Afghanistan - WFP launches new emergency appeal: Update 15 Jun 2001

Summary: WFP has brought forward plans for a new emergency operation in Afghanistan to deal with the devastating affects of a two-year drought and a 20-year long civil war.
WFP Appeal

Duration: 1 April 2001 - 31 March 2002
No. of beneficiaries: 3.8 million
Food required: 176,936 metric tonnes
Total Cost: US$ 76.6 million

WFP in Afghanistan

WFP Afghanistan works out of six sub-offices, each with their own corresponding warehouses:

  • Kabul
  • Faizabad
  • Herat
  • Jalalabad
  • Kandahar
  • Mazar

Press Release, Mar 12 2001: WFP Launches New Emergency Appeal for Afghans on Brink of Starvation

Press Release, Feb 7 2001: US Emergency Aid Reaches Afghanistan

Press Release, Jan 11 2001: WFP to feed more Afghan refugees in Pakistan

With Afghanistan in the midst of its worst drought on record, WFP has accelerated plans for a new US$ 76 million emergency appeal.

In an exceptional move, underlining the severity of the Afghan food crisis, WFP has consolidated its current emergency and development projects in Afghanistan into a single all-encompassing operation.

The 12-month emergency operation, launched in April, targets 3.8 million of the most vulnerable people - both to prevent further loss of life and halt potentially devastating large-scale population movements.


WFP Afghanistan believes that hundreds of thousands of people risk starvation while thousands of others have already fled their home villages for larger cities in Afghanistan or over the border in Pakistan and Iran in search of food.

"We are going to step up our distributions in Afghanistan to prevent the crisis from getting worse than it is," said Girard Van Dijk, WFP representative in Afghanistan.

"We have launched a new, and larger, emergency operation for Afghanistan because it is already evident that the upcoming wheat harvest, due in July, will not meet the food needs of the people."

The July harvest is unlikely to satisfy domestic demand both because of the shortage of quality seed available and the migration of farmers out of drought-hit areas.

If the rains fail again in 2001, "we could see a widespread famine," added Van Dijk.


In a nation where 85 percent of the population depend on agriculture for survival, two consecutive years of winter rain failure, exacerbated by more than 20 years of civil war, have taken a severe toll on food security.

For 2000/2001, WFP estimates that Afghanistan's food deficit will reach 2.3 million tons, more than double the figure last year.

Last year's drought had already left virtually no part of Afghanistan untouched.

The worst-affected areas lie in the north, west and central regions including large parts of Ghor, Badhgis, southern Faryab and Saripul and four districts in the Central Highlands (Balkhab, Dari Suf, Sharistan and Dai Kundi)

In normal years, a traditional system of sharing food protects even the poorest members of Afghan society from starvation.

But two years of drought have put a strain on the system and, in the worst hit cities like Mazar-I-Sharif in the north, women and children are now begging openly on the streets.

Such is the severity of the food shortage that the most vulnerable Afghans, who are heavily dependent on livestock as an economic resource, are expected to have liquidated all their animals before the next harvest - either to sell for cash or for food.

Migration is the last resort for many families. At the end of January 2001, 80,000 internally displaced persons in Herat , an historic city in western Afghanistan, were almost wholly reliant on food aid for survival.

A further 80,000 Afghans, fleeing destitution caused by drought, have crossed the Afghan/Pakistan border at Torkham - many settling in WFP Pakistan camps near Peshawar.

The effects of the drought have been aggravated by an economy in a state of collapse with few job opportunities and low wages for those who do have work.

As rural families fleeing the drought arrive in the cities, the job market is starting to buckle under the strain.

Dateline to Disaster

1998/1999: winter rains fail throughout Afghanistan

1999/2000: second consecutive failure of winter precipitation provokes Afghanistan's worst drought on record

April-May 2000: hot dry conditions in northern Afghanistan severely damage wheat crop

June 2001: Afghanistan's next chance of normal crop but unlikely to meet domestic needs


WFP's new emergency operation plans to target 600,000 families throughout Afghanistan. In a country, with an average family size of six, this means the total assisted population will be more than 3.8 million.

Afghan households in rural areas, where virtually all agricultural production has failed, are considered the most vulnerable.

As a result, WFP's food aid places special emphasis on targeting poor small farmers, landless labourers, sharecroppers and families with no able-bodied men.

However, cities formerly considered urban havens, which are struggling to absorb destitute displaced families, cannot be forgotten.


WFP's relief and recovery operation, due to continue until December this year, will be suspended with its resources being used to help cover food aid needs until the new emergency operation was launched in April.

However, several life-saving activities which formed part of WFP's recovery work, will be continued in the new emergency operation:

  • WFP Bakery Projects in Kabul and the northern city of Mazar-I-Sharif, which provide 2 kg of bread to vulnerable people at a 10 percent the commercial price.

  • WFP food in will continue to supply hospitals, out-patient clinics and orphanages to supplement the diet of malnourished children, expectant mothers as well as the victims of leprosy and tuberculosis.

  • Food for Education: a monthly ration of wheat and oil will still be distributed to students, teachers and support staff at schools in north-eastern Afghanistan. The food provides poor families with an incentive to keep their children at school.

  • Food for Work: WFP will continue to pay food to workers taking part in projects designed to rehabilitate Afghanistan's agricultural infrastructure, such as irrigation systems.


Both the tough mountain terrain combined with the volatile security situation make getting food into Afghanistan treacherous and expensive.

To meet the increased requirements of the latest emergency operation, WFP's regional office in Pakistan intends leasing an additional 40 trucks to augment its existing fleet of 60.

The capacity for delivery to remote areas on difficult tertiary roads inside Afghanistan has also been increased with a further 70 seven-ton trucks.

Animal transport may also have to be used on occasion, although WFP may have to resort to airdrops and airlifting food aid into remote districts to save lives.

WFP Afghanistan gets its food into the drought-hit areas using three corridors:

  • Baltic route (16 percent): a northern corridor stretching from the Baltic Sea via rail to trans-shipment sites at Termez (Uzbekistan), Osh (Krygystan) and Torghundi (Turkmenistan).

  • Southern route (74 percent): via port in Karachi, then by road to Quetta and Peshawar (both Pakistan).

  • Iran route (10 percent): food shipments received at port of Bandar Abbas, moved by truck and rail to Mashad, then via Chordzhov (Turkmenabad) in Turkmenistan to Mazar-I-Shairf in Afghanistan.

Copyright =A9 2001, World Food Programme