Now under the Taliban rule, Afghanistan is teetering on the brink of major disaster with poverty-stricken families so desperate they have been driven to selling their children to men and other families
A BBC news foreign affairs veteran fought back tears describing a harrowing interview with an Afghanistan widow living in a cave with her seven children.
Speaking to Radio 4 Today presenter Amol Rajan, the BBC’s John Simpson described seeing what was going on in Afghanistan as like “being in a slow car crash”.
Mr. Simpson is based in Bamyan, in central Afghanistan, where millions of people are facing starvation.
Now under the Taliban rule, the country is teetering on the brink of major disaster with poverty-stricken families so desperate they have been driven to selling their children to men and other families.
The UN ’s World Food Programme has warned millions could die unless urgent action is taken to save 22.8 million Afghans who are close to starving to death.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The Taliban’s brutal take-over has led to a lack of international recognition by the world of the new government – and no more aid.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today show this morning, Mr. Simpson said he came across widow Fatima, living in a “kind of cave” on the outskirts of Bamyan with her five girls and two boys.
The family was “grindingly poor”, Mr. Simpson said.
Fatima used to make money by weeding the area for a local farmer, who could no longer afford to pay her.
As a result, the mother-of-seven had no money and was having to beg for fuel, to make a fire, and beg for flour, which used to be delivered under the old government before the Taliban came in.
Mr. Simpson faltered and could be heard fighting back tears as he continued to describe the heartbreaking encounter.
“Looking around at those kids, Amol, ah… it was quite… quite difficult,” he said.
“I’m sorry to… You know, I’ve had to do a lot of bad things in my time,” he said. “But this… It hasn’t yet happened and yet you know it’s just around the corner – and they know it.”
Mr. Simpson said there was a general air of nervousness throughout the city, with many aware of the “horror” likely to engulf the country unless it gets the aid it needs.
AFP via Getty Images)
“The urgency is to do something now, not to wait until the skeletons are in the streets,” he said.
Mr. Simpson said the Taliban themselves were so nervous that they’re “perfectly prepared” to cooperate with the world food programme and other outfits with whom they typically would not work.
Mr. Simpson’s sentiment was backed by David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food programme.
In a clip from an interview with Mr. Simpson, Mr. Beasley spoke about the situation in Kabul, which he said was “as bad as you could possibly imagine”.
“We’re now looking at the worst humanitarian crisis on earth. 95 per cent of people don’t have enough food, and now we’re looking at 23 million people marching towards starvation out of that, almost 9 million are knocking on famine’s door,” he said.
Mr. Beasley pointed out that winter was also imminent, a period of which the situation was likely to worsen.
Aid in “vast quantities” and “urgently” is needed, Mr. Beasley said. He said there had been a perfect storm, with snow already capping the mountains, a shortage of food and a drought.
Mr. Simpson said that when he interviewed David Beasley, he asked for one message for the leaders of the world.
Mr. Beasley’s message to the “world leaders” and the “billionaires” was for them to imagine it was their little girl, or boy, or grandchild, about to starve to death.
“You would do everything you possibly could. And when there is 400 trillion dollars worth of wealth on the earth today, shame on us if we let any child die from hunger.”
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