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Food aid remains critical to preventing worse outcomes as winter sets in across the country

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Afghanistan
  • December 2022
Food aid remains critical to preventing worse outcomes as winter sets in across the country

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are expected to persist in Afghanistan through at least May. Most households have insufficient food to meet their needs due to dwindling own-produced food stocks and high food prices during the ongoing lean season, which coincides with winter. FEWS NET assesses that ongoing humanitarian food assistance is a key factor preventing worse area-level outcomes, but millions of households are still experiencing food consumption gaps as the level of need outpaces available resources for assistance. In the areas of highest concern, including Badakshan, Badghis, Bamyan, Daykundi, Faryab, and Ghor provinces, some households are likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4), meaning they have large food deficits or are using emergency coping strategies to mitigate them. 

    • Households are expected to become increasingly reliant on markets and humanitarian assistance for food until the start of the next harvest. At the same time, reduced labor opportunities, lower wages, and high food prices will continue to drive low household purchasing power. In lower-elevation areas, food availability and access is unlikely to notably improve until when the start of the harvest in April and May. In higher-elevation areas, the next harvest begins as late as mid-July. 

    • According to WFP, over 22.6 million people received humanitarian food, nutrition, and livelihoods assistance in 2022. In December, WFP reported that around 3.5 million people received monthly assistance, while five months of supplies were pre-positioned for delivery to an additional 1.5 million people in areas that are hard to reach during the winter season. Households received rations that range from 50 to 75 percent of their kilocalorie needs. Based on available information from WFP as of December, funding constraints will limit the targeting of food assistance to 11 million people over the first six months of 2023. Humanitarians will likely continue to prioritize areas worst affected by the multi-season drought during the ongoing lean season. However, the impact of the government’s directive banning female NGO workers – issued on December 24 – on humanitarian assistance deliveries is being closely monitored. 

    • While precipitation was somewhat favorable at the start of the winter wet season in October and November, precipitation in December was minimal, resulting in cumulative precipitation deficits in early winter (October to December). Furthermore, snowpack across all highland areas of the country is lower than normal for this time of year. Planting for winter wheat is ongoing in December in low-lying areas of the country, while planting has concluded in higher-elevation areas due to the onset of winter and freezing temperatures. Nationally, winter wheat planting is at below-average levels due to dry soils from consecutive years of drought and below-normal access to agricultural inputs. 

    • According to key informant interviews conducted by REACH in October/November, a significant number of respondents indicated that their communities experienced both an economic shock and drought or precipitation deficits within the past six months. Households also reported that staple food prices have increased in the past 30 days and that their access to markets is limited by physical distance and financial constraints. The findings align with WFP price monitoring data, which indicate that wheat grain and flour prices remain well above the two-year average, while rice is nearly 20 percent more expensive than at the same time last year. 





    • Precipitation between October and December was generally below average across most areas of the country, with only a few areas receiving average to above-average precipitation. Additionally, snow water equivalent is below average across much of the highlands of the country. 
    • Planting is ongoing in the lowlands, while planting activities have ended in the highlands. According to key informants, plantings of both irrigated and rainfed winter wheat are generally below average. Planting was poor due to dry soils from consecutive years of drought and low purchasing power to buy agricultural inputs.
    • As is typical during the winter months, the availability of agricultural labor has seasonally decreased across most rural areas of the country. This, coupled with low employment opportunities in the formal and informal sectors, is driving below-average income from labor due to continued poor macroeconomic conditions resulting from reduced foreign investment and spending.
    • The number of people migrating to neighboring and Gulf countries continues at higher-than-normal levels, which in turn is driving above-average remittances for households, based on key informant information, including cash transfer agents. However, household income from remittances is not sufficient to make up for the reduction in labor income.
    • Despite higher production costs, the livestock sector has been supported by unofficial exports to Pakistan and Iran, where demand has increased in the last two years. According to WFP, at the national level, the price of a one-year-old female sheep in November 2022 was close to the 2021 price and the two-year average.
    • Although wheat grain and wheat flour prices decreased slightly compared to last month, prices are still 18 percent and 13 percent higher, respectively, than last year at the same time. Meanwhile, as of November, Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) food basket prices were significantly higher than at the same time last year. In November, the national average sheep-to-wheat terms of trade – a proxy for purchasing power for pastoral, agropastoral, and mixed farming households – was 11 percent below last year and 21 percent below the two-year average. From October to November, the sheep-to-wheat terms of trade were fairly stable in all monitored markets.
    • WFP provided assistance – equivalent to 50 to 75 percent of a monthly ration – to at least 12.4 million people in November and 3.5 million people in December, while pre-positioning assistance for an additional 1.5 million people in hard-to-reach areas.
    • Based on observed and forecast precipitation, cumulative precipitation for the  October to February winter wet season will most likely be below average in general, though some areas will receive average precipitation. Close monitoring of rainfall distribution is required to determine the impact on wheat production. Cumulative precipitation from March to May 2023, which is important for wheat development and growth, is likely to be average throughout most of the country. 
    • Above-average temperatures are expected throughout the current outlook period. The high temperatures put crops such as wheat and stone fruits at risk of early germination and refreezing.
    • Livestock prices are expected to be average, although higher than in 2022, mainly due to the expectation of continued demand from neighboring countries and the improvements in water and pasture availability with precipitation in the spring. In some areas where households engage in atypical livestock sales during the winter (December to March), their inability to afford production costs will likely affect livestock salability and market supply, leading to further declines in livestock prices from December to March before typical, seasonal increases in prices occur in April. Additionally, income-earning from livestock sales is expected to be below average in areas where household herd sizes have declined to very low levels.
    • On a monthly basis, staple food prices will most likely remain stable through May due to expected normal supply supported by normal imports, as well as lower demand due to high levels of humanitarian assistance. However, food prices are expected to remain above normal due to high global and regional prices and high transportation costs, resulting in lower-than-normal household purchasing power.
    • WFP and its partners are expected to provide food assistance throughout the projection period, covering 50 to 75 percent of beneficiaries’ kilocalorie needs. Food assistance distributions are expected to prioritize the areas worst affected by drought. Limited by current funding levels, WFP plans to reach around 11 million people over the coming six months. However, the impact of the ban on female NGO workers on deliveries is yet to be fully assessed.


    As food availability and access reaches an annual low at the peak of the lean season in early 2023, humanitarian assistance is expected to prevent worse acute food insecurity outcomes by mitigating the size of food consumption deficits for millions of recipients. However, levels of assistance are expected to be insufficient to fully prevent household food consumption deficits, especially in the highland areas of the country. Millions of people are expected to predominantly rely on markets and food aid, along with some food stocks stored for the winter season, but they will be unable to cover their minimum kilocalorie needs.

    As the winter and lean seasons progress, an increasing number of rural households will exhaust their food stocks atypically early due to below-average production in 2022, and they will become increasingly dependent on market purchases. However, market access is expected to be limited both by financial constraints and physical access, given rising food prices during the winter, lower-than-normal purchasing power, and winter conditions that limit population movement. While households are also likely to earn some income from livestock and remittances, these income sources are not expected to be sufficient to compensate for the reduction of other typical sources of food and income resulting from the multi-season drought and economic shocks. Many urban poor households will also increasingly struggle to meet their needs amid high food prices, seasonal declines in labor opportunities, and lower wages. Across rural and urban areas, many will rely heavily on humanitarian assistance and borrowing or selling remaining assets — including livestock — with detrimental impacts on the sustainability of their livelihoods and their coping capacity.

    In areas worst affected by drought, including Badakshan, Badghis, Bamyan, Daykundi, Faryab, and Ghor provinces, province-level Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes are likely to persist through at least May. Increased levels of acute malnutrition are possible in some areas as households face reduced dietary quality and quantity during the lean season. Households are likely to rely heavily on humanitarian food assistance to prevent worsening food consumption deficits, with only minimal ability to supplement aid through market purchases or available food stocks.

    In other areas of the country, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are likely. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in higher-elevation areas and among households with below-average purchasing power that are unable to stock food for the winter, becoming increasingly widespread across more areas of the country in January/February as household food stocks are depleted. Improvement in acute food insecurity outcomes is not expected to occur until the start of the next harvest. As the harvest and associated labor activities begin in April and May in lowland areas of the country, access to food is expected to slightly improve, driving decreases in the share of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. In higher-elevation areas, the next harvest begins as late as mid-July, which falls outside the projection period for this report. 

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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