At least three million Afghans are in "urgent" need of food and could face famine if they do not get help, the United Nations warned yesterday, as the war-torn country battles the worst drought in living memory.
A dry spell mainly across northern and western Afghanistan has devastated crops, livestock, and water supplies, forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Food security index
3mn people in 'emergency' Phase-4 of food security index
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan Toby Lanzer said the 3 million people hardest hit were in the "emergency" Phase 4 of a widely-used food insecurity index, one level below famine.
The figure was "among the highest in the world" and required "the most urgent response".
"If we don't (reach them) there's a risk that these people go into level five," Lanzer added.
Aid groups distributed basic commodities to 600,000 people last month
Aid groups distributed basic commodities, including wheat flour fortified with minerals, vegetable oil, and lentils, to 600,000 people last month, Lanzer said. They hope to reach another 600,000 by the end of October.
Another 8 million people were in the "crisis" Phase 3 of the food insecurity index, which includes people with "food consumption gaps with high or above usual acute malnutrition".
Drought was triggered by huge shortfall in snow, rain
Lanzer said the figures were "far worse" than they had anticipated and he warned the situation could worsen as temperatures plummet during the winter months.
The drought affecting more than half of Afghanistan was triggered by a huge shortfall in snow and rain last winter.
Many of the displaced have set up makeshift tents in camps on the edge of urban areas.
Officials struggling to meet demand for food, shelter, health services
Afghan officials are struggling to meet the demand for food, shelter and health services. People at camps said in August they had been surviving on a diet of bread and tea for months because they didn't have enough money to buy fruit, vegetables, or meat.