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Three million on the brink of famine in Afghanistan, UN warns

THREE million people in Afghanistan are on the brink of famine due to 17 years of war and a severe drought, the United Nations warned yesterday as it called for urgent aid.

The country is experiencing its worst drought in living memory, forcing many Afghan farmers and their families to leave their homes as livestock dies and food and water run scarce.

At least eight million are considered malnourished and another three million are close to famine.

UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Afghanistan Toby Lanzer warned: “Those people are surviving on less than one meal a day and in all likelihood that meal is bread and tea.

“No child should be in the cold, sleeping on the ground, sheltered by only a sheet with holes in it. But that’s reality for thousands of kids displaced by conflict and drought in Afghanistan.”

The country has been riven by war and conflict since the US-led invasion of 2001 in its efforts to find the Saudi terrorist mastermind of the World Trade Centre attacks, Osama bin Laden.

A resurgent Taliban — the extremist group usurped by the US — has tried to establish a bigger foothold in the country, battling for control with jihadists from Isis who are seeking to take advantage of the instability and chaos.

A UN report last week showed the number of civilians killed by air strikes rose by 39 per cent this year as US and Afghan forces intensified aerial bombardments.

It showed a total of 2,798 civilians killed in 2018 with more than 5,000 wounded.  Most were victims of attacks and suicide bombs from Islamist extremists targeting government buildings and polling stations; 649 died during the air attacks.

Mr Lanzer said the situation is “far worse” than had been anticipated with aid organisations on the ground struggling to meet demand.

Additional supplies have been sent to the country, but the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan warned that the situation is worse than that in South Sudan, which, according to the Global Food Security Index, is somewhere between a level three or four with less than six million people struggling with food security.

“For many it is the worst situation they have suffered in their lives. If we don’t reach them, there’s a risk that these people go into level five [famine],” Mr Lanzer said.

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