KABUL: The UN World Food Programme has been forced to cut rations to four million Afghans this month, it said in a statement late on Friday, due to a funding shortfall in the midst of the country’s severe humanitarian crisis.

“Due to funding constraints, at least four million people will receive just half of what they need to get by in March,” the statement said, adding the UN food agency urgently needs $93 million in funding to reach 13m people in Afghanistan in April.

Since the Taliban took over in 2021, the already poor country has plunged deeper into an economic crisis and foreign governments cut development funding and enforced sanctions on the banking sector.

Some officials, including from the United Nations, have expressed concerns that donors would pull back on the country’s huge humanitarian aid programme after a series of restrictions on women the Taliban administration put in place last year, including barring most Afghan female non-government organisation staff from work in December.

Reason unclear

The reason for the World Food Programme’s March funding shortfall was not immediately clear.

The drop in rations comes at the end of a particularly harsh and deadly winter when many families have depleted their food stores and before the next harvest season around May.

The United Nations estimated that around 90pc of Afghans cannot afford enough food.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023

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