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Afghanistan: High food prices, reduced income, conflict, COVID-19 impacts and expected impacts of La Niña condition are key drivers of food insecurity

Overview

Nearly 11 million people in Afghanistan are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above) due to conflict, COVID-19, high food prices and rampant unemployment, between March and May 2021 (the lean season in most parts of the country.) This includes around 7.8 million people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and 3.2 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and require urgent action to save lives, reduce food gaps and save and protect livelihoods.
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Actions Needed

Response priorities:

The food insecurity situation continued to worsen during the lean season, even in a normal year. Protracted conflict, a significant reduction in income because of lack of economic opportunities fueled by COVID-19, and localised prolonged dry spells will continue to affect rural and urban food security and livelihoods during the current and projection period. The following are the pressing needs to avoid hunger and asset depletion: 

  • Consistent actions are required to contain a high rate of asset depletion and food consumption gaps through food assistance for the population classified in IPC Phase 3 or above. Markets are functional in major urban and peri-urban areas, so food assistance through cash assistance can play a crucial role in strengthening local markets.  
  • Conditional food assistance should be considered to improve local livelihoods infrastructure, especially in prolonged dry spell-affected areas where improving the water infrastructure can resolve water scarcity issues for human consumption, crops, and livestock. Food Assistance programmes should target vulnerable food insecure women-headed households through unconditional cash grants/food assistance. 
  • Seasonal food insecurity support may require an extension in a number of months supported in targeted areas where prolonged dry spell impacts seem to affect crops and livestock sector. Urban areas are equally vulnerable to large-scale food insecurity so cash assistance in urban areas will reduce food gaps.  
  • Access to drought-resistant improved crop inputs should be increased in areas where there is consistent prolonged dry spell trends. Government and the international community need to work together to address this long persistent issue.  
  • Building on the experience of 2018/2019, livestock support should be provided to small and medium-scale farmers, especially women farmers, to contain livestock asset depletion. This will help in reducing malnutrition in women and children.  
  • Small-scale livelihood programmes are required to reduce the large-scale income gaps and lack of economic opportunities. In urban areas, a marketing review is required before launching such projects. In rural areas, building on experiences of small scale, poultry and kitchen gardening support will ensure access to nutritious food and income. 
  • In case of severe lean season because of drought-like conditions, a scale-up in response may be required in rural areas, so monitoring the situation and effective response preparation is required to support those most in need i.e. agriculture labor and small scale agriculture and livestock farmers.

Stakeholders should also focus their attention and funding on programs to build resilience to disasters and reduce disaster risks, especially droughts and localized flooding. 

Report

Between June and November 2021 (harvest and post-harvest seasons), a slight improvement in food security is expected, with the number of people in IPC Phase 3 or above decreasing to 9.5 million, with 6.7 million in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and 2.7 million in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). The areas that were in Phase 4 in the current analysis period are expected to remain in Phase 4 in the projection period, despite slight seasonal improvements. It is likely that household’s food access will improve slightly with the onset of the harvest, better job opportunities, as well as seasonal decreases in prices; however, rainfall forecasts suggest that the harvest will be below average, which will likely affect food availability during the following lean season. The food security situation has relatively improved compared to the last three years, aside from the impacts of drought in 2018 and the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. However, the food security situation is still concerning and expected to deteriorate further during the 2021-2022 lean season.
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