World Food Programme issues Afghanistan alert

Organisation’s Donegal-born chief tells UN briefing of restive country’s ‘hour of need’

Afghanistan is facing its "hour of greatest need" and the international community must meet the challenge of feeding millions, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) in the country has said.

Speaking via video link at a UN briefing on Wednesday evening Mary Ellen McGroarty of the WFP said a “humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes [and] 14 million people are facing severe hunger”.

The WFP had been able to resume its operations in the regions where the Taliban had already taken over and she said its work continued to be based on humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.

The Donegal-born woman told the briefing that the conflict, combined with drought and the socio-economic impact of Covid-19, had exacerbated “an already dire situation” with a second severe drought in just over three years destroying more than 40 per cent of the country’s crops.


“With conflict raging across the country, hundreds of thousands of people are displaced. Winter is fast approaching and . . . the race is on” to prevent an even more grave humanitarian crisis, she warned.

“Millions of people are depending on us” to deliver food, she continued.

Many challenges

She said that since May the WFP had reached four million people but said the programme needs to “be doing much, much more. We plan to scale up to reach nine million people over the next couple of months. But there are many challenges.”

She added that the WFP had been “reaching out to the new authorities for unimpeded humanitarian access. Since the control of the borders has changed, we are working on processes to for the free movement of food across the border. With the winter looming, we really we need to pre-position food . . . before roads are cut off by snow.”

She stressed that resources are needed urgently “to support this effort . . . We need $200 million [€171 million] to be able to get food into the country now – to get it out into the communities before the winter sets in. This is really Afghanistan’s hour of greatest need. And we need the international community to stand by the Afghan people at this time.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast