Afghanistan: Acute food crisis
Families have to survive day by day and decide who in the family is allowed to eat and whether they can skip a meal. Mission East distributes cash so the population can buy the food they need, says Peter Drummond Smith, who has just returned from a monitoring visit to Afghanistan.
Mission East's Operations Director Peter Drummond Smith has just returned from a field visit in northeastern Afghanistan, where Mission East works. The aim was to encourage the 100 local staff and monitor their relief work in Takhar and Badhakshan provinces.
Here he witnessed a country in acute food crisis. The population can barely think of anything other than what to eat from day to day. And they have to plan who in the family is going to eat how much and when.
This is because the harvest has failed and there is simply not enough food. Mission East distributes cash for food and seeds for the fields, so the families have enough to live on for next year.
Who should eat today?
- I have traveled on field visits many times over the years, but have not often found myself in the middle of a real humanitarian crisis. The people of Afghanistan have to do without the food they need, and they have to make terrible decisions every single day: What meals can we skip, and what can we just eat today? Who in the family should be allowed to eat, and who can do without food right now? It's hard to be confronted with, but that's also why Mission East is working in the country.
What is the biggest need Mission East can meet right now?
- The needs of the population are very clear right now: Quite simply, they need food. Their situation is critical and is due in part to the fact that the country was hit by drought last year. This resulted in a poor harvest, which causes their own food-stocks to run out at this time of year. They simply do not have the basic food to eat.
- Mission East makes a great effort to meet this need by distributing cash so that the families can buy food at the market or in shops. The advantage of "cash for food" is that they can buy what they need most, instead of us deciding what food they need.
There is food to buy in the market
With the money, they can also buy other things they need in the household, such as soap and hygiene items, says Peter Drummond Smith.
- Or they can repay the loans they may have had to take to be able to feed their families during the drought. Cash gives them many more choices.
Can they buy food in the shops now?
- Yes, food is imported into Afghanistan. The market works so that people who lack food can go to the shops and the market to buy the food they need. Before we distribute the cash benefit, we make sure that there is actually enough food to buy. We are very careful to investigate this in advance.
Since December 2021, together we have helped 7,800 families – or 54,600 people.