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Atypical price increases limits labor dependent household purchasing power

  • Key Message Update
  • Afghanistan
  • March 2020
Atypical price increases limits labor dependent household purchasing power

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In areas of the country where poor households have depleted their food stocks and are heavily reliant on labor to access food, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist. The wheat harvest starting in May and continuing through August is expected to improve household food access. However, many poor households are anticipated to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the post-harvest period, while Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist among poor households in remote areas where years of conflict have affected households’ ability to engage in normal livelihood activities.

    • As of March 31, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was 174 across 17 provinces, according to WHO. Hirat Province, in the western part of the country, has 131 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the most of any other province. Most of the cases are attributed to the high number of Iranian returnees, where the COVID-19 infection rate is accelerating. The government has placed a three-week lockdown resulting in the closure of sections of cities and limiting the number of people at gatherings. Should these restrictions continue for an extended length of time, poor and displaced households and returnees’ access to income from labor is expected to further decline.

    • In early March, the Government of Afghanistan and governments of countries bordering Afghanistan implemented strict border closures along the Afghan borders. Throughout March the border restrictions have been slowly eased to commercial traffic along Afghanistan’s northern borders, with intermittent border openings to Pakistan. Trade within and outside the country is occurring at near normal levels. However, the prices of wheat flour have increased 20 to 30 percent across much of the country in mid-March, attributed to panic buying. In late March, wheat flour prices returned from panic buying levels; however, remain on average 10 percent above average.

    • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the high infection rate in Iran, the number of returnees from Iran have reached near record levels. According to IOM, as of mid-March, over 136,000 people have returned from Iran with over 53,000 returning between March 8 to 14. The rate of returnees from Pakistan has significantly decreased mostly due to the border restrictions. Additionally, around 11,000 people have been displaced due to conflict in February and March across southern and northern parts of the country.

    • Spring wheat planting began in late February continuing through mid-May. Area planted for winter and spring wheat is near average across much of the country; however, the area planted is below average in northern areas due to the poor precipitation during the first part of the season. The favorable March precipitation is likely to facilitate spring wheat planting, especially in northern areas. This will most likely lead to near normal area planted. The harvest is expected to be near average across the country and will support normal household access to own foods starting in May.  

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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