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Drought, Conflict, and Displacement drive food insecurity across the country

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Afghanistan
  • August 2018
Drought, Conflict, and Displacement drive food insecurity across the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Key Messages
    • The number of households facing acute food insecurity typically decreases with the July to September harvest. However, due to drought the total number of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is atypically high and continues to increase through the start of the lean season in January. These households require humanitarian assistance to minimize food consumption gaps, treat cases of acute malnutrition, and protect livelihoods.

    • As of August 28th, more than 182,000 people have fled their homes due to conflict in 31 of 34 Provinces since the beginning of the year. More than 21,000 households have been displaced due to conflict in Ghanzi Province, where households now face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Many other displaced households are also likely in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as typical food and income sources are disrupted. IDPs, especially those recently displaced depend heavily on humanitarian assistance and support from host communities.

    • As per the UNHCR and IOM, an estimated 18,892 documented and 486,681 undocumented people returned from Pakistan and Iran this year. Many returnees have minimal assets, limited employment opportunities, shelter, and security making it difficult to establish livelihoods. These households are likely experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity, as humanitarian assistance continues, and households integrate into communities to access income-earning opportunities.

    • In the areas worst affected by drought, specifically Badghis and Faryab Provinces, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to emerge with the start of the lean season in January. In parts of Badakhshan Province, however due to a better than previously anticipated wheat harvest and higher labor income, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are most likely.  

    Current situation

    The security situation continues to be of great concern in most of the country, although from the beginning of the year through August 10th, the number of people displaced by conflict is less than in the same period of 2017, with more than 172,000 people displaced this year. The deteriorating security situation is having adverse impacts on food security outcomes in affected rural areas, particularly for households displaced by conflict. Although staple foods are available in markets, conflict continues to limit physical and financial access. Lack of access to safe drinking water and poor sanitary conditions among IDPs is increasing the risk and cases of malnutrition, particularly in children. Specifically, in Ghanzi City more than 21,000 people were displaced due to conflict in mid-August interrupting markets and trade throughout the province. In addition, the total number of returnees from Pakistan and Iran has significantly increased. The number of the documented returnees is 75% less compared to the same period in 2017. Although, undocumented returns significantly increased to over 483,000 in 2018 versus 187,000 in 2017, representing a 160% increase. Poor households in Herat, Badhis, and Ghor Provinces normally rely on monthly remittances from Iran. These households have lower incomes due to the high number of returnees, the devaluation of the Iranian Rial to USD, and decreased labor opportunities in Iran.

    Drought conditions and below-average cumulative precipitation in March and April damaged rainfed wheat in northern provinces during critical stages of crop development leading to severe crop losses in Herat, Zabul, Faryab, Badghis, and Sar-i-Pul Provinces. The estimated loss is 70 percent in rainfed and 7 percent in irrigated wheat production. However, in Badahkshan Province, the impact of drought was not as severe as anticipated with above-average temperatures and no frost, allowing for late planting. However, production was below-average. The estimated import requirement is higher than during a typical year, with most wheat and wheat flour imports coming from Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Regional availability and price trends of wheat and wheat flour varied across Central Asia with the progression of the 2018/19 marketing year in August.

    Second-season cropping is progressing unfavorably throughout the country with below-average area planted for rice and maize primarily due to the impacts of drought and continued conflict. Melons and watermelons are important cash crops, particularly in the northern and northeastern regions. Reports indicate pests or disease, particularly in Balkh, Jawzjan and Samangan Provinces in northern areas, has negatively impacted the growing season. In these areas, melon and watermelon prices increased 25 to 35 percent compared to last year. In southern Afghanistan, melon, and watermelon crops are reported to be developing well.

    Pasture and grazing lands were negatively impacted due to drought. In the worst drought-affect areas, the lack of pasture for grazing has led to some agropastoral households selling off their livestock early than normal as body conditions deteriorated, driving livestock prices down compared to last year. Livestock migration from higher elevations to lower elevations started atypically early due to limited grazing land.

    In June, terms of trade (ToT) for a day of casual labor to wheat flour was 1.2% below June 2017, while staying 7.1% above the June five-year average (Junes 2013 – 2017), primarily due to a decrease in labor wages by 8.0%. The most notable decrease occurred in Maimana (15.5%), Mazar (14.1%) and Kabul (11.1%) Provinces due to a decrease in labor wage and increase in wheat flour price in Maimana and Mazar Provinces. ToT has significantly improved in Faizabad Province due to significant improvement in labor wage. In all other monitored markets, the ToT remained stable.

    Based on recent SMART assessments in April/May, of Kunar Province, the GAM prevalence was 21 percent (18.4-23.3; 95% CI) and SAM prevalence was 5 percent (3.6-6.2; 95% CI). Also, a SMART Survey conducted in February of Uruzgan Province, showed the prevalence of GAM was 26.5 percent (23.6-29.5 95% CI) and SAM was 7.6 percent (5.7-9.3 95% CI). According to WHO Classification, these two provinces are in critical situations and may further deteriorate if sufficient humanitarian assistance is not provided and health services do not improve.

    Information on humanitarian assistance is limited and current FEWS NET mapping reflects food insecurity outcomes without humanitarian assistance. However, available information indicates food assistance is likely being provided to drought-affected, documented returnee, and IDP households in accessible areas. Specifically, the Government of Afghanistan is providing animal feed, wheat seeds, and fertilizers to households as part of their annual food distribution. We will update our mapping as more information becomes available on humanitarian assistance. 

    Normally during this time period, food security outcomes begin to seasonally improve in much of the country, but due to drought and severe reduction in wheat production, reduced labor opportunities, and continued conflict more households face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes than normal. Other areas of the country with better food access and availability from the 2018 harvest and income from labor opportunities face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes as they are able to meet their basic food needs.   



    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for Afghanistan’s Food Security Outlook June 2018 through January 2019 remain unchanged, besides the following;

    • The likely El Niño event will likely cause above-average rainfall throughout Afghanistan during the rainy season from October 2018 through the projection period, improving grazing pastures and livestock body conditions. 
    • Considering the elevated probability of an El Niño event during the fall and winter of 2018/19, in areas where winter wheat planting occurs, planting is expected to start in September and continue through December depending on the timing and distribution to the onset of the rainfall. This will generate some labor opportunities before the lean season begins, helping poor households purchase and stock more food for the winter and lean season.
    • In northeastern parts of the country, specifically in Badakhshan, late precipitation at the end of the season led to a higher than anticipated wheat harvest and labor incomes.


    Spring wheat has not yet been harvested in some higher elevation areas, including much of Badakhshan, Bamyan, and Daykundi Provinces, as well as parts of Ghor Province, Behsud District in Wardak Province and Kohistanat District in Sar-i-Pul Province. Specifically, in Badakhshan Province, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) were previously anticipated to emerge in October. However, due to the late harvest, crop outcomes, and grazing lands for cattle Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are anticipated.

    Poor households will likely have improved access to income during the winter planting season from agricultural labor, with the likely El Niño and above-average rainfall, increasing household purchasing power, starting in November. The above-average rainfall will have a positive impact on food and income sources for poor households through the projection period. Good pasture conditions will support the availability of fresh milk, supporting improved dietary diversity and income from milk sales to fund market food purchases. Households relying heavily on casual labor for income will likely have lower incomes compared to past years. This is mainly due to the reduction in foreign and domestic investment and spending, especially in the construction industry and a reduction in trading activities, which typically employ many casual laborers in markets and to transport goods.

    A nutrition cluster analysis estimates new cases of acute malnutrition to be about 124,000 in children under five years of age and roughly 33,000 in pregnant and lactating women (PLW) are expected this year due to effects of drought and poor rainfall. These populations are in need of lifesaving emergency nutrition services.

    Most poor households, IDPs, and undocumented returnees will likely face significant difficulty meeting their basic food needs following the below-average wheat and second-season harvests and lower incomes from cash crops and labor. These populations will forego some basic non-food needs to meet their food consumption requirements, and most areas will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) with more households facing these outcomes as the winter and wet season begin. Similarly, households relying almost solely on remittances from Iran in eastern parts of the country are likely to continue be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), as the number and quantity of remittances have decreased. Acute food security outcomes in most other parts of the country from August 2018 to January 2019 continue to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as they are unable to meet their basic non-food needs, but are able to meet their food needs.


    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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