Friday, September 29, 2023

Afghans face “avalanche of hunger and destitution”: UN agency


GENEVA, December 14: Almost all Afghans do not have enough to eat and a failing economy could tip Afghanistan’s increasingly dire situation under Taliban rule into catastrophe next year, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.
WFP surveys showed an estimated 98% of Afghans are not eating enough, with seven in 10 families resorting to borrowing food, which pushes them deeper into poverty, a spokesperson for the agency told reporters.
The abrupt withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban victory in August has left Afghanistan’s fragile economy on the brink of collapse, with prices for food, fuel and other basic staples rising rapidly out of reach for many.
“The spiralling economic crisis, the conflict and drought has meant the average family can now barely cope,” Tomson Phiri told a Geneva briefing. “We have a huge amount to do to stop this crisis from becoming a catastrophe.”
The WFP has provided food assistance to 15 million Afghans so far in 2021, and to seven million in November alone. Next year, it plans to ramp up its assistance to 23 million people across all provinces in Afghanistan.
“We cannot waste any moment,” Phiri said. “Our country director describes the situation as quite dire. She says it’s ‘an avalanche of hunger and destitution’.”
Separately, Nada Al-Nashif, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Afghan families face “severe poverty and hunger” with many pushed into desperate measures, including child labour, early marriage and “even the sale of children”.
Afghan victims saddened US drone strike to go unpunished
The Afghan survivors of an errant US drone strike in August that killed 10 members of their family, including seven children, said Tuesday they are frustrated and saddened by a decision that US troops involved in the strike will not face disciplinary action.
Sitting on a cement walkway just a few feet from where a US hellfire missile slammed on Aug 29 into a car belonging to their older brother, Zemerai Ahmadi, three surviving brothers told The Associated Press that they have heard nothing from Washington about financial compensation for their loss or when they would be evacuated from Afghanistan.
Ahmadi, 37, was a longtime employee of an American humanitarian organisation. The strike that killed him and nine others took place amid the chaotic last days of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country in mid-August.
It also came just days after an Islamic State suicide bomber killed 13 US troops and 169 Afghans at a Kabul airport gate. US forces believed that the car they were following was an imminent threat and decided to strike.
Since the strike, the Ahmadis had demanded that those responsible be punished and that they be relocated to the United States or a third country deemed safe for them.
But on Monday, the Pentagon said that Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin had approved recommendations for improvements in strike operations from the generals who lead US Central Command and Special Operations Command, based on the findings of an independent Pentagon review released last month. There were no recommendations for discipline made by the generals, according to John Kirby, chief Pentagon spokesman.
Kirby said the US was still ready to pay financial compensation to the Ahmadis and potentially get them out of Afghanistan. Asked why it was taking so long, Kirby said the US wanted it done as safely as possible.
For the Ahmadis, every day they remain in Kabul puts them at risk. Rumour on the street has it that the US has already paid them and criminals are eager to get their hands on the money, said Emal Ahmadi. His 3-year-old daughter Malika was killed in the strike.
They are also getting phone threats, added Emal, the youngest of the brothers. The callers threaten to kill them if they don’t give them money.
People are always asking us how much money we got, Emal added. As for the US promises to evacuate the family, we are waiting. We have heard nothing… The longer it takes, the more dangerous it is for us.
For Romal Ahmadi, whose three children aged 2-7 years were killed in the strike, the days are a blur of depression and pain. I feel only pain, he said. He wants the US troops behind the strike punished.
But America is a superpower,” Romal said. We are powerless to do anything so we leave it to God to punish them.
At the time of the strike, the US was working to evacuate thousands of Americans, Afghans and other allies in the wake of the Afghan government’s collapse.
For weeks after and despite mounting evidence that the US had wrongly killed the 10 Ahmadis, the Pentagon maintained it had taken out a potential Islamic State operative. It wasn’t until mid-September that US Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, called the strike a tragic mistake and said innocent civilians were indeed killed in the attack.
The Pentagon review subsequently found there were breakdowns in communication in the process of identifying and confirming the target of the bombing.
My children are all gone. No one can bring them back, Romal said. (Agencies/AP)