that the two sides ‘discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people.’

Since August’s government collapse, Congress has been discussing how to help Afghans. However, this is not a way to support the Taliban.

Aides to the Republican Party stated at the time that any funding would have to be conditional on all US citizens being allowed to leave the country and strict oversight of how and whereabouts the money is being spent.