Remote Monitoring Report

Atypically high humanitarian assistance needs are increasing as lean season progresses

February 2022

February - May 2022

June - September 2022

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Income losses and significantly above-average prices are constraining food access for an increasing number of households in both rural and urban areas. The ILO estimates that around 500,000 people lost their jobs in the third quarter of 2021. In Kabul, wheat flour prices in early February 2022 were 81 percent above the five-year average. After an early start to the lean season, an above-average number of rural households are expected to have exhausted food stocks, increasing reliance on market purchases while availability of income-earning opportunities is at seasonally low levels.

  • Despite declarations that the country’s banking sector will resume normal operations, the central bank of Afghanistan has not been able to normalize the banking system due to liquidity shortages which have prevented it from repaying foreign currency liabilities owed to commercial banks. According to key informants, most people are able to withdraw cash within the set weekly limits, though some banks are experiencing periodic shortages of cash, forcing them to deny payments to customers.

  • Precipitation received since late December 2021 has improved the performance of the 2021/22 wet season to date. As the winter wet season (October 2021 to February 2022) draws to a close, cumulative precipitation is now likely near average to above average in eastern and some western areas, though below average across most of the country (Figures 1 & 2). Though ground information is limited, it is expected that recent precipitation and improved soil moisture has supported spring planting and normal germination of the winter crop. However, given below-average snowpack and forecast below-average precipitation during the March to May 2022 spring season, wheat production is likely to be below-average at the national level, with the greatest concern for deficits in northern rainfed areas.

  • As the lean season progresses, more households will deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in rural and urban areas. With the start of harvesting around May/June in lower elevation areas and July/August in higher elevation areas, seasonal improvements in food availability will likely improve outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in most rural areas. However, in the June to September period, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to re-emerge in areas worst impacted by below-average crop and livestock production. In urban areas, typical spring improvement in economic activity will be less than normal given reduced investment in the country, though some increases in income-earning will likely support improved food access for poor households. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist at the area level.

  • Humanitarian assistance continues to be significantly scaled up, beyond what was planned in 2021. WFP reported reaching 8.5 million people with food and nutrition assistance (expected to include a variety of programs) in January 2022, more than eight times the 900,000 reached in January 2021. WFP plans to reach 15 million people in February 2022. Other organizations such as the Red Crescent are also distributing assistance. Though precise information is limited, in total, 10-30 percent of the population, on average, is expected to be receiving emergency food assistance during the lean season. High levels of assistance are likely preventing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in some central highland provinces.

CURRENT AND PROJECTED ANOMALIES

ZONE

CURRENT ANOMALIES PROJECTED ANOMALIES

National

  • After a slow start to the October 2021 to May 2022 wet season, precipitation received from late December 2021 to January 2022 has improved the performance of the wet season to date (Figures 1 & 2). Light to moderate but below-average precipitation has continued in February according to CHIRPS prelim data, though cumulative deficits again increased. It should be noted, however, that CHIRPS prelim data has recently been underestimating precipitation amounts relative to CHIRPS final data. Overall, as the winter wet season (October 2021 to February 2022) concludes, cumulative precipitation is now likely near average to above average in eastern and some western areas, though likely remains below average across most of the country (Figure 2).
  • Though ground information is limited, it is expected that recent precipitation and improved soil moisture has supported the start of spring planting (expected to continue through April) and normal germination of the winter crop. In most lower elevation areas, winter wheat (mostly irrigated) is at the tillering stage, while crops are in the germinating stage in some mid-elevation central areas and are dormant in higher elevation areas. Key informants report that crops are in normal condition in most areas.
  • Despite several declarations that the country’s banking sector will resume normal operations, the central bank of Afghanistan has not been able to normalize the banking system due to liquidity shortages which have prevented the central bank from repaying foreign currency liabilities owed to commercial banks. According to key informants, most people are able to withdraw cash from banks within the set weekly limits, though some banks are experiencing periodic shortages of cash, forcing them to deny payments owed to customers.
  • The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates that Afghanistan’s GDP has fallen by about 4 billion USD since the political shift in August 2021, a 20 percent decline from the 20 billion USD recorded in 2020. Due to political and financial instability in the country, a reduction in investment by private sector and humanitarian actors has reduced activity in construction services, other industries, and health care. The ILO estimates that around 500,000 people lost their jobs in the third quarter of 2021. Generally, availability of labor opportunities and wage rates are significantly lower than the same time last year, all over the country, in addition to being at seasonally low levels. According to qualitative information from key informants, some households are expected to be receiving above-average levels of remittances from the diaspora, though increases likely do not exceed increases in living costs in Afghanistan.
  • After depreciating from mid-June to January 2022, the Afghani (AFN) recovered 12 percent of its value in the first week of February relative to the USD and remained stable in the second week of February at the national level according to data from WFP, likely at least partially attributed to Taliban selling high amounts of foreign currency in February to support the exchange rate, following the release of half of Afghanistan’s frozen reserve assets. Wheat flour (low quality) prices followed a similar trend, declining 9 percent in the first week of February and remaining stable in the second week of February. However, wheat flour prices remain 31 percent higher than in early August 2021.
  • At the national level, demand for labor increased slightly from 1.1 days of work available per week in January, on average, to 1.3 days per week in early February according to WFP. However, labor availability remains below average and, in Kabul, remained at 1 day per week without increase. Unskilled labor wages declined by 2 percent from January to February. Overall, the amount of wheat flour that an unskilled laborer can purchase from working in February (considering availability and wages), on average, increased 20 percent from January to February but remained a full 61 percent lower than the first week of August 2021.
  • In rural areas, poor households are likely earning above-average income from labor opportunities associated with poppy cultivation, given increased poppy cultivation this year. This is expected to be supporting income-earning for those who access labor opportunities from poppy harvesting a few times a year across the country—and especially in the southern provinces—particularly given that wage rates for poppy harvesting are higher than for non-poppy agricultural labor.
  • Only five hospitals in Afghanistan currently offer COVID-19 treatment, after 33 others have been closed in recent months. Given highly limited health system operations, the country is not able to test for new COVID-19 variants according to WHO. As of February 14, 2022, around 12 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. In February, with 3.2 million vaccine doses in stock, the Ministry of Health launched a vaccination campaign through mosques and mobile vaccine clinics.
  • According to revised international forecasts, precipitation during the spring rainy season (March to May 2022) is now expected to be below average across the country. Though impacts depend on the timing and distribution of rainfall, dry conditions early in the spring season could reduce wheat area planted in affected areas, while dry conditions during critical growth stages could reduce wheat yields, particularly in rainfed and downstream irrigated areas. Spring rainfall is especially important this year given lower irrigation water availability (including hydrological drought conditions in some areas) resulting from below-average snowpack and low reservoir levels. Temperatures are generally forecast to be above average, further increasing water requirements.
  • Given below-average irrigation water availability and forecast below-average precipitation during the spring season, wheat production is likely to be below-average at the national level, with the greatest concern for deficits in northern rainfed areas. Irrigated wheat production is expected to be near average at the national level, though localized variations are expected. Key informants report that farmers remain concerned for water availability in the coming months when crop requirements increase. In the eastern region, key informants report that high humidity is also increasing the risk that pest and diseases, especially wheat rust, reduce yields. Production of second season irrigated crops—mainly rice, maize, and cash crops—is expected to be below-average due to below-average water availability.
  • Despite forecast below-average precipitation, it is expected that poppy production in 2022 will be better than last year given increased cultivation and anticipated continued prioritization of this cash crop. Income from associated labor opportunities and poppy sales is expected to be above-average given increased production and prices, particularly benefiting farmers in Hilmand, Kandahar, and other southern provinces where production is higher, and providing some support to local economies.
  • Pasture conditions typically improve from March to May. Given expectations for above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall, improvement is expected to be less than normal and pasture conditions are expected to remain below average in many areas. In areas impacted by severe pasture shortages in the spring, poor livestock productivity and body conditions would be likely, and pastoralists’ seasonal income from livestock sales would likely be below average given atypically early selling of livestock at reduced prices.
  • Despite revised expectations for gradual depreciation of the AFN supported by continued currency auctioning, prices of food and essential non-food commodities (such as fuel) will likely continue increasing throughout the lean season, beyond what is typical, driven primarily by elevated global energy and grain prices and anticipated supply chain disruptions. Most of Afghanistan’s imported wheat flour comes from Kazakhstan, which sources much of its wheat grain from Russia. As such, disruption to Russian exports and traders’ speculation around rising global prices will likely drive rising export prices in Kazakhstan. Around July, wheat prices are likely to decline slightly with increased supply from the main harvest. However, prices are then expected to continue rising through September.
  • In urban areas, typical spring improvement in economic activity and income-earning is likely to be less than normal given reduced investment in the country. In rural areas, increased availability of agricultural labor opportunities associated with the main harvest in April/May is expected to improve income-earning, though this is likely to be constrained by below-average purchasing power among those who hire labor and will further reduce in areas that experience below-average crop and livestock production. Remittances are likely to remain above average, though rising global prices will likely increasingly reduce the ability of Afghans abroad to send money to their families. Overall, income-earning for poor households is expected to remain below average throughout the projection period. According to the UNDP, unemployment in Afghanistan may almost double from 15.2 percent in 2019 to 29 percent in 2022.
  • Given expectations for prices and income-earning, purchasing power for most of the country’s population in both urban and rural areas is expected to remain significantly below average throughout the projection period.
  • As the weather warms in the spring, levels of conflict and insecurity are expected to increase in eastern and central areas where IS-K and the National Resistance Front are present.

PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH SEPTEMBER 2022

As the lean season progresses through around April 2022, additional households in both rural and urban areas are expected to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes given below-average and seasonally low income-earning alongside significantly above-average prices of food and non-food commodities. In rural areas, more households are expected to exhaust below-average food stocks, becoming increasingly dependent on markets for food, with income insufficient to meet needs. In urban areas, more poor households are expected to exhaust available coping capacity after months of below-average income-earning opportunities and rising prices. As such, poor households across the country will increasingly consume less expensive, less nutritious foods and restrict caloric intake. Among pastoralist households, food and income from livestock products will seasonally increase in the spring. However, in areas where livestock productivity is below-average, food and income from livestock products will likely be below normal, reducing typical improvements in food consumption and dietary diversity for pastoralist households. Atypically early livestock sales at lower prices could start as early as March in areas worst affected by pasture shortages.

A seasonal increase in the prevalence of acute respiratory infections, acute malnutrition, and hunger-related mortality is expected through March, and levels are expected to be higher than normal due to the reduced health system capacity and increased food insecurity in the country. Worst-affected households not receiving assistance are expected to engage in extreme coping and face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes, with particular concern for drought-affected areas, urban areas, and hard-to-reach highland areas where livelihood options are more limited.  

In April/May 2022, the start of the main harvest in lower elevation areas is expected to increase availability of food from own production and increase demand for agricultural labor. This will improve access to food and income for many rural households. However, reduced purchasing power among those who hire labor will likely constrain normal income-earning from labor, and demand for labor will be further reduced in areas where crop and livestock production is below average. In these areas, cash and in-kind payments for agricultural labor will also likely be below normal. However, many poor households are expected to be able to compensate by accessing labor from poppy cultivation, especially in southern provinces. Also around April/May, livestock prices are expected to increase due to high demand associated with Ramadan, supporting access to income for pastoralist households. Additionally, increased food availability from the harvest is expected to lead to a slight decline in staple wheat prices across the country, as is typical, though rising global prices could constrain this. Overall, seasonal improvements in availability of food and income are expected to improve area-level outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in most rural areas around May/June in lower elevation areas and July/August in higher elevation areas (where harvesting starts later, in July). In urban areas, some increases in income-earning will likely support improved food access and outcomes for some poor households in the spring, though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist at the area level. In the June to September period, as prices rise and rural households exhaust resources from the harvest season, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to re-emerge in rural areas worst impacted by below-average crop and livestock production. Throughout the projection period, millions of poor people in both urban and rural areas will remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

Events that Might Change the Outlook

Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario:

Area

Event

Impact on food security outcomes

Localized rural areas

Drought conditions result in significantly below-average crop and livestock production

Poor households in affected rural areas would likely not experience normal seasonal improvements in access to food and income from crop production, labor, and livestock. Some farming households may harvest little or nothing. Livestock production could significantly reduce, and many pastoralist households would likely engage in atypically early livestock sales at lower prices, reducing income earned for the season. Agricultural labor opportunities would be less than anticipated. Area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would likely persist in these areas.

About Remote Monitoring

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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