WFP in Kabul faces $93 million shortfall in budget

A drop in donor funding could push parts of Afghanistan into famine this year, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday, (March 20) adding that up to nine million Afghans could be left without food aid after it already had to slash rations.

A huge humanitarian aid package after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, which led to foreign governments cutting development funding and imposing sanctions, helped avert a widespread famine at the time. However, once again, fears are mounting of a possible famine.

The WFP is currently short of $93 million for March and April, causing it to cut rations to four million Afghans to 50 percent of what they need. Another nine million people will lose access to food aid entirely next month if WFP does not receive funding commitments in the coming weeks.

The WFP comments are one of the first concrete signs after international officials warned that growing global emergencies and challenging economic conditions, combined with Taliban restrictions on women, could lead donors to pull back.

The restrictions have drawn widespread international criticism. The Taliban administration says it respects women’s rights in line with its interpretation of Islamic law and is working on guidelines to clarify the rules for female NGO workers.

WFP also described the Taliban authorities’ decision to ban most Afghan women from working at NGOs in December as a “devastating blow.”

One aid recipient is 33-year-old Khair Mohammad who lost his leg in a mine explosion seven years ago in southern Helmand province. Mohammad and his family are in dire need of assistance and he says that any shortage or lack of humanitarian food aid by the international aid agencies will mean starvation.

“If foreign aid is cut or stopped, what should we do? There is no work, no money, so all of us will be dying in poverty, of hunger,” he added.

A huge humanitarian aid package after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021 helped avert a widespread famine then, but now those fears are rising again.

According to U.N. finance records, the WFP received around $1.7 billion last year for Afghanistan from dozens of governments and institutions. Its major donors included the United States, Britain and Germany. The records did not indicate which donors had reduced funding this year.