With the scheduled drawdown of foreign troops in Afghanistan under way, it was inevitable that there would be a palpable sense of donor fatigue in nations including those that have poured millions of dollars into the country. How serious the effects of this will prove, though, was indicated by a statement put out by the World Food Programme in Kabul on Tuesday.
The UN food assistance agency faces a funding gap of about $30m for the programme it runs in Afghanistan and warned that this had forced it to cut rations for up to a million people there, out of a total of 3.7 million that it is aiding.
“We have had to cut down the rations of the people we are assisting, just so we can buy some time, so we don’t stop altogether,” said the Afghanistan country director Claude Jibidar.
As a result of the cuts, the calorie count of the food relief has dropped from 2,100 calories a day to 1,500. Needless to say, those receiving aid from the WFP are amongst the poorest of the poor. Many of them had to flee their homes in the latest iteration of war and have yet to find a steady means of livelihood.
This reality is a reminder of the shape of things to come. With new wars and new crises elsewhere and in other regions, attention will inevitably shift fast. But the world needs to recall its responsibilities towards Afghanistan, a country whose misfortunes are not entirely of its own making.
Having been ravaged by conflict for upwards of 30 years, with generations that have seen nothing but violence, improvement in the country’s social fabric and infrastructure is a matter of the long haul.
In this, the authorities in Afghanistan will need the support and cooperation of not just neighbouring countries such as Pakistan — which continues to host millions of refugees on its soil — but also of others. With the foreign presence dwindling fast, Afghanistan must not be left exposed to another cycle of instability.