Record levels of hunger persist in Afghanistan, warn FAO and WFP

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The report predicts that the outlook for the June-November 2022 period will see a slight improvement in the food security situation, with the number of people facing acute food insecurity reducing to 18.9 million people.

This improvement is partly due to the upcoming wheat harvest, from May to August, and the well-coordinated scale-up of humanitarian food assistance this year – alongside increased support for agricultural livelihoods.

However, gains will be limited, the report warns. Persistent drought and deep economic crisis mean that unprecedented hunger will continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Afghanistan.

Catastrophic levels of hunger detected for the first time

Of particular concern, and for the first time since the introduction of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) in Afghanistan in 2011, is that a small pocket of “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity – or Phase 5 of the IPC – has been detected in the country.

More than 20,000 people in the northeastern province of Ghor are facing catastrophic levels of hunger due to a long period of harsh winters and dire agricultural conditions.

“Unprecedented levels of humanitarian assistance focused on strengthening food security have made a difference. But the food security situation is dire. Humanitarian assistance remains crucial, as does the need to rebuild destroyed agricultural livelihoods and reconnect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country. Without this, there will be no way out of this crisis,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Afghanistan.

“Food aid and emergency livelihood support are the lifeline of the Afghan people. We have mounted the world’s largest humanitarian food operation in months, reaching more than 16 million people since August 2021,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, Country Director and WFP Representative in Afghanistan.

“We work with farmers, millers and bakers, training women and creating jobs to support the local economy. Because the Afghan population would much rather have jobs; women want to be able to work; and all girls deserve to go to school. Allowing the economy to function normally is the surest way out of the crisis, otherwise suffering will grow where crops cannot grow,” she added.

War in Ukraine puts pressure on supplies

The upcoming harvest will bring some relief to millions of families struggling with income losses and food shortages. However, for many, the harvest will only offer short-term relief and very little opportunity for recovery.

The war in Ukraine continues to put pressure on the supply of wheat, basic foodstuffs, agricultural inputs and fuel prices in Afghanistan. Access to seeds, fertilizers and water for irrigation is limited, work opportunities are scarce and huge debts have been incurred to buy food in recent months.

FAO and WFP continue to scale up their programs across the country. WFP has reached over 16 million people so far in 2022 with emergency food assistance, and is supporting local markets, working with local retailers and suppliers. WFP continues to invest in people’s livelihoods through skills training and climate adaptation projects so that families can cultivate their land and produce their own food.

FAO continues to scale up its assistance to farmers and pastoralists in rural areas and will help more than 9 million people in 2022 through a series of interventions supporting crops, livestock and vegetable production, cash transfers and the rehabilitation of vital infrastructure and irrigation systems.

Support to agriculture is a strategic and cost-effective intervention that has great short-term impact as a survival aid, while paving the way for longer-term recovery and sustainable development.

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