An interview with Abdur Rashid, of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which took place in October 2001, at the beginning of the Afghanistan campaign. I haven't seen any followups on the status of the "7.5 million extremely vulnerable people" who lived in Afghanistan last fall, though I'm still looking.
How would you describe the current situation in Afghanistan?
In a word - catastrophic. In terms of numbers, there are 7.5 million extremely vulnerable people, 1.5 million of whom are new refugees. However, virtually the entire population of over 23 million is hungry. As we all know, there is a grave humanitarian tragedy in the making. In May, during a mission FAO conducted with the World Food Programme, we already saw signs of impending famine. We estimated that 2.2 million tonnes of cereals would have to be imported into the country this year just to meet basic needs. We assumed that one third of this would be met through commercial imports. But in the current situation, commercial imports of food and agricultural inputs are unlikely. This means that the bulk of the shortfall will need to be met by the international donor community The situation could well become a catastrophe in every sense of the word. Only a massive distribution of food and other relief assistance, particularly to vulnerable groups, will avert the threat of impending mass starvation in the country.