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KABUL: Afghanistan's Taliban government launched a programme to tackle hunger on Sunday, offering thousands of people wheat in exchange for labour.

The scheme will be rolled out around Afghanistan's major towns and cities and employ 40,000 men in the capital alone, the Taliban's chief spokesman said at a press conference in southern Kabul.

"This is an important step for fighting unemployment," Zabihullah Mujahid said, adding the labourers must "work hard".

Afghanistan -- which is already suffering from poverty, drought, electricity blackouts and a failing economic system -- is now facing the onset of what may be a harsh winter.

The Taliban's food-for-work scheme will not pay labourers, targeting those who are currently unemployed and most at risk of starvation during the winter.

The two-month programme will see 11,600 tons of wheat distributed in the capital, with about 55,000 tons for elsewhere in the country, including Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif and Pol-i-Khomri.

UN launches cash plan to prop up Afghan economy

Work for the labourers in Kabul will include digging water channels and catchment terraces for snow in the hills to combat drought.

Mujahid and other senior officials, including agriculture minister Abdul Rahman Rashid and Kabul mayor Hamdullah Nomani, cut a pink ribbon and dug a small ditch at a ceremony in the rural Rish Khor area of the capital to launch the programme.

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