US watchdog warns of hunger crisis in Afghanistan, threat to women’s rights

The U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction released a report Saturday detailing concerns of a hunger crisis in Afghanistan, along with increasing restrictions to women’s rights under the Taliban. 

The report says almost 19 million people in Afghanistan will encounter “potentially life-threatening levels of hunger” from June to November of this year, while six million people will be under “near-famine conditions.” 

The lack of food will leave 1.1 million children at risk of death due to malnourishment if they do not receive more help. 

Food insecurity from June to November of this year has increased by 60 percent compared to the same time period in 2021, according to the report. 

“The spring season traditionally would have brought relief from food shortages. However, with Afghanistan in the grips of the worst drought in three decades, below-average rainfall in 2022 is expected to worsen drought conditions, and prevent the spring harvest from improving food security for vulnerable families,” the report says. 

The report comes almost a year after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban took over the country. 

In that year, women have seen their rights severely restricted as the Taliban has ordered women in many places to cover their faces in public, required them to have a male guardian for travel, and prevented girls from going to school.

“In conjunction with the mandate to cover, the Taliban are limiting women’s freedom of movement. In March, the group banned women from air and long-distance travel without the accompaniment of a male guardian,” the report details. 

The report says many girls’ secondary schools are still closed with no indication of when they could reopen. 

The group urges the international community to continue to provide donations to help those who are suffering from food shortages, as well as adopting policies to pressure the Taliban to expand the space for women’s rights.

“As the Taliban continue to formulate and impose policies that negatively impact the wellbeing of women and girls in Afghanistan, the international community will confront the efficacy of their current engagement strategy of applying political pressure and withholding certain funds,” the report says.