As of January 25, cumulative precipitation for the 2020/21 season has been below average in most provinces. Contrary to earlier forecasts, mean temperatures have been below average across most of the country from mid-November to early January 2020. According to key informants, these conditions delayed winter wheat cultivation in Kabul, Parwan, Balkh, and Samangan provinces. Though complete geographical information is limited, concern for damage to the wheat crop due to cold temperatures exists in Badghis, Bamyan, Daykundi, Logar, and Paktya provinces. Meanwhile, below-average precipitation forecast across the country through May is cause for concern for both winter and spring wheat production.
After increasing from October to December 2020, the number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan has been generally declining in January 2021, although underreporting of cases remains a concern. According to the Ministry of Public Health, 234,453 individuals have been tested for COVID-19 as of January 21, 2021, while 54,672 (23 percent) have tested positive, suggesting limited testing capacity. The Afghanistan government and its borders are all open, facilitating normal trade of food items. Overall, while significant additional negative impacts on food security are not expected in the coming months, prolonged impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still visible in Afghanistan. In particular, below-average numbers of migrant workers in Iran are expected to be contributing to below-average remittances for both rural and urban households.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, food prices in main markets in December 2020 remained above average, mainly due to higher prices of imported food items in source markets including, notably, wheat in Kazakhstan. At the national level, wheat flour prices in Afghanistan were stable from November to December 2020, though at levels 11 percent higher than last year and 27 percent higher than the three-year average.
In most rural areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are widespread and are expected to persist throughout the projection period. However, in areas that harvested lower amounts and in areas worst affected by conflict, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely during the remainder of the lean season. Throughout the country, an increasing number of poor households—particularly those with below-average stocks or who are adversely affected by lower remittances—are expected to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as the lean season progresses and stocks are exhausted.
In urban areas, lower availability of income-earning opportunities during winter, below-average remittances, and above-average food prices are likely to restrict access to food and income for many poor households, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected throughout the projection period in the absence of assistance. As implementation of the COVID-19 relief program progresses, households receiving humanitarian assistance are likely to improve to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) until they exhaust the assistance. According to available information as of January 29, a total 3,020 urban households (around 21,000 people, representing less than 1 percent of the population) across 13 provincial capitals have so received this assistance.