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FAO Says Rural Afghanistan In Critical Need For $36 Million In Aid

An Afghan farmer harvests wheat on a field in Parwan Province. This year's drought is affecting 7.3 million Afghans in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says $36 million is urgently needed in war-torn and drought-stricken Afghanistan’s rural areas for the coming months to ensure the planting of winter wheat, feed for livestock, and cash assistance for vulnerable families.

Earlier this week, $1.2 billion in aid was pledged for Afghanistan at an international donors conference amid warnings of a looming major humanitarian crisis after the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul a month ago.

The amount is double the $606 million the UN said was needed by the end of the year.

Speaking to reporters in a video briefing from Kabul on September 14, Rein Paulsen, director of the FAO’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience, said the drought was affecting 7.3 million Afghans in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces.

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Four million of them are facing “a food emergency,” characterized by “extreme gaps in food consumption, very high levels of acute malnutrition, and excess mortality.”

Agriculture directly employs some 45 percent of Afghanistan's work force and provides “livelihood benefits" for 80 percent of the population, Paulsen said.

However, 3 million animals are at risk as a result of the drought leaving inadequate pasture, he warned, while the winter wheat-planting season is threatened by “challenges of the cash and banking system.”

Prices for staples have risen since the Taliban takeover while many banks have been closed and those that are open have limited cash withdrawals.

Wheat "is simply indispensable in food security terms,” providing "more than half of Afghans’ daily calorific intake," according to Paulsen.

“FAO has resources in place to support an extra 1.25 million Afghans, but much more is needed,” he said.

“The seeds can’t wait; the farmers can’t wait. This window is requiring an urgent scale and support for donors now.”

With reporting by AP
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