Afghanistan: Drought - Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF n° MDRAF004

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Below average precipitation and above average temperatures since October 2017 have resulted in significant reductions in (1) snow depths, (2) river flows, (3) water level in dams, (4) water tables, and (5) soil moistures. These conditions have already negatively and irreversibly impacted the winter 2017–2018 and spring/summer 2018 agricultural season in Afghanistan. According to the data presented by OCHA to the latest Humanitarian Country Team meeting on 13 September 2018, the drought affected IDPs are estimated at 266,000. 84,000 of them have settled in Herat, and 182,000 within Badghis, their province of origin. In the last month alone, more than 84,000 people have been displaced to Herat city and 18,579 families (94,945 people) have been displaced to Qala-e-Naw City (capital of Badghis province). IDPs are residing in dozens of sites on the outskirts of the cities, or in makeshift shelters within the main cities. This makes it more difficult to reach them in a smaller number of catchment areas.

Four years of failed rains have led to massive loss of livelihoods for millions of Afghans in the northwestern provinces.

Ninety-five per cent of the population there rely on agriculture, livestock and crops to survive. People have been left without enough food to feed their families. The upcoming severe winter months will likely deteriorate their situation.

Temperature in these areas has already dropped close to zero degrees at night, the coming weeks will really be testing for the drought affected families with freezing conditions, potentially resulting into winter related sickness and potential deaths. On 16 October 2018 the United Nations’ Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) and Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) have released funds to support people affected by a severe drought.

The overall response in drought-affected communities has been hampered by the access restrictions caused by security concerns. Humanitarian actors, including the Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement, have had very limited access in the past three months. For instance, Ghazni City was attacked by an armed opposition group (AOG) which took control of the locality straddling the highways. An ensuing fight resulted in displacement and deaths, including of civilians.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has reported that there were 210 civilian casualties during the period 10 August to 15 August. In addition, the RCRC Movement encountered access limitations following a declaration by an AOG in mid-August that security guarantees given to RCRC operation in Afghanistan would be withdrawn. This resulted in restricted personnel movement and reduced operational capacity pending dialogue to address concerns of the AOG. After weeks of dialogue, security guaranties to the RCRC Movement were restored on 14 October 2018.

These developments have now set the pace for RCRC Movement partners to gradually resume activities, including to roll out interventions in support of communities affected by food insecurity. It is in this context that this DREF request is being submitted. Beyond that DREF support, a scaled-up response, utilizing other established resource mobilization channels, is envisioned.

The latest reports from Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) alarming that in the absence of adequate humanitarian assistance for drought affected communities the severity of drought is likely to be one step worst in most of the country. Resulting in the further expansion of crises situation in north, northwest, central and south-central provinces and start of emergency phase in northwestern provinces of the country. People in these areas are expected to face more challenges to meet their consumption requirements until the next year spring harvest. The onset of severe winter will also create a large food deficit for the worst affected households.

Though there are positive signs in terms of area planted for winter wheat is anticipated to be higher than last year due to the increased likelihood of El Niño. Government and organizations are also encouraging households to start preparing for winter panting season. However, the drought affected population is critical need of food and livelihood assistance during this lean season.

Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present throughout Afghanistan due to declining purchasing power, disruption of normal livelihoods due to conflict, and poor rainfed staple performance and will contribute to the increased food assistance needs as compared to recent years. Poor household dependent on rainfed wheat production, particularly in northern, northeastern, and northwestern areas, are expected to experience difficulty meeting consumption requirements until next year’s spring harvest. The worst-affected households will likely experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as large food deficits emerge with the onset of winter.

Households have started preparing for the winter wheat planting season, likely starting in October. The area planted for winter wheat is anticipated to be higher than last year due to the increased likelihood of El Niño. Due to the forecasted El Niño, there is an increased likelihood of average to above-average precipitation during the 2018/19 wet season however, there remains a large spread of possible precipitation outcomes for the season.