Afghanistan: La Niña Drought - Emergency Appeal (n° MDRAF007)

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This Emergency Appeal seeks a total of 7.5 million Swiss francs to enable the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society to deliver assistance and support to 210,000 people over 12 months.


January 2021: A report by the Afghanistan National Statistics and Information Authority and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock indicates that 16 provinces are experiencing severe negative impacts of La Niña events and below average precipitation on the agriculture sector.

February 2021: Afghanistan public authorities indicate the need for scaling up response to the drought. The World Bank Board approves a grant of 97.5 million US dollars to provide regular and predictable cash support to Afghans affected by droughts and COVID-19.

20 March 2021: IFRC allocates 500,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to enable the Afghan Red Crescent Society to initiate a response operation.

10 April 2021: IFRC issues an Emergency Appeal seeking 7.5 million Swiss francs to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society to deliver assistance and support to 210,000 people for 12 months. In 10 provinces most affected by food insecurity and drought, the appeal will focus on food assistance in the form of cash grants, livelihood protection and restoration through crop production and livestock packages and training, an entrepreneurial training track and seed capital for income generation activities of female-headed households, and community-based sanitation and hygiene promotion.

Situation Overview

Hunger and malnutrition have spiked in Afghanistan amid the ongoing conflict and economic downturn, with food insecurity now on par with the 2018-2019 drought, leaving the country with the second-highest number of people in emergency food insecurity in the world1. This comes in the backdrop of over 40 years of conflict, recurrent natural disasters, increasing poverty, and COVID-19 which are also devastating the people of Afghanistan. Conflict continues to drive extreme physical and psychological harm and is forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands of people every year. Civilian casualties remain staggeringly high, with no sign of a lull in fighting, and women and children continue to be disproportionately impacted. The COVID-19 pandemic has had catastrophic consequences for people’s health, incomes, and levels of debt.

During the second half of 2020, a moderate to strong La Niña phenomenon was registered that is causing extreme weather conditions in various parts of the world. This phenomenon, which affects temperatures, precipitation, and storm patterns, is expected to continue at least until spring 2021, according to the World Meteorological Organization. In Afghanistan, this commonly results in below-average rainfall and snowfall across the country. The timing of this La Niña event coincides with the main wheat season with harvests in May-July 2021, which are critical following the lean season (January-April). The figure below outlines the seasonal calendar for a typical year in Afghanistan.

The dry conditions are expected to continue through the first half of 2021, according to forecasters, and have affected the winter season snow accumulation, which is critical for water access during the spring and summer agricultural seasons. The situation has been impacting both rain-fed and irrigated agriculture/livestock as well as on the availability of water for drinking, washing, and sanitation. Mid-March through to end-July will likely be the peak period during which drought impacts on crops and livestock (agricultural drought) would manifest. The wheat production deficit is expected to be 16 to 27 per cent in 2021 and as a result, requiring increased top-up from international suppliers.

The above drivers would further affect communities already suffering from the ongoing economic crises exacerbated by the secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including high prices of basic commodities, conflict and food insecurity. Humanitarian assistance is needed to alleviate the situation.

Summary of Red Cross Red Crescent response to date

The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), with support from the IFRC’s Country Delegation for Afghanistan, is closely coordinating and consulting with the Government of Afghanistan, UN agencies, and other (inter)national humanitarian actors both at national and subnational levels. ARCS is a member of the Early Action Committee (EAC) established by the Government of Afghanistan to work on current drought issues. The EAC undertook an assessment and has produced a report specifying the provinces affected severely and those with medium impacts. ARCS and IFRC are also part of Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and the Inter Cluster Coordination Team (ICCT). Following deteriorating humanitarian conditions because of the drought conditions, in mid-March 2021 ARCS launched an emergency operation, with funding support from the IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). The DREF Operation aims to provide emergency food security assistance to 3,500 drought affected households in Badghis, Baghlan, and Faryab provinces – which are amongst drought hotspot provinces – utilizing unconditional cash as a modality. In addition, with financial assistance from various donors such as USAID, Chinese Red Cross Society, etc., ARCS has also been providing short-term emergency food security assistance (using CVA modalities) to multiple shocks affected households in four provinces including Faryab, Ghor, Sar-i-Pul, and Kandahar.