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Afghanistan Aid Too Little, Too Late

The situation in Afghanistan is far from stable, say international observers. Germany’s World Hunger Relief Agency calls for more aid for the poverty- stricken and war-torn country.


Poor infrastructure, harsh weather conditions and political instability contribute to famine in Afghanistan

After more than two decades of war and three years of drought, Afghanistan’s population is on the verge of a major famine.

"The situation is very serious," says Erhard Bauer, director of Germany’s World Hunger Relief Agency. The international community needs to do more to avert a wide-scale catastrophe, and they need to be more efficient in their methods, Bauer says.

Although international aid organizations have been active in organizing food for Afghanistan, and western countries have contributed generously to humanitarian aid programs, the supplies and money are not reaching the people most in need, explains Bauer.

The situation is especially critical in the rural regions of Afghanistan where approximately 70 percent of the population lives. These extreme impoverished regions are difficult to reach: the infrastructure is practically non-existent and there are few markets and agricultural sources available. During the harsh winter months, many remote villages are completely isolated.

In the past, food and humanitarian aid has focused primarily on urban areas and regions where the infrastructure is relatively stable. In the larger cities with an international presence, food prices have skyrocketed. At the same time, the countryside has suffered a severe drought, and many farmers have sold off what little land they had.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans are now migrating to the cities, hoping to find food and work.

The situation in the cities is worsening by the day. According to international relief agencies, there is not enough housing, food and water for the displaced rural population. People are living on the streets rummaging for food.

The sanitation conditions are horrendous. And armed militants are still a daily threat.

Help for the poorest of the poor

The German World Hunger Relief Agency, which has been active in Afghanistan since 1993, is hoping to stem off some of the problems by undertaking a major initiative to deliver food and supplies to remote regions of the country.

According to Bauer, the German agency is currently sponsoring 11 rural projects with a total of nine million euro. Its emphasis is twofold: immediate relief in terms of distributing food and drinking water, and long-term improvement of agricultural methods through the supply of seeds, the building of irrigation systems and the promotion of projects for women.

The goal of the agency is the establishment of self-sufficient agricultural systems. Carefully planned long-term help is more important, says Bauer, than well-publicized promises, which so often fail to provide sufficient aid.

However, famine relief and agricultural aid is only effective as long as the political situation in the country remains stable, warns Bauer. And this is not yet the case in Afghanistan where rival guerilla factions roam the countryside. Until a unified Afghan military and police force is established, rebels will continue to undermine the success of humanitarian aid programs.

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