After a slew of massive earthquakes in Afghanistan that left tens of thousands of people in desperate need in Herat province, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is urgently appealing for US$19 million to provide emergency food assistance to 100,000 people.
At least 1,400 people were killed and more than 1,800 injured, according to official figures after the first day of earthquakes on 7 October – most of them women and children. An estimated 25,000 buildings have been destroyed. The survivors are currently sleeping in tents next to the rubble of their homes, desperate and afraid of further earthquakes and aftershocks.
WFP responded within hours of the first earthquakes, distributing fortified biscuits, and specialized food to prevent malnutrition in children followed with fortified wheat flour, vegetable oil, pulses, and salt to affected families in destroyed villages.
”WFP is assisting the survivors, but we are having to take this food from an already severely underfunded program in Afghanistan and we urgently need additional funding”, said Ana Maria Salhuana, Deputy Country Director of WFP Afghanistan. “Disasters like these earthquakes pound communities who are already barely able to feed themselves back into utter destitution.”
With winter only one month away, WFP plans to assist affected families with food and cash-based transfers for three to seven months. Funding permitting, the emergency response will be complemented by longer-term resilience programming so vulnerable communities are able to rebuild their livelihoods.
Earlier this year, WFP was forced to reduce the amount of food families receive and to cut 10 million people in Afghanistan from life-saving food assistance due to a massive funding shortfall. Currently, WFP can only support 1 out of 5 people who need food assistance to survive.
In addition to the earthquake response, WFP also urgently needs US$400 million to preposition food before winter when communities are cut off due to snow and landslides, In Afghanistan, these include communities experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity and women who are being increasingly pushed out of public life and for whom WFP provides sustenance.