Aid agencies have warned that starvation threatens the lives of millions of people in Afghanistan in the aftermath of a widespread drought ahead of harsh winter weather.
A group of nine charity organizations warned on Friday that up to three million Afghans are facing hunger, malnutrition and disease following a severe drought that ruined their crops, Reuters reported.
Poor rains earlier this year destroyed 80 percent of wheat crops in the north Afghanistan, northeast and west of the country, facing the impoverished farmers with food shortages, the charities stated.
The group, which included Oxfam and Save the Children, also expressed concern that extreme winter weather would add to the Afghans' plight, cutting off their access to vital food aid.
“Villagers are telling us that this year the drought has destroyed everything. Their food stocks are already low, and they are worried about how they will get through the coming months,” Oxfam's country director Manohar Shenoy said in a statement.
"Time is running out to be able to provide communities with the help they most desperately need before a harsh winter makes many areas inaccessible. Snow is already falling and many mountainous areas are likely to be cut off within weeks,” he warned.
The pinch of starvation, as a heavy winter looms, has forced Afghan families to cut down on meals, migrate to neighboring Pakistan and Iran or borrow money to buy food. Schools have closed as more children have to work.
In October, the United Nations made an appeal for $142 million to help Afghanistan fight the drought crisis that has hit 14 of the country's 34 provinces, but international donors have so far failed to fund more than seven percent of the required sum.
“Families are facing being cut off for winter without enough food and clean water,” said David Skinner, Save the Children's Afghanistan country director.
Skinner warned that if aid efforts were not increased, children could die of hunger and the already high malnutrition levels in Afghanistan.