UK pledges £35m to Afghanistan as food crisis worsens

The UK government has announced £35m of new funding to help the growing crisis in as a new report warns that almost half of the rural population – 10.6 million people – are likely to be affected by severe food insecurity.

The , by independent multi-agency body , highlighted the spread of conflict and the ongoing drought which has displaced , impacting Afghan incomes and leading to among children. Coupled with high food prices, there is significant cause to believe that extensive suffering could lead the country deeper into a . In a country where 20 million people rely on farming, the drought has caused a 45% drop in agricultural output this year, according to the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture.

Announcing the initiative, the UK international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, said “This deadly drought is already affecting millions of Afghans, many of whom have had to leave their homes and livelihoods in desperate search of basic necessities. UK aid will provide life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of Afghans, including food, clean water, and tents.”

Drought in Abkamari district, Badghis province, Afghanistan. Photograph: Stefanie Glinski/IRIN

Calling for an international response to avert the crisis Mordaunt said: “Other donors must do more if we are to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.”

She said that the initiative will provide tents and urgent relief items for up to 260,000 people, food or cash transfers to buy essential items for up to 602,660, with a monthly ration of special nutritious food to prevent malnutrition in young children, and access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation for those affected by drought.

DfID explained that funding for the initiative will consist of £25m from their crisis reserve fund in addition to £10m already provided this year, bringing UK expenditure on the humanitarian response in Afghanistan to £67m.

A separate report also highlights the ongoing debate over the transparency and effectiveness of US efforts to assist in rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.

“The Afghan government now controls or influences the lowest proportion of its own territory since they began monitoring this data in November 2015,” according to the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), which published details of an audit into US efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure.

The to a lack of planning, monitoring and evaluation by the US Department of Defense (US DoD) over four contracts worth $1.62bn (£1.26bn) awarded to DynCorp International to provide contract advisors at the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Interior (MoI). Two of the four contracts, valued at $421m, are due to expire this month.

Children in Qala-i-Naw’s new IDP camp, where hundreds of families have gathered in need for water. Photograph: Stefanie Glinski/IRIN

The supposed lack of transparency has allegedly been caused by frequent changes to the rating systems used to measure progress. Between January 2015 and December 2016, 96% of plans and milestones for the Afghan MoD changed and 86% of those for MoI, making it almost impossible to gauge effectiveness and impact of US support.

One area of concern is the lack of training, highlighted as “an important aspect that must be addressed,” by a former combined security transition commander. Reports suggest that there is limited tracking of staff transferred to advisory roles once deployed to the region, leading to questions of suitability and experience. This is coupled with the lack of training standards, with little or no training reportedly being given to uniformed US staff arriving on deployment to help them perform their roles. A recent survey by Sigar revealed that 45% of uniformed staff had received no advisor training before deployment.

When asked, the central command for the US DoD were unable to provide staff training statistics to Sigar, stating they did not retain data relating to who and when staff were trained, leading to questions over the being offered to Afghanistan.

Source : theguardian[dot]com