Most of Afghanistan is threatened with hunger, and one million Afghan children could die of hunger this winter, informed UN Refugee Agency spokesman Babar Baloch. According to figures from the United Nations World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization, 2.8 million Afghans would face dangerously high hunger levels, and 8.7 million were even beginning to experience famine.

Both organizations stressed that the winter was expected to take a higher toll on civilian life than the preceding 20 years of war. According to the United Nations Population Fund, Afghanistan has a population of 39.8 million.

Amanda Catanzano of the International Rescue Committee told NPR that more than half of all Afghan children under the age of five were expected to be gravely undernourished next year. A similar warning was given in a Tweet by UNICEF Afghanistan.

Humanitarian assistance and frozen assets

Thomas West, the U.S. State Department's Special Representative for Afghanistan, spoke to PBS about the crisis. He said the U.S. provided Afghanistan with "$474 million in American humanitarian assistance."

NPR said that after the Taliban victory, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and other international sources stopped providing about $5 billion in aid. That aid had supplied for most of the Afghan government's budget.

The U.S. government had also frozen roughly $9 billion in Afghan government assets held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

West told PBS that the Taliban had been well aware of the likely consequences of seizing control of the country by force. "And they made that decision anyway. And, unfortunately, the Afghan people are suffering as a result," West said.

There was "nothing legal or legitimate" about the freezing of Afghan assets, Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research told NPR. The frozen assets would enable the Afghan government to pay for about 18 months of imports, Weisbrot said.

Drought and COVID-19

Drought and the coronavirus were additional hardships facing Afghans, the New York Times said.

The paper said that the drought was expected to reduce the country's wheat harvest by 25 percent. Many farmers had stopped working the land, the paper added.

Afghanistan has 220,000 teachers waiting to be paid

When asked whether the U.S. could help the 220,000 Afghan teachers waiting for their salaries, West told PBS that the government wanted independent monitors to verify that girls were receiving access to education in Afghanistan. He also said that giving the teachers their back pay "is not going to be enough to mitigate the suffering underway truly meaningfully."

West also said the U.S. wanted to see "a serious and rigorous academic curriculum" in Afghan schools.

UNICEF launches $2 billion appeal

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a $2 billion appeal for Afghan children on December 7. Alice Akunga, of UNICEF, was quoted by VOA as saying that raising the money "won't be easy but with the lives and wellbeing of so many children at stake, we must rise to the challenge."