Afghanistan: Situation report, March 2019

Key messages

Afghanistan is currently facing one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crisis, with alarming increase of food insecurity and loss of livelihoods, as a result of the combined effect of widespread conflict and insecurity, recurrent natural disasters and ensuing mass displacements.
The food security and livelihoods situation has significantly deteriorated over the past months, driven mostly by the severe drought in 2018. An estimated 13.5 million people are severely food insecure and require emergency assistance.
El-Niño conditions have induced above-average precipitation during the wet season (winter/spring); however, the outlook for the upcoming harvest (June-September) is unfavorable, due to the lack of access to agricultural inputs.
El Niño-induced above-average temperatures sparked flash floods and landslides throughout the country as snowpack melts unusually early in the season, endangering cultivated areas and households’ productive assets, including livestock, and inducing further displacements, especially in the western, southern and eastern regions.
Plant pests and diseases are some critical challenges faced by farmers and will likely affect cultivated areas during spring/summer.
Mass distress sale of livestock, high morbidity and mortality of animals and low productivity continue to be a major concern for pastoralists (70 percent of the population). Emergency animal health protection assistance is essential and cost-effective to avoid further loss of productive animals.

CURRENT SITUATION

The severe drought during 2018, compounded by increased conflict and displacement, has sharply deteriorated people’s food security throughout Afghanistan. An estimated 13.5 million people are facing crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4). Ninety percent of the rural population (or 12.9 million people) live below the poverty line, demonstrating the lack of capacity of vulnerable people to recover from shocks, with extremely limited resilience to cope with extreme events. Flash floods were reported in the southern city of Kandahar, which is estimated to be experiencing an emergency level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4).
More than 300 000 people have been displaced due to the drought, especially in the western region of the country. Of those displaced, 80 percent are hesitant to return to their places of origin for several reasons, including the inability to sustain their agricultural and pastoral livelihoods. As part of an integrated Humanitarian Country Team response, the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC), co-led by FAO and the World Food Programme, will contribute to a returns package with a combination of food and livelihood assistance over the coming months as an incentive for internally displaced people to return to their places of origin.