Worst drought in 30 years followed by freezing winter means 98% of Afghans do not have enough to eat

The worst drought in 30 years has been followed by a freezing winter in Afghanistan, leaving nine million people at risk of famine, reports ITV News Correspondent John Ray

Five potatoes buried under snow and frozen earth are all that separate Shafika's family from eating and starvation.

A freezing winter has followed the worst drought in 30 years and the chaos of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has thrown the country into "economic crisis", according to the World Bank.

These five potatoes are all that separates Shafika's family from starvation. Credit: ITV News

The reality of an economy in tatters are the 24.4 million (more than half of the 37.3 million inhabitants of the country) people who are facing extreme hunger.

Some 98% of Afghans are not getting enough to eat.

Hazifa, a widow whose two sons were both killed by the Taliban, has been left looking after her 13 grandchildren.

"If we can find something we will eat it, if not we will rely on the mercy of God," she told ITV News.

  • 98% of people in Afghanistan are not getting enough to eat, according to the World Food Programme

  • While 24.4 million people (more than half the population) face extreme hunger, according to the International Rescue Committe (IRC)

  • 3.9 million children face severe malnutrition - up from 3.2 million in October 2021, according to Save the Children

  • 9 million people are at risk of famine, according to the IRC

  • More than 13 million children are in desperate need of aid, a surge of 3.4 million in a single year, according to Save the Children

During the 40 years of war in Afghanistan, Hazifa's village in Wardak Province, around 75 miles west of Kabul, was on the frontline of the conflict with the Taliban, but now they're at the back of the queue when it comes to help from the international community.

The Taliban killed both of Hazifa's sons and now she must look after her 13 grandchildren alone.

What little aid there is coming into Afghanistan rarely reaches the countryside.

While the war may now be over, there is no peace dividend.

"America has our money and we have none," says village elder Rahim Nadim.

Village elder Rahim Nadim wants the US to release Afghanistan's money. Credit: ITV News

When the Taliban took charge, Western aid vanished as quickly as the departing US troops.

The nation’s financial reserves have been frozen by Washington. The US regards key figures in Afghanistan’s government as terrorists.

It is a dilemma for the West: unlock $9 billion (£6.63 billion) of cash reserves held by the World Bank but in doing so, risk reinforcing Taliban rule.

The situation in Afghanistan is so dire, that one father offered to sell his daughter to an ITV News team as he can no longer feed her and malnourished babies struggle for life in hospitals which lack medicines. Watch John Ray's heartbreaking report from Afghanistan

A warning this video contains images viewers may find distressing.

This video contains distressing images

It's not just those in the more remote parts of Afghanistan who are struggling, but those in the cities too.

In Kabul, a middle class who once fared well under the old regime now suffer under the Taliban.

A middle-class who worked for the previous government in Afghanistan have found themselves with nothing under the Taliban. Credit: ITV News

Former teachers, doctors and engineers who worked under the previous government lost their jobs under the Taliban and now queue in the freezing cold for a sack of flour and bag of beans.

The Taliban claims it has changed from the brutal regime which ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, and while women are allowed out unaccompanied by men, the burqa is relatively rare, beards are no longer compulsory and some men wear Western clothes, but executions are still carried out, and woman and girls are denied education and jobs.

Currently girls can only attend school up to the age of 13.

Despite girls not being allowed to attend school past the age of 13, the Taliban says no one has been excluded from education. Credit: ITV News

One way in which the Taliban could unlock some of Afghanistan's much-needed cash is to indicate to the wider world they are committed to improving human rights by guaranteeing women and girls can go back into education.

When pressed on this issue by ITV News, Bilal Karimi a spokesperson for the Taliban insisted that no one had been prevented from entering education or the workforce by the group, but "it must be under the framework of Islamic principles".

However deep the crisis - currently nine million people are at risk of famine - the Taliban appears determined to recast the country in its own image, no matter the cost.

Boys are still allowed to attend school in Afghanistan, but the conditions are less than ideal. Credit: ITV News

Earlier this week, the Taliban said that girls could return to school from mid-March, and that separate classrooms will be provided for their education, however, the international community is sceptical of the promises made by the militants.

While girls continue to wait to receive an education, boys have remained in the classroom, but even for them the teaching they receive is far from ideal.

While boys are still allowed an education in Afghanistan, the country is so poor, many cannot learn inside a classroom. Credit: ITV News

One school in Kabul taught its pupils outside in the snow as the building is a freezing shell which lacks lights.

Even those who are relatively lucky under the Taliban have still seen their lives turned upside-down.

As the boys took a test in the freezing conditions, a young girl who cannot receive an education under the Taliban watched on. Credit: ITV News

Click here to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Afghanistan Crisis Appeal, a charity made up of 15 UK aid charities that specialises in humanitarian aid and disaster response. Its current appeal aims to help the 8 million people in Afghanistan who are at risk of famine this winter.