Millions of people in Afghanistan are facing a hunger crisis after the Taliban takeover last year, NPR reports.
More than half of the population, about 23 million people, are facing what the World Food Program calls extreme levels of hunger.
But the overall picture is even bleaker.
“There's 98% of people who are just not getting access to food,” Shelley Thakral, the Afghanistan spokesperson for the WFP, told NPR. “So they're not having milk, they're not having dairy, they're not having meat because they can't afford it - probably less fresh vegetables, less fruit.”
Though Afghanistan has struggled with poverty and hunger for decades, the Taliban takeover has created a “new urban class of hungry people” in cities that showed signs of growth like Kabul.
“We've been speaking to people who are - have - were schoolteachers or construction workers scavenging for whatever food that they can find,” Thakral said.
It’s not just money. The country lost about 40% of its harvest this year due to drought, according to the WFP, in a country where the majority of residents rely on agriculture.
"Every farmer we've spoken to has lost almost all of their crops this year, many were forced to sell their livestock, they have accumulated enormous debts and simply have no money," said Richard Trenchard, the Food and Agricultural Organization Representative in Afghanistan.
Some Afghans have tried to sell off furniture, clothing, and other household items to try to make ends meet.
Some families have even sold their own children into early marriages.
But there isn’t enough money in the country as winter grips the mountainous country.
“It's brutal, kind of bitter cold. So if you don't have money to buy food, you certainly don't have money to buy fuel or firewood to keep warm,” Thakral said.
Calls for foreign aid:
Foreign governments have imposed sanctions on the Taliban government, which is now contributing to the starvation of the Afghan people. A growing number of critics are calling on the west to change their strategy.
"The US, UK, EU have to make some decisions quickly or its going to be too late and there's going to be a tremendous amount of unnecessary death," Dr. Paul Spiegel, a Johns Hopkins University doctor who visited Afghanistan for the WFP, told CNN. "The goal of change is a good goal, but is it worth tens of thousands of deaths?"
The European Union has pledged $1 billon euro in aid and the World Bank committed $280 million. The US has contributed $474 million.
But the country can’t get by on emergency aid alone.
"The need for liquidity and stabilization of the banking system is now urgent -- not only to save the lives of the Afghan people but also to enable humanitarian organizations to respond," said Martin Griffiths, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.