More than three decades of war, civil unrest, insurgent activity and recurring natural disasters have contributed to chronic humanitarian need in Afghanistan. As of November, approximately 360,600 people have been internally displaced due to conflict, an estimated 503,300 vulnerable people have returned or were deported from Iran and Pakistan, and natural disasters have affected roughly 111,300 people in 2017, according to the UN.
According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), an estimated 9.3 million people are food insecure, including 3.4 million severely food insecure; approximately 41 percent of children under 5 years of age are stunted and 10 percent are acutely malnourished. Widespread conflict, poor rain-fed staple production, and weak casual labor markets are the main drivers of acute food insecurity in Afghanistan.
Production estimates for 2017 wheat harvest season are 14 percent below the five-year average, due to below-average rainfall and prolonged periods of dryness, according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET). There are groups in all regions of Afghanistan that are expected to experience Crisis (IPC 3) and Emergency (IPC 4) levels of acute food insecurity, particularly among displaced people, undocumented returnees, and poor households affected by a lack of labor opportunities and poor agricultural production. Newly displaced populations—particularly those who have lost sources of income—are likely to experience Crisis levels of acute food insecurity and will rely heavily on humanitarian assistance, according to FEWS NET.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2017, support from USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) enabled WFP to provide nearly 2.9 million food-insecure individuals with emergency food assistance sourced from local and regional markets and cash-based transfers through local shops and financial institutions. With USAID/FFP support, WFP is distributing critical humanitarian assistance to those affected by conflict and natural disasters, strengthening communities’ resilience to shocks, supporting seasonally and chronically food-insecure populations, and providing supplementary feeding to treat and prevent malnutrition in children under 5 years of age and pregnant and lactating women.
Additionally, USAID/FFP has partnered with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support emergency nutrition programs, providing ready-to-use therapeutic foods in response to severe acute malnutrition in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. UNICEF programs also build the capacity of non-governmental partners and the Government of Afghanistan through performance monitoring, training and supervision.