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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected in northern and urban areas during the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Afghanistan
  • October 2023 - May 2024
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected in northern and urban areas during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • Millions of rural households are currently benefiting from the available food and income from the primary and second-season harvests. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing in northern areas of the country as well as the central highlands due to poor production in 2023 and lower-than-normal income earned from livestock and labor. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to expand in the winter months as household food stocks are exhausted, and labor opportunities decrease. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the southern portion of the country, where households have some food stocks for consumption, and income will help cover food consumption deficits. 
    • In early October, Herat Province was struck by three powerful earthquakes. According to OCHA, over 275,000 people were affected. These populations are now living in informal settlements, makeshift tents, and open spaces. Households have started to rebuild their homes and their livelihoods; however, many households lost their winter food stocks, livestock, and/or assets. Furthermore, even if households are able to earn some income, they have challenges accessing food from the market due to low purchasing power. WFP is currently distributing food assistance to over 103,000 people. Overall, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing in Herat and expected to persist through the projection period, with some households likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). 
    • Due to the likelihood of El Niño conditions persisting through spring, above-average cumulative precipitation is expected for the 2023/24 wet season in Afghanistan. This will facilitate agricultural activities and favor crop development and production—especially in rainfed areas—and pasture is expected to develop favorably, potentially alleviating drought conditions. In the spring, atypically high levels of flooding are expected from March to May in western, northern, northeastern, and central areas of the country due to melting of the likely above-average snowpack, coupled with above-average precipitation and temperatures. The flooding is expected to result in some crop description, displacement, and livestock losses; however, it will also improve the availability of groundwater for irrigated crops. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    2023 harvest: Although the 2023 wheat harvest concluded in late October at below-average levels, primarily due to the third consecutive drought, overall output was better than last year's. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), 2023 wheat production is estimated at around 4.35 metric tons, comprising predominately of irrigated wheat, 87 percent as typical, and the rest of the harvest is from rainfed wheat. Production varied regionally across Afghanistan compared to normal. In northern rainfed areas, production was well below normal. Notably, in Balkh, Samangan, and Jawzjan provinces, production was limited as farmers produced sufficient food for only one to three months following consecutive years of poor rainfall. In the west, in provinces such as Ghor and Badghis, wheat production is also significantly below average. Wheat production in the south was well above average, contributing significantly to national production, as many farmers replaced poppy cultivation with wheat, and water availability from deep wells was at favorable levels during the critical growth stage of wheat crops. As a result of broadly favorable precipitation, the wheat harvest was near average in the rest of the country, sufficient to meet at least five to six months of household needs. 

    Second-season crops include maize, rice, cotton, and horticultural cash crops such as fruits and nuts, which provide important sources of income throughout the country. Below-average precipitation during the 2022/23 wet season led to low soil moisture and limited availability of water for irrigation for second-season crops. In lower-elevation areas in the northeast and east, the second-season harvest, which will be completed by the end of November, is expected to be significantly below normal due to a shortage of water. In the remaining areas of the country, such as southern, southeastern, and central provinces, the second-season harvest was better than last year's, although still below average. 

    Precipitation: The October to May precipitation season typically starts in October in northeastern and central areas of the country. Precipitation for October is typically low at the season's outset, resulting in a slightly delayed start (Figure 1). In October 2023, precipitation did not significantly deviate from normal, with only moderate millimeter deficits (up to 50 mm) in the northeast (Figure 1). In November, despite El Niño conditions, which typically favor above-average precipitation, precipitation deficits have only increased. 

    Land preparation and planting: Winter wheat planting started on a limited scale throughout the country in October due to poor soil moisture and delays in precipitation. Farmers are waiting for precipitation before starting widespread winter wheat planting. However, the planting window for winter wheat closes in late December at the latest. FAO supported around 180,000 households with certified wheat seeds by June. Additionally, 35,000 households received multipurpose cash transfers. This assistance, along with access to own-produced seeds, is supporting household access to seeds for planting.   

    Figure 1

    Rainfall as a percent of normal from October 1 to 30, 2023
    Rainfall map for Afghanistan

    Source: UCSB Climate Hazards Center

    Pasture and water availability: From September to November, pasture typically deteriorates while livestock owners are harvesting and stocking grass and fodder for the winter to feed their livestock. Nationally, pasture is declining, as is typical in the fall; however, pasture is atypically poor in areas where drought was observed following the 2022/23 precipitation season (Figure 2). In northern and western parts of the country adversely impacted by drought, households are not able to stock sufficient fodder for the winter due to poor pasture availability. Most livestock owners now depend on market purchases of fodder. In the rest of the country, fodder availability is at normal levels. 

    Drinking water availability, both for animal and human consumption, remains a large concern in northern and western drought-affected areas. In recent months, the majority of livestock herders in Samangan and Sari Pul provinces migrated atypically to other areas due to the scarcity of water in their place of origin. According to field information, livestock have left their area of origin as typical for the winter months. In the rest of the country, livestock migration occurred typically. 

    Figure 2

    Vegetation as a percent of normal from October 21 to 31, 2023
    Vegetation conditions compared to normal

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Macroeconomy: Macroeconomic conditions have been generally stable, albeit poor. The economy remains weak due to the combination of Afghanistan's removal from the international banking community and low government revenue. Annual headline inflation in September stood at -9.1 percent, according to the World Bank and the National Statistic and Information Authority (NSIA), down from a peak of 18.3 percent in July 2022 (Figure 3). Annual food inflation cooled to -13.3 percent, while core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices, stood at 5.3 percent. The overall deflation is driven by stable and sufficient market supplies, along with low household savings, income, and public spending, which are driving anemic demand. 

    Figure 3

    Annual headline and core inflation rates
    Annual inflation in Afghanistan

    Source: World Bank/NSIA

    The Afghani (AFN) has been gradually appreciating against the USD since early February. In the current week, it experienced a slight appreciation compared to the previous month, primarily due to an increase in the availability of USD in the market. This appreciation can be attributed to various factors, including the government's stringent control, facilitated by the efficient monetary policy of the central bank. Additionally, strict policies implemented to restrict the outflow of USD from the country and the inflow of remittances from Western and Gulf countries have played a significant role in driving this appreciation. 

    As of late October, according to the World Bank, the exchange rate sits at 74.2 AFN per dollar, appreciating 16.2 percent since mid-August. The improvement in the value of the AFN is attributed to the inflow of USD via humanitarian aid and remittances, as well as tight currency control measures imposed by the government. 

    It is worth noting that while diesel prices have substantially decreased by 25 percent compared to the previous year, helping to maintain price stability, there has been a recent upward trend in diesel prices during the past few months that may cause price increases in transportation and food costs (Figure 4).

    Figure 4

    Diesel prices on average nationally from May 2020 to October 2023
    Diesel prices in Afghanistan

    Source: FEWS NET's analysis of WFP data

    Imports/Exports: Between January and September 2023, total exports slightly declined compared to the same period in 2022, largely driven by declines in coal exports. According to the World Bank, unofficial customs data reveals that export volumes. decreased by 0.5 percent from January to September 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Coal exports decreased by 37 percent, which comprised 17 percent of total exports. At the same time, food exports, which constitute over 60 percent of total exports, grew by 11 percent. A decrease in exports is currently associated with a decrease in coal exports to Pakistan. While the declines in coal exports have had negative impacts on the economy, there have also been negative impacts on labor availability associated with coal extraction. Labor opportunities in the coal industry have declined in recent months as demand decreases.

    Imports increased by over 25 percent from January to September 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. This increase has led to an increased trade deficit. Imports grew across all categories. However, in September, import volumes decreased by 11 percent compared to the previous month due to temporary closures between the Pakistan and Afghanistan border. 

    Trade flows into Afghanistan are smooth, with a consistent inflow of wheat grain and wheat flour from Kazakhstan and rice, vegetable oil, sugar, and other essential goods from Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and neighboring Central Asian countries. Moreover, valuable horticultural and textile products are being exported to Pakistan and transported through the country. Despite economic difficulties, Afghanistan's private sector is effectively meeting the demand for both food and non-food items, ensuring stable market conditions. 

    Market supply and prices: Essential commodities remain well supplied nationwide. Domestic and imported wheat have played a crucial role in supporting market supply and stabilizing wheat grain and flour prices. Prices of essential items, including food, have remained stable between September and October, although significantly lower than the three-year average due to stable global and regional prices, particularly in Kazakhstan. 

    In October, local and imported wheat prices decreased nationally by an average of over 35 percent compared to the same time last year, a more than 15 percent drop from the three-year average (Figure 5). This decrease is attributed to stable prices in source markets such as Kazakhstan, the government's reduction of import tariffs, and below-average diesel prices. Prices across the country are similar in main markets, ranging from 30 to 40 AFN/kg. However, in hard-to-reach areas outside of provincial capitals in remote areas, wheat prices are likely higher than the national average. As of October, wheat prices are high compared to the national average in Nuristan, Ghor, and Daykundi provinces. In these areas, food prices are higher due to the impacts of drought and poor road conditions that increase transportation costs. 

    Figure 5

    Wheat flour prices in October 2023 compared to January 2023, average, and October 2022
    Wheat flour prices

    Source: FEWS NET's analysis of WFP data

    Prices of rice, the second most important staple cereal, have remained stable within Afghanistan despite the surge in prices in Pakistan. Pakistan is the source market for most rice sold in Afghanistan. While rice prices have increased in Pakistan by over 75 percent from October 2022 to October 2023, there have been no significant price increases within Afghanistan. This stability can be attributed to a consistent supply from Pakistan, the implementation of government price controls, and the appreciation of the AFN. 

    The average cost of the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) food basket has remained stable nationally in recent months (Figure 6). Overall, the food basket is over 25 percent lower in October than at the same time last year due to declines in wheat flour and cooking oil prices. There is some national variation in the FSAC food basket price; however, the cost of the basket across all markets is lower than normal. 

    Figure 6

    Cost of minimum food basket (excluding salt and sugar) on average nationally
    FSAC food basket prices

    Source: FEWS NET's analysis of WFP data

    Livestock body conditions and productivity: Livestock continue to be in lower-than-typical condition and provide below-average levels of milk. In the north and west, where livestock are among the most important income sources, livestock body conditions are poor and among the worst nationally, although better than last year. This is due to both below-normal pasture and fodder availability and livestock disease. Livestock diseases such as lumpy skin, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF), and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) are present and are of particular concern in northern, northeastern, western, and central highland regions.  

    Livestock production improved compared to the same month last year in the eastern and southern regions of the country, particularly in provinces such as Nuristan, Kunar, Nangarhar, Laghman, Helmand, Kandahar, and Zabul. These improvements can be attributed to enhanced access to pasture and increased availability of better fodder and straw due to slightly better irrigation water availability, which has positively influenced fodder and cereal/straw production.

    Livestock deaths, predominantly due to disease, have been reported by key informants and partners; however, exact figures for livestock deaths are not available. Given that rebuilding livestock herds takes time, herd sizes are still at below-average levels due to excessive sales and losses associated with drought. Livestock typically do not provide milk at this time of year, and milk is typically not available. 

    Livestock market supply and prices: Livestock market supply is stable but at above-average levels, as households excessively sell their livestock for income. On average, October livestock prices have been largely stable nationally compared to early 2023, October 2022, and the three-year average. There is some variation in livestock prices, with livestock prices notably below the three-year average in Herat, Nangarhar, Takhar, Paktika, and Sari Pul provinces. This is due to poor livestock body conditions associated with the adverse impacts of the 2023 drought. 

    Livestock-to-grain terms-of-trade have been stable on average nationally since mid-2023, at levels nearly 20 percent above the three-year average (Figure 7). Additionally, the sale of a sheep is sufficient to buy 40 percent more grain in October 2023 compared to October 2024. Selling a sheep in October allows a household to purchase 256 kg of wheat. On average, nationally, a household of seven people will have grain for nearly 60 days after the sale of one sheep if they only consume wheat. 

    Figure 7

    Purchasing power for pastoralists on average nationally, January 2021 to October 2023
    Purchasing power for pastoralists

    Source: FEWS NET's analysis of WFP data

    Undocumented returnees: The forceful deportation of Afghans from Iran and Pakistan significantly increased in October, following September announcements by the governments of Pakistan and Iran of their intention to deport millions of undocumented Afghan refugees (Figure 8). According to IOM, in October alone, over 145,000 Afghans returned from Pakistan through two border crossings. According to IOM, the number of people leaving Pakistan increased from 200 to 17,000 people a day crossing the border at Torkham and Spin Boldak. Returnees are predominantly going to Nangarhar, Kandahar, and Kabul provinces. This additional population is putting further pressure on already weak labor markets. 

    Figure 8

    Number of undocumented returns from Pakistan, April 2022 to October 2023
    Undocumented returns from Pakistan

    Source: FEWS NET's analysis of IOM data

    There are also undocumented returns from Iran. While there have not been reports through official channels on returnees from Iran, media outlets have indicated Afghan refugees have returned from Iran through the Islam Qala port. Authorities reported that in the first week of November, over 20,000 Afghans have returned to Afghanistan. 

    Labor opportunities and wages: The availability of labor has improved in 2023, with wage rates largely remaining stable throughout the year (Figure 9). In October, a casual laborer finds an average of 2.5 days of work per week, with at least one day of labor per week available across all provinces. While the availability of labor has improved, overall access to labor is lower than normal because of high competition for opportunities due to the high unemployment rate and the repatriation of those returning from Iran and Pakistan. This is leaving many people outside of the labor market. 

    Figure 9

    Demand for casual labor, measured in days of work available per worker per week on average nationally
    Demand for casual labor

    Source: FEWS NET's analysis of WFP data

    The main sources of income for households in urban areas include working in the private sector at jobs such as casual labor, shopkeeping, driving, and small businesses, as well as relying on remittances and having limited-scale access to lands or livestock in semi-urban or rural areas. Additionally, employment with the government and non-governmental organizations is also a significant source of income. The availability of these opportunities has been constrained since August 2021, and while there have been modest improvements in the economic situation, income-earning opportunities remain lower than normal, with high competition for what opportunities are available. In recent months, competition for wage work has further intensified due to the forced return of many undocumented migrants from abroad, increased migration from rural areas to urban centers for labor opportunities, and households displaced due to the previous conflict who remain in urban areas. In urban areas, as in rural areas, competition for available opportunities is limiting the number of people who can enter the labor market, leaving many outside of the market.   

    Field information and WFP data suggest that wage rates for both skilled and unskilled non-agricultural laborers have remained unchanged in recent months. In October, according to WFP, unskilled laborers earn 250 to 400 AFN per day, while skilled laborers earn 500 to 800 AFN for a day of work. Agricultural laborers, on the other hand, have seen a decline in wage rates. Agricultural laborers in October 2023 could expect to receive 500 to 600 AFN per day, but this year, the wage for the same work has dropped to around 300 to 400 AFN per day due to fewer opportunities associated with the drought and declines in poppy cultivation amid high supply. In rural areas, wage rates for casual and agricultural labor are even lower than the rates in monitored markets.

    Currently, the lower rates are attributed to the low payment power of better-off households and the lower number of ongoing construction and development productions in the country. Additionally, the country's poor macroeconomic conditions, the current government's imposition of a higher taxation rate on private businesses, and increased municipality fees have impacted the availability of construction work, petty trade, and private transportation services.

    The terms of trade for casual labor have been stable in mid to late 2023 at levels seen prior to the government transition in August 2021 (Figure 10). The significant improvement in the amount of wheat a day's wage can purchase is over 50 percent higher than in October 2022 and 25 percent above the three-year average. In Bamyan, Ghor, Takhar, and Kunar provinces, there has been a notable improvement in terms of trade in the last year. While the terms of trade have improved, those who are unable to enter the labor market are not able to benefit from these improvements. 

    Figure 10

    Purchasing power for unskilled laborers on average nationally, May 2020 to October 2023
    Unskilled laborers purchasing power

    Source: FEWS NET's analysis of WFP data

    Remittances: The inflow of remittances from Gulf and Western countries and Iran is a crucial income source for millions of people. While the number of remittance senders from Iran is high, the amount per person tends to be relatively low compared to normal. This is a result of political instability in Iran, international sanctions, and conflict over water management along the Iran and Afghanistan border. Afghan workers in Iran face reduced job opportunities, decreased remittances due to currency devaluation, and increased deportations. The situation for undocumented Afghan refugees in both Iran and Pakistan has significantly deteriorated due to increased pressure from law enforcement, detainment of refugees, restrictions on renting houses and engaging in wage work, and hostile attitudes and behavior from local populations. These factors have led to a notable decline in the desire among Afghans to migrate to Iran and Pakistan in search of wage work.

    In contrast, remittances from Western and Gulf countries have a lower number of senders but are of a higher value. The inflow of remittances from Western countries has remained stable without significant challenges, while remittances from Gulf countries, particularly from Saudi Arabia, have decreased due to recent policy changes on labor migrants.

    Herat earthquakes: In early October, Herat Province was struck by three earthquakes, each measuring 6.3 in magnitude (Figure 11). According to OCHA, the earthquake affected a total of 48,347 families, comprising 275,256 individuals (roughly 10 to 15 percent of the province's population). These affected families reside in 382 villages situated across the districts of Herat, Injil, Kushk, Zindajan, Gulran, Guzara, Ghoryan, Karukh, and Kohsan. The earthquake destroyed over 10,000 homes and damaged over 38,000. Due to the loss of homes, over 75 percent of the affected population are currently living in makeshift tents and open spaces, with some families living in informal settlements or tents. 

    Figure 11

    Map of the location of earthquakes in Herat Province
    Map for the earthquake location in Herat

    Source: UN OCHA

    In October, households are focused on recovery and cleaning their homes. According to OCHA, over 25,000 families lost their food stocks, and roughly 3,200 lost their livestock. As winter is starting to set in, households are going to face increasing difficulty accessing food and income. Additionally, some markets are reported to have limited stock, limiting market access to food. In the next month, the evolution of food security conditions is going to be vital.  

    Humanitarian assistance: In October, WFP assisted 3.2 million people all over the country with 50 percent rations. While levels of humanitarian food assistance have declined in recent months due to funding constraints, the reach of humanitarian food assistance is higher than what was observed prior to August 2021 (Figure 12). Both rural and urban areas are being targeted for food assistance. Preparation of food aid for the winter months is ongoing, and WFP has nearly completed its preparations for winter stocking in remote and hard-to-reach districts. Food distribution will occur on a monthly basis for villages that are accessible during the winter months. For beneficiaries residing in villages where access becomes blocked during winter, WFP plans to conduct one-time distributions to cover the winter months.

    Figure 12

    Number of beneficiaries that received assistance from WFP from May 2020 to October 2023
    HFA deliveries in AF

    *Beneficiaries of "food and nutrition assistance" and "food, nutrition, and resilience support" 

    Source: Source: FEWS NET's analysis of WFP/FSAC data

    In October, WFP is providing food assistance to those impacted by the earthquake in Herat. WFP has reached over 103,000 people with food assistance and 26,000 people with specialized nutritious foods. This food assistance is helping to mitigate some of the most severe consumption deficits among those impacted. Additionally, WFP is providing support to Afghan returnees from Pakistan as part of an interagency coordinated response in October. 

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Millions of households are accessing food from their own production from the recently completed harvest in the highlands and the second-season harvest in the lowlands. Additionally, households are selling cash crops and livestock to access food for current consumption and stock for the winter. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are ongoing in many areas of the country.  

    Although the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and worse outcomes has declined in recent months; however, populations in northern and highlands areas of the country continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Households in northern and higher-elevation areas have little to no access to food from their own production and limited income from labor and remittances to purchase food. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing in higher-elevated areas as well as northern Afghanistan, associated with the limited ability to access food from own production and income to purchase food. In northern areas, households have exhausted own-produced stocks as production was poor, and income from livestock is lower than normal due to low herd sizes and poor demand. Households are selling what livestock they can to make food purchases, along with accessing remittances and some work. Ongoing food assistance is mitigating consumption deficits among beneficiary households. 

    In Herat, the earthquakes resulted in the loss of food stocks and significantly disrupted labor and other income-earning opportunities. Households are living in temporary structures where they are able to earn meager income through petty trading or informal employment opportunities. These populations are also likely relying on remittances, humanitarian food assistance, and community support for food. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are now ongoing, with some households and populations in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). 


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from October 2023 to May 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • The 2023/24 wet season precipitation from October 2023 through March 2024 is most likely to be above average, with the expectation of an El Niño event. Upper quintile (>80th percentile) precipitation for this period is twice as likely compared to climatology.
    • Above-average temperatures are anticipated throughout the country through May 2024. 
    • Due to the forecasted favorable precipitation, snowpack development is expected to be above average. Due to high levels of snowpack, above-average temperatures, and forecasted above-average precipitation between March and May, early snowmelt is expected. This is expected to drive higher-than-normal levels of flooding along riverine areas and downstream areas, specifically in western, northern, northeastern, and central areas. 
    • Winter wheat planting is expected at average levels, as households are expected to take out loans and barter to supplement lower-than-normal household seed stocks. In the south, areas planted with winter wheat will most likely be at well above-average levels due to favorable climate conditions and the replacement of poppy areas with wheat. In other areas, such as eastern, southeastern, central, and western parts of the country, planting is expected to be average. 
    • Spring wheat planting is expected to be near average despite economic challenges in accessing seeds. Households are expected to access seeds through aid, loans, and bartering.  
    • Availability of agricultural labor opportunities is expected to be near average during the winter wheat-planting season and then as spring wheat planting begins. Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be minimally available during winter months as typical. Due to the higher unemployment rate, competition over agricultural labor will be at above-average levels, with an above-average supply of agricultural laborers driving near-average income among those who access this labor source.
    • Income from non-agricultural wage labor opportunities is expected to be below average due to the general economic slowdown and high competition due to continued high unemployment. Typically, casual labor opportunities decrease from October to early March due to the slowdown of construction activities associated with the colder months. This decline is likely to occur as typical. From March onward, casual labor opportunities and income from this source will improve, although remaining below average. 
    • In higher-elevation areas, road conditions are expected to function normally until around November, when snow is likely to disrupt the movement of goods, as typical. Some roadways will most likely be blocked, and disruption to the movement of goods, notably in the northeastern and central highlands, is likely through March, as typical. As snow melts in the spring, roadways are expected to return to normal, facilitating the normal movement of goods; however, some disruption to the movement of goods and people is likely to occur due to flooding. 
    • Pasture is expected to remain minimally available through winter. In the winter months, pasture is typically unavailable for livestock. Beginning in February/March, as snow melts and spring begins, pasture is expected to start becoming available. Pasture is expected to regenerate to at least average levels in February/March and remain at those levels through at least May. 
    • Livestock body conditions will remain typically poor during the winter season due to limited grazing areas and lower-than-normal fodder availability through February. Livestock body conditions are expected to be particularly poor in the central highlands and northern areas, as households have limited availability to access fodder. As pasture availability improves in the spring and livestock begin freely grazing, livestock body conditions are expected to improve. 
    • Milk availability from livestock will be typically low through February, as livestock do not start giving birth until March. While milk production per animal is expected to be normal due to the availability of pasture and fodder, milk availability per household is expected to be slightly lower than normal due to below-average herd sizes. Milk availability is expected to be notably poor in northern areas and the central highlands. 
    • In November and December, slightly higher demand for livestock sales is expected to drive near-average prices nationally. In higher-elevation areas (central highlands and northeastern areas), prices are expected to be below average due to poor livestock body conditions resulting from the typical cold winter. 
    • Economic growth is expected to remain stagnant during the outlook period. Although inflation is expected to continue declining due to a stable supply of food and non-food commodities, aggregate demand is expected to remain depressed due to low disposable incomes. The low non-tax revenue base and a widening trade deficit are expected to exert pressure on foreign reserves, thus limiting any significant appreciation of the AFN against other currencies. 
    • Given historical trends and trade flow, Afghanistan's borders are likely to remain open for trade and transit purposes throughout the scenario period, despite recent tension on cross-border issues with neighboring countries.
    • Wheat supply within Afghanistan is expected to be stable due to above-average wheat production in Kazakhstan, near-average production in Afghanistan, and stable imports of wheat despite the likely continued export ban on illegal wheat. 
    • Wheat flour prices are expected to remain stable at below-average levels during the outlook period due to the ample availability of inexpensive wheat flour, the stability of the AFN against the USD, government price controls, and decreased import tariffs. However, wheat flour prices are expected to increase slightly between December and February due to increased market demand as households stockpile essential items during the winter months, combined with reduced household food availability when stocks from recent harvests are depleted. 
    • Rice prices are expected to increase moderately, remaining significantly above average across Afghanistan during the projected period, mainly due to increasing international prices of rice and low household availability due to significantly below-average production this season. 
    • Casual labor opportunities typically decline in November and improve starting in March in line with typical seasonal trends, reaching their peak in May due to typical construction activities in most urban areas. However, due to the continuing economic slowdown and lack of development funds and international investment, the availability of casual labor opportunities will be below average. 
    • Due to ongoing political and economic tension in Iran and Pakistan, it is anticipated that seasonal labor migration to both neighboring countries will be at a significantly below-average level. Forced deportations of Afghan migrants from Pakistan and Iran are anticipated to increase before the winter season in Afghanistan, which will have adverse impacts on labor migration. Around 2 million Afghans are undocumented, facing possible voluntary or forced return. 
    • Reliance on remittances is expected to increase, but due to the lack of employment opportunities in Iran, the volume of remittances is expected to be below average and below last year's levels. Iran and Pakistan have independently announced their intentions to forcefully deport undocumented Afghan refugees in the upcoming winter months, coinciding with the lean season. This mass deportation is expected to exacerbate the competition for scarce wage work opportunities during the winter. Remittances from Gulf countries are also expected to be below average due to recent policy changes for the Afghan diaspora, while the reliance on remittances from Western countries is expected to remain the same compared to last year but above average. 
    • Insecurity/conflict is anticipated to decrease typically with the cold weather during winter months. Based on current trends, levels of conflict and displacement are expected to be lower than last year and average levels. 
    • WFP plans to reach around 3.5 million people with humanitarian food assistance in October and November, then scale up assistance to reach 6.2 million people in 34 provinces monthly between December 2023 and March 2024. The scale-up of assistance is planned to reach around 19 percent of the population with about 50 percent of their kilocalorie needs. While this is the plan, given funding constraints and historical trends of assistance delivery, it is not likely that the plan will be fully realized. 

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    From October 2023 to January 2024, widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in rural areas in the north, northeast, and some parts of the west as winter sets in and households face increasing difficulty accessing food. Households in these areas obtained their crop production from May to June 2023, but production was below average due to the adverse impacts of drought. As a result, their cereal stocks will not last for more than three months. At the same time, income from livestock sales and second-season production in northern parts of the country is expected to be at a below-average level. Furthermore, household income from remittances is expected to be below average while labor income wains with the onset of winter. Overall, poor household purchasing power is expected to remain below normal. In Herat, households are expected to continue to face disruptions to livelihood activities and lower-than-normal purchasing power. Poor households are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3), with some households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). The scale-up of food assistance in late 2023 is expected to mitigate consumption deficits among beneficiary households; however, this will not be for a significant number of households. 

    Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected from October 2023 to January 2024 in eastern, southern, and southeastern areas of the country, with some households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In October and November, pastoral and agropastoral households in most rural areas will likely sell a number of their livestock, as is typical, in order to purchase food for the upcoming winter. Agricultural households will also stock a portion of their production from both first and second crops and will receive income from selling cash and fruit crops. Favorable production from first and second crops, average income from livestock, and improved access to agricultural lands are the main drivers likely to reduce food consumption gaps for the majority of households. 

    Most of the second projection period, February to April 2024, coincides with the peak of the lean season, which will result in increasing food assistance needs in rural and urban areas. As spring begins, households are expected to start accessing labor opportunities as they become available; however, this will happen slowly. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to become more widespread across rural areas of the country. Labor opportunities are expected to be seasonably low during the winter. Households are expected to rely on decreasing food stocks along with some remittances and below-average livestock sales to access food. Specifically in Herat, households are likely to continue to face difficulty accessing food as they have below-average purchasing power amid continuing efforts to rebuild their ability to access food and income normally. Overall income is not expected to be sufficient alongside food stocks to mitigate consumption deficits. Among some beneficiary households, food aid will mitigate consumption deficits, but this will not be widespread across all areas. Additionally, in the central and northern highlands, some areas are expected to become hard to reach, given the likelihood of high snowfall. This will result in more populations in need of food assistance, notably during the early part of the projection period. 

    Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to persist in many eastern, southern, and southeastern areas, with the number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes increasing over the projection period. In these areas of the country, household food stocks and income from remittances and livestock are expected to support household food consumption during the projection period. 

    In most urban parts of the country, overall income, predominantly from casual labor and remittances, are expected to continue to be below normal throughout the projection period, even declining from January to March. This, coupled with poor purchasing power, will likely limit food access. The huge influx of returnees from Pakistan will put further pressure on the already limited casual labor opportunities in main urban cities in the eastern and southern parts of the country. Due to decreased income-earning opportunities, poor households will likely continue to buy less nutritious/less preferred foods and consume lower quantities of food. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period in many urban areas. 

    Table 1Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario
    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    NationalNeighboring countries introduce trade restrictions and border restrictions   This would reduce import supply to Afghanistan, and food prices would increase, restricting food access predominantly among urban households. This could potentially further reduce labor migration to neighboring countries, driving down remittances in urban and rural areas. This would drive an increase in the number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the projection period. 
    Riverine areas More extreme flooding than anticipated If the frequency and extent of flooding are more extreme than currently anticipated, this would drive higher levels of displacement and damage to pasture and crops. There would also likely be more livestock losses. As a result, this would increase the share of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes could persist later in the projection period. 
    Highland areas of the country Snowpack development is more extreme than anticipated This would likely lead to more areas than typical being cut off during the winter months. Households would likely face increasing difficulty accessing income for food purchases and reaching markets to make the food purchases. This would increase the share of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    Areas of Concern

    Nuristan – Eastern Agropastoral and Forest Livelihood Zone 

    Reference map for Nuristan
    Reference map

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Situation

    The eastern agropastoral and forest livelihood zone covers central parts of Nuristan. To meet their food and cash needs, most households depend on agricultural production, livestock keeping, and collecting and selling forest products such as pine nuts and walnuts. Wheat, maize, and pulses are the main crops grown by farmers for human and animal consumption. Beans are also grown for consumption, with any surplus sold to local and national markets. Over the past ten years, agricultural production has become more mechanized, with households renting tractors for land preparation and planting instead of the traditional ox-plowing. Typically, women manage the planting, weeding, and harvesting of agricultural products and preparation of food stocks for animals, while men manage the livestock sector and handle the use of tractors. 

    Approximately 5 to 6 percent of the population have limited access to agriculture and livestock keeping. These households, most of which have been displaced long-term from other districts of Nuristan, depend primarily on casual labor opportunities facilitated by aid agencies via livelihood-based interventions such as irrigation canal construction and road construction. 

    In October, the main harvest of wheat, maize, potatoes, and cereal crops starts. The maize and wheat harvests are expected to be normal. Ground observations in some districts like Parun, Wama, and Waygal, indicate that these crops are not going to provide a significant source of household income as they will be used for animal feed. Due to favorable weather and the availability of water for irrigation, bean and potato production is favorable. In particular, the output of beans, a vital household income source, is expected to be better than last year, according to ground reports. 

    Vegetation conditions are above average, supporting favorable pasture conditions. Goats and cattle are the dominant livestock available in Nuristan. Most households own livestock (goats and cattle), which are an important source of income, and farmers also grow wheat and maize straw for livestock consumption during the winter season. At the provincial level, the production of milk per livestock has improved significantly in comparison to recent years as livestock body conditions are recovering from the adverse impacts of past drought years. However, milk availability is lower than normal due to a storm in August, which resulted in the large-scale loss of livestock. 

    Typically, households sell one or two animals before the onset of winter to procure food for winter. According to field reports, livestock body conditions are favorable; however, demand is low, and livestock owners are earning below-average income. 

    Households formerly employed by the previous government are now largely reliant on casual labor opportunities with non-governmental organizations as they slowly re-establish livelihoods in agriculture or animal husbandry. According to a mid-September field visit to Nuristan, the number of available days of labor per week improved significantly from July to September, with five available days of work per week in September and labor opportunities sometimes outpacing the supply of laborers. However, based on WFP data, casual labor opportunities decreased to three days per week in October and are expected to decline further as the winter season progresses, as is typical with the onset of cold weather. Households depending on casual labor will face significantly reduced income-earning opportunities and will likely remain among the most vulnerable groups in terms of food security, relying on food aid and charity from the community. 

    According to WFP, the price of the FSAC food basket in Nuristan stands at 8,000 AFG during the month of October, which is stable compared to last month and last year at the same time but 14 percent higher compared to the national average. This disparity can be attributed to the province's remote location, which results in higher transportation costs due to limited access to major markets, including Jalalabad, which is the nearest main market to this province. Additionally, Nuristan faces a significant supply deficit compared to its neighboring provinces, further contributing to the higher prices of the food basket in the area. Nuristan is one of the remotest provinces and is far from main markets such as Kunar and Jalal Abad. It is connected by an unpaved road to Jalal Abad, where the main food commodities are supplied. Due to higher transportation costs, prices in Nuristan are significantly higher compared to the national average and Jalal Abad market.

    In Nuristan's main market of Parun, pulses, mainly beans, are retailing at 144 AFG/kg in October, the highest price compared to the other 33 main markets of the country. Prices rose 7 percent in the last month, largely driven by higher demand and good quality, and are 17 percent higher compared to last year and 37 percent higher than the three-year average. These high prices benefit farmers, who are able to sell their surplus stocks to traders from other provinces and earn higher incomes from their market sales. However, the number of farmers who are able to access this income is not significant, as there are many households who are displaced and are only able to sell small amounts of their production. 

    In October, aid agencies targeted around 25,000 people with 50 percent rations. 

    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing in October. Despite the ongoing harvest improving access to food and income, households are not able to completely close food consumption deficits. Overall, for poor and displaced households, income from labor and the harvest is lower than normal. Additionally, household income from livestock is lower than normal and is associated with the limited ability to sell livestock due to livestock losses. 

    Assumptions

    The national-level assumptions also apply to this area of concern.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From October to January, poor households, predominately those heavily reliant on livestock for income, that have lower than normal ability to sell livestock are likely to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the projection period. Due to limited livestock holdings, their income from livestock sales and access to milk for consumption will be below average. As the prices of food commodities increase, as is typical during the peak of lean season, the purchasing power for these households will deteriorate, and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist. 

    From February to May, poor households will deplete most of the stocks from their own production, resorting to stressed or crisis coping strategies, such as excessive sales of livestock and income-generating assets to meet food consumption gaps until May 2024. In addition, other vulnerable household groups, such as the internally displaced population dependent on casual labor, earn lower than normal income. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through at least early Spring 2024.  


    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Afghanistan Food Security Outlook October 2023 - May 2024: Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected in northern and urban areas during the lean season, 2023.

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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