ISLAMABAD — A global aid agency warned Monday that a large-scale plague of locusts is ravaging northern Afghanistan and could destroy 1.2 million metric tons of wheat, almost one-quarter of the country’s annual harvest.
“The escalating situation threatens to plunge millions of people into worsening levels of hunger,” the nongovernmental aid group Save the Children said in a statement.
The locust outbreak comes as funding shortfalls have cut off food aid for 8 million people in Afghanistan in the past two months, the group said. It urged the international community to increase humanitarian aid and resume development assistance to help prevent the impoverished country from spiraling into “famine-like conditions.”
Save the Children said that the Moroccan locust, one of the world’s most damaging plant pests, is sweeping across eight of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, the country’s wheat basket.
The agency said the outbreak has come at the worst possible time for Afghanistan, where more than 15 million people — one-third of the population — are projected to face crisis levels of hunger over the next five months, including 3.2 million children.
Aid organizations face a $2.2 billion shortfall in humanitarian funding to support Afghanistan’s most vulnerable children and families, especially women and girls.
Arshad Malik, the Save the Children country director, said that millions of children would suffer unless humanitarian aid is immediately increased.
“However, humanitarian aid alone is not a quick fix. The underlying drivers of hunger, including resuming development aid and support to the country’s ailing economy, will also need to be addressed.”
Since the Taliban regained control of the conflict-torn South Asian nation in August 2021, the international community has suspended development assistance and imposed financial sanctions.
The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, stemming from years of war and prolonged drought, has worsened since the Taliban took control of the country.
U.N. officials say that the Taliban’s discriminatory policies against Afghan women have caused the humanitarian and economic situation in the country to deteriorate. The hardline group has barred Afghan women from working for the United Nations and other aid agencies.
The Taliban have suspended girls’ education beyond the sixth grade and banned many women government employees from workplaces.
The restrictions on Afghan women, and other human rights concerns, have deterred foreign governments from recognizing the Taliban as legitimate rulers of the country.
Source : VOANews