Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi has spurned the World Food Program (WFP) statement that 22.8 million people in Afghanistan are starving and nearly 8.7 million facing famine, according to Pajhwok Afghan News.

Mary Ellen, WFP’s Afghanistan director, said on December 13 that 8.7 million Afghans were facing famine and nearly 23 million more were starving.

The WFP official said while visiting different parts of Afghanistan this last month, she had witnessed severe conditions of hunger and malnutrition.

Asked about Ellen’s remarks by Pajhwok Afghan News, Hanafi said: “I don’t agree with these figures.  I believe the people of Afghanistan don’t agree with these figures either. So far, no one has died of starvation.”

He did agree many Afghans were living in poverty due to war and drought. But they were unlikely to die of starvation and there was no cause for concern.

Hanafi added Muslim countries were duty-bound to help alleviate poverty in Afghanistan.  He claimed the economic situation in the country was improving.

Neighbors and regional countries wanted to invest in different sectors of Afghanistan, he claimed, asserting the government’s ability to meet all its needs with its own income.

After the new government came into power in Afghanistan about four months ago, the United States froze Afghan central bank reserves worth nearly US$10 billion and imposed other sanctions on the country, leaving the Afghans in dire economic straits.

However, the World Bank announced on December 14 that donor countries had agreed to provide US$280 million from the frozen funds to Afghanistan through the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF).