Hunger Crisis and Empty Pockets of Donors: The World Food Programme (WFP) Caught in the Crossfire

By: Amin Kawa

After the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, more than half of the country’s population has been plunged into a severe famine crisis. While humanitarian aid efforts have mitigated the situation to some extent, the threat of famine still looms large. The World Food Programme (WFP), which previously assisted the hungry, is now facing a financial crisis of its own. The organization has announced that it is in its worst financial crisis and a bleak situation. Its head has warned that it lacks sufficient funds to continue providing aid beyond the end of October of this year, and if assistance does not arrive, it will be forced to withdraw entirely from Afghanistan. According to her, food insecurity crises resulting from climate change, the global spread of COVID-19, ongoing conflicts, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have created significant dissatisfaction among countries in providing foreign aid.

However, some Afghan citizens and women’s protest movements attribute the world’s hesitancy to the Taliban’s interference and control over humanitarian aid. They argue that the access of terrorist groups to humanitarian aid has raised concerns among donors. According to them, the marginalization of women also plays a role in the dissatisfaction of donor countries.

The Taliban’s control over Afghanistan has led to the disappearance of many job opportunities and investments in the country. With the collapse of the previous government, donor countries have abandoned Afghanistan, and foreign and domestic investors have largely abandoned their development programs, leaving thousands of people unemployed. With the loss of job prospects, the Taliban’s ban on women working, and their enduring restrictions, people are facing severe hunger and increasing poverty, to the extent that they are in dire need of humanitarian aid. Now, organizations obligated to provide humanitarian assistance based on humanitarian principles are grappling with a financial crisis.

Cindy McCain, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), recently told the “ABC” Television network in America that the organization is facing the worst financial crisis in its 60-year history and is confronted with discouraging circumstances. McCain attributed COVID-19, climate change, war, and the high cost of doing business as factors contributing to the disillusionment of donor countries.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) added that the current world is weary of all these challenges, and there is currently significant dissatisfaction within donor countries. However, according to her, those suffering from hunger and poverty cannot endure these contradictions.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), referring to the reduction in financial aid, has issued a warning that this organization has no money to assist in Afghanistan, and if aid does not arrive by the end of October of this year, they will be forced to completely withdraw from Afghanistan. She added, “As long as we cannot allocate a budget for Afghanistan, we will have to leave it entirely.”

McCain stated that following the restrictions and control imposed by the Taliban on all matters, the number of those in need in this country has increased. She emphasized that the organization provides food to women and children to prevent hunger and famine. She is speaking about helping women in a time, when women in Afghanistan complain of unfair distribution and access to humanitarian aid, saying that the aid does not reach those in need.

The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) has stated that the conflict in Ukraine has cast a shadow over the global famine crisis. She added, “Ukraine has absorbed all vital resources. Ukraine, for better or worse, has absorbed all the oxygen in the room. I understand the need to support Ukraine, but other hotspots in the world are equally desperate and in need of assistance.”

McCain emphasized that the global economic crisis in countries has led their voters to oppose foreign aid policies, creating challenges for humanitarian activities.

Previously, the World Food Programme (WFP) in Afghanistan had reported the removal of 10 million beneficiaries from the humanitarian assistance program, and it added that this month, it is only able to assist two million people in severe hunger. The organization stressed that it needs 1.4 billion USD between July and December 2023 to distribute food to 21 million needy people.

Hsiao Wei Lee, WFP Representative and Country Director in Afghanistan has previously warned that there is little time left to prevent famine in this country, and the price of inaction will be paid by women and children who are falling into poverty and hunger.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has stated that currently, 15.3 million people are in a state of acute food insecurity, and 2.8 million are in a state of emergency food insecurity. This organization added that with the Taliban’s control, the situation has become more complex and challenging. According to this agency, job loss, cash shortages, and rising prices have created a new class of hungry individuals.

The organization has warned that 25 provinces are on the brink of a severe malnutrition emergency, and the situation worsens daily. It is estimated that almost half of children under five and one-fourth of pregnant and lactating women will require vital nutrition support in the next 12 months. With concern, this organization has stated that if food supplies are not transferred to their strategic reserves by the end of autumn, they will be unable to assist during the winter.

However, some citizens view the Taliban’s interference and control in humanitarian affairs as a factor contributing to global hesitancy in providing aid to Afghanistan. According to them, donors from assisting countries are concerned that their funds in Afghanistan might end up financing “international terrorism.”

Ferdous, an Afghan citizen, states that donor governments seek transparent and equitable accounting, a condition that is not feasible for humanitarian organizations under the Taliban’s rule. Currently, this group plays a pivotal role in the distribution and recognition of aid beneficiaries.

On the other hand, some women’s protest movements believe that the ban on women working in humanitarian organizations is another factor contributing to the dissatisfaction of donor countries in Afghanistan. According to these women, countries are obligated to respond to their donors, voters, and parliaments regarding the access of beneficiaries. These movements argue that while half of the population has been excluded from humanitarian operations, and the Taliban’s unlimited intervention in humanitarian affairs continues, global distrust deepens.

The World Food Programme (WFP), while warning of a severe reduction in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, comes at a time when previously, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) had reported evidence of Taliban interference in the distribution of humanitarian aid. Multiple domestic and international media outlets, including the Hasht-e Subh Daily, have also published reports indicating Taliban intervention in the humanitarian aid distribution process.