Afghanistan famine may kill 5 million

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Up to 5 million people face starvation in Afghanistan in the worst drought in 30 years, UN aid agencies said yesterday.

A very poor 2001 harvest, as well as devestation of livestock, soaring grain prices and war, have reduced many people to eating grasshoppers and animal feed, according to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

They warned that unless aid was forthcoming, poor Afghan farmers might be forced back into cultivating opium poppies to make heroin, which is banned by the ruling Taliban. "It is estimated that five million people have no access or very little access to food and will need food aid until at least the next harvest," the WFP said.