KABUL – The World Food Programme (WFP) is being forced to drop another 2 million hungry people from food assistance in Afghanistan in September, bringing to 10 million the number of people cut off from its support this year in the country. Due to a massive funding shortfall, going forward WFP will only be able to provide emergency assistance to 3 million people per month.

“Amid already worrying levels of hunger and malnutrition, we are obliged to choose between the hungry and the starving, leaving millions of families scrambling for their next meal,” said Hsiao-Wei Lee, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Afghanistan. “With the few resources we have left, we are not able to serve all those people teetering on the edge of utter destitution.”

In March, WFP had to reduce rations from 75 to 50 percent for communities experiencing emergency levels of hunger. In April and May, it was forced to cut off 8 million people from food assistance. WFP is often the last lifeline for women, who are increasingly being pushed out of society, with dwindling options for making a living and feeding their children.

These cuts mean that 1.4 million new and expecting mothers and their children are no longer receiving specialized food designed to prevent malnutrition. WFP expects to see a sharp rise in admissions to nutrition centers in the months to come as children slide deeper into hunger.

For the coming six months, WFP needs US$1 billion to reach a planned 21 million people with lifesaving food and nutrition assistance as well as livelihood support. This includes funding to pre-position food for communities that will become cut off during the harsh Afghan winter.

“A small window of opportunity remains to avert catastrophe in Afghanistan, but we are running out of time,” said Lee. “The cost of inaction will be paid by the most vulnerable women and children reeling from the impact of 40 years of conflict, a crippled economy and a worsening climate crisis.”

The announcement comes ahead of the 78th annual UN General Assembly in New York, where world leaders will gather to debate key global challenges to development, including hunger. As needs skyrocket globally, WFP is urging donor governments to prioritize funding for humanitarian operations.

WFP is in the midst of a crippling funding crisis that is forcing the organization to scale back life-saving assistance at a time when acute hunger is at record levels. Almost half of WFP country operations have already cut - or plan to cut soon - the size and scope of food, cash and nutrition assistance programmes.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.