Afghanistan: Drought - Information Bulletin n° 1

This bulletin is being issued for information only, and reflects the current situation and details available at this time. The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) is coordinating closely with Afghanistan authorities, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), other Movement partners with incountry presence, and humanitarian actors regarding potential humanitarian intervention. As of now, no external assistance is determined yet.

The situation

After decades of conflict, the current intensification of fighting and growing insecurity are hampering the Afghan population to have access to humanitarian aid and essential services. In the current unstable and volatile context, the civilian population is paying the highest toll of the protracted conflict in Afghanistan. On top of the conflict related humanitarian needs, below average precipitation and above average temperatures since October 2017 have resulted in significant reductions in snow depths, river flows, water level in dams, water tables and soil moistures. These conditions have negatively and irreversibly impacted the winter of 2017-2018 agricultural season and are expected to also negatively impact the spring and summer of 2018 agricultural season in Afghanistan.

Cumulative precipitation for the season through February 2018 was well below average in most areas, with record low snow accumulation in some basins. Moderate (50-100 mm) to locally heavy (200-300 mm) precipitation occurred over central, north-western, and eastern parts of the country during the months of March and April. However, cumulative seasonal precipitation deficits remain significant in most areas, especially in the north and southwestern parts of the country. Despite increased precipitation in March and April, initial estimates from field reports indicate that area planted for rainfed wheat is smaller than last year, reflecting dry soil conditions and the use of extended areas for grazing.

The overall combined effect is a significant shortage of water for rain-fed agriculture, irrigated agriculture, and pasturage. Based on satellite imagery and data analyses by Information Management and Mine Action Programs (IMMAP) and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), combined with observations by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), this shortage could affect up to 2 million rural population in 20 provinces who are reliant on agriculture, livestock, or agriculture-related wage labor for their food security and livelihood.

Forecasts indicate below-average to average precipitation for the remaining weeks of the spring wet season. Along with cumulative precipitation deficits, the below-average forecast is reflective of a low frequency of storms entering the region, increasing the risk for extended periods of dryness that could further impact agricultural production.

Livestock products are major source of nutritious food and income for vulnerable farmers especially women headed households. As it is difficult for people to maintain livestock in absence of fodder and water, livestock production has gone down and livestock sale prices have decreased on average between 20-30 per cent since October 2017. Concurrently, agricultural labour opportunities have declined, and combined with increasing migration of rural workers, have resulted in reduced casual labour wages throughout the country. Limited or no harvest and reduced livestock production can lead to food insecurity and reduced income for those households that are reliant on agriculture. Monitoring of the situation should start immediately and continued during winter 2018 to avoid asset depletion migration and malnutrition.

The latest figure published on 1 May from Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) shows that around 1.9 million people in 20 provinces (Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Samangan, Daykundi, Saripul, Badakshan, Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar, Nuristan Badghis, Farah, Ghor, Herat, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul) are affected by the prevailing drought conditions. The map of the 20 affected areas is as shown in Figure 1.

Badghis, Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Hilmand, Nimroz, Uruzgan, Kubduz, Takhar, Herat, Ghor and Farah are among the worst affected provinces. The population in these dry spells affected provinces, which are most ikely to need support in the areas of nutrition and food security, water and sanitation, emergency shelter and non-food items.

The Government of Afghanistan requested the international community’s support in mid-April 2018. A technical committee composed of the Ministry of Relief & Rural Development (MRRD), Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), Afghan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), ARCS, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC), WASH, and nutrition clusters has been established to develop a detailed response plan. According to MAIL available data and field observations, lifesaving and agriculture livestock protection needs are massive across the country. The government launched a USD 100 million appeal in mid-April through MAIL for immediate livestock protection for an initial two months of assistance for fodder/feed support and an overall demand of USD 550 million for a 10 months fodder / feed support throughout the 34 provinces of Afghanistan.