Afghanistan: Urgent need to pre-position food aid

News and Press Release
Originally published
KABUL, 29 October 2008 (IRIN) - The Afghan government and aid agencies have not so far pre-positioned adequate relief supplies in some of the most vulnerable areas, increasing the risk of a humanitarian disaster this winter, the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA) has said.

"Snowfall is imminent. aid has not reached the most needy regions," ANDMA director Abdul Matin Edrak told IRIN on 27 October.

Millions of Afghans have been pushed into high-risk food-insecurity by high food prices, drought and conflict-related problems, say aid experts.

Wheat production is 36 percent down on what it was in 2007 due to a severe drought, according to aid agencies. The country is facing a deficit of two million tonnes of mixed food items over the next six months, the Agriculture Ministry has said.

On 9 July UN agencies and the government launched an emergency appeal for US$404 million to curb the adverse impact of higher food prices and drought on millions of the most vulnerable people.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, only 16 percent of the appeal had been covered by 8 October. The UN has repeatedly called on donors to respond quickly to the appeal.

More vulnerable this winter

Heavy snowfall, extremely cold weather, diseases and lack of access to adequate food killed over 2,000 mostly elderly people and children last winter, according to ANDMA.

Aid agencies such as the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Oxfam International have warned that large parts of the country have become far more vulnerable this winter than last.

"This year problems have been compounded by crop failure and high food prices," Fatema Gillani, president of ARCS, told IRIN.

"While the need for aid has increased significantly, the response capacity looks weaker than last year," ANDMA's Edrak said, partly due to the worsening security situation which has further reduced the access of aid workers to volatile areas.

Dozens of aid workers have been killed and/or kidnapped by criminal and insurgent groups in the past 10 months, according to the Afghanistan NGOs Safety Office.

Lack of coordination within the aid community was also a major challenge, ANDMA said.

Provincial officials in Balkh, Herat, Faryab, Sar-I-Pul, Ghor and Daykundi have reported small-scale displacements of people due to food-insecurity and lack of access to drinking water over the past few months.

As winter approaches more and more vulnerable families will opt to go to other areas unless aid is made available to them, ANDMA said.

The ICRC has already warned [] that hundreds of thousands of people may have to leave their homes this winter because of drought, insecurity and rising food prices in the north.