The World Food Program warns the crisis of acute hunger facing millions of people in Afghanistan as winter sets in is just one step away from becoming a catastrophe.

To prevent the worst from happening, the World Food Program is rapidly ramping up humanitarian operations in Afghanistan. The agency, which has provided food aid to 15 million Afghans in 2021, says it will increase the number of beneficiaries to 23 million in the coming year.

WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri said the Afghan economy is in shambles and currency depreciation is making it increasingly difficult for people to feed themselves.

“Families are resorting to desperate measures as the bitter winter sets in. Nine in every ten families are now buying less expensive food, which tends to be less nutritious… Eight in 10 are eating less, and seven in 10 are borrowing food in order to get by,” he said.

WFP reports half of all children under five, around 3.2 million, are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this winter. Around a million children suffering from this condition have received nutrition treatment and malnutrition prevention this year, as have half a million pregnant and nursing women.

Phiri said WFP is planning to scale up this program in 2022. He said it also is working to provide school meals, take-home rations, and cash transfers for one million children across the country.

“The needs are quite enormous. And we have a huge amount to do to stop this crisis from becoming a catastrophe. Our country director describes this situation as quite dire. he says it is an avalanche of hunger and destitution,” said Phiri.

The World Food Program says it urgently needs $220 million a month or $2.6 billion in total to provide lifesaving assistance to 23 million Afghans in the coming year.

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