Nearly 20 million people, which form almost half of Afghanistan’s population, are facing acute hunger with the country facing a combination of a collapsing economy and drought, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).
As per the latest analysis, the persistence of this high magnitude and severity of food insecurity is due to a combination of a successive series of droughts, rising food prices, lingering impact of decades of conflict and the economic collapse resulting from the political transition.
However, the report by the Food and Agriculture Organization https://www.fao.org/home/en of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and several other NGOs, predicts that the outlook for June-November 2022 sees a slight improvement in the food security situation, with a reduction in the number of people facing acute food insecurity to 18.9 million people. This is due in part to the coming wheat harvest from May to August, and this year’s well-coordinated scale-up of humanitarian food assistance – alongside increased agricultural livelihood support.
FAO Representative in Afghanistan Richard Trenchard said, “Unprecedented levels of humanitarian assistance focused on bolstering food security have made a difference. However, the food security situation is dire. Humanitarian assistance remains desperately important, as do the needs to rebuild shattered agricultural livelihoods and re-connect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country. Unless these happen, there will be no way out of this crisis.”
Meanwhile, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Afghanistan Mary-Ellen McGroartysaid, “Food assistance and emergency livelihood support is the lifeline for the people of Afghanistan. We mounted the world’s largest humanitarian food operation in a matter of months, reaching more than 16 million people since August 2021.”
Economic Decline: Rapid reduction in international grant support loss of access to offshore assets, disruption to financial linkages and impact of the Ukraine crisis have led to a major contraction of the economy, increasing poverty and macroeconomic instability as well as leading to high unemployment and high food and agricultural input prices
Drought: Below-average cumulative precipitation during the wet season (2021-2022) accompanied with high agriculture input costs (seed de fertilizers) resulted in a reduced level of winter wheat cultivation, which would likely result in a 7 to 13 percent reduction in the expected wheat harvest compared to the long-term average.
High Food Prices: High prices of commodities compounded by reduced incomes for 97% of the total population have negatively affected the purchasing power of people. The terms of trade of casual labour against wheat prices have fallen by 35% compared with June 2021. Impact of the Ukraine Conflict: Afghanistan typically has a deficit in cereals production (against consumption requirements) and relies on imports to meet their food demand. In 2021/2022 the cereal import requirement is expected to be 20% higher than average. The negative impact of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is expected to further raise global food prices, while placing pressure on countries in the region supplying wheat to Afghanistan to place export bans on food, giving priority to their respective domestic consumption.