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crisis in afghanistan

Millions in Afghanistan are facing extreme hunger

It's been a dire winter in Afghanistan, with 23 million people facing extreme levels of hunger amid the brutal cold.

Shelley Thakral, spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Afghanistan, told NPR that there are several reasons why so many Afghans don't have enough food to eat. The country is experiencing its worst drought in decades, food prices have gone up, and the Taliban government takeover last August triggered an economic crisis. Many people who are now out of work because of the new government, including teachers and construction workers, are experiencing food insecurity for the first time. "There's a new urban class of hungry people," Thakral said.

In order to keep Afghans fed through 2022, the World Food Program needs $2.6 billion, which will be used to provide staples like flour and oil. Some people are going without vegetables, dairy, and meat, and malnutrition is on the rise. "When you're not having green vegetables, and if you're pregnant or if you've got a newborn, or if you're a child under 5, that will start to have an impact," Thakral said.

There are vendors selling fruit and vegetables in the streets of Kabul, "but what you're hearing is that people just don't have money to buy food," Thakral said. To scrape together funds to eat and purchase fuel and firewood to stay warm, many are selling household items — and in extreme cases, selling their children into early marriages, Thakral told NPR. Afghanistan is a "poor country, and it has been, but people have always managed to survive," she added. "This is different. The difference now is that people feel this is a very dark time for them."