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    Hunger threat to Afghans rejected as baseless

    KABUL (PAN): The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation has rejected reports that three million Afghans were going hungry due to a drought in northern and western parts of the country.

    In a statement, the ministry said the process of distributing tens of thousands of tonnes of food items had already been launched with the advent of winter.

    More than 2.5 million people in Afghanistan are in urgent need of essential food aid, as drought grips areas in 14 provinces and snow threatens the current relief effort, NGOs warned on Friday (November 18).

    Nine Afghan and foreign NGOs said in a joint statement that challenges, including a UN emergency appeal that has been funded only seven percent, hindered an adequate response to the looming crisis.

    ActionAid, Action Contre La Faim, Afghanaid, Afghan Development Association, CARE International, Concern, People In Need, Oxfam International and Save the Children urged donors and government to ensure assistance reached those who needed it most, as quickly as possible.

    Typical Afghan weather patterns mean that those living in mountainous areas -- up to half of the affected population -- will soon be cut off from help, according to an Oxfam statement.

    "Families are coping by cutting down their meals, borrowing money and even moving to Iran or Pakistan. Some 90 per cent of households in the affected area are now living in debt after borrowing money to buy food," it said.

    The Afghan Agriculture Ministry said the distribution of food items for winter had been launched and was successfully underway.

    It said Oxfam and other organizations had overlooked the efforts jointly launched by the Afghan government and the international community to resolve the issue, saying the NGOs eyed donations by depicting a wrong picture of the situation.

    The process of distributing 40,000 tonnes of wheat, 5,000 tonnes of rice, 10,000 tonnes of improved seed and 20,000 tonnes of animal feed to about 2.6 million drought-affected people had been launched, the ministry statement said.

    Majid Qarar, the agriculture ministry spokesman, said the relief items had been donated by the Afghan government. However, he did not say in which provinces the aid is being distributed.