On Borrowed Time: The food security crisis in Afghanistan and WFP's urgent response

News and Press Release
Originally published

More than half the population of Afghanistan will be facing extreme hunger from November. The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report states that 22.8 million Afghans will be acutely food insecure by November. This is the highest number ever recorded in their 10 years of analysis.

Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Half of all children under five years old — around 3.2 million — are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year. One million children are at risk of dying without immediate life-saving treatment. The winters in Afghanistan are harsh, with supply chain routes hampered by icy roads and avalanches. This winter, with food stocks expected to run out, millions of families will be forced to choose between migration and starvation without urgent action.

For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country.

Rampant unemployment and the cash liquidity crisis mean that almost all major urban centres are projected to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) levels of food insecurity, including many formerly middle-class families.

Families forced to flee

Increased conflict between January and September 2021 has already driven over 677,000 people out of their homes, disrupting lives and livelihoods. This is in addition to over 3 million internally displaced people within the country at the start of the year.

If food does not arrive in time, families may be driven to go looking for it, and there could be a much greater refugee outflow than witnessed to date.

A tsunami of destitution

This hunger crisis is fuelled by a spiralling economic crisis following years of conflict, drought and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In rural areas, a second drought in just three years is severely affecting the livelihoods of 7.3 million people who rely on agriculture and livestock to survive.

Rising food prices

Food prices have steadily increased over the last years, and have now skyrocketed due to the economic crisis, with most major commodities seeing a sharp increase in recent months, according to WFP's recent market monitors.

This pushes food further out of reach for millions of cash-strapped Afghans.

WFP is rising to the challenge.

An unprecedented scale-up is underway to meet the increasing needs.

In the first ten months of this year alone, WFP reached nearly 11 million beneficiaries.*

Across all 34 provinces

WFP's trucks remain on the road, stretching from the bustling urban centre of Kabul to the mountainous regions of Badakhshan. As winter approaches, WFP’s drivers will continue braving the rugged terrain and snow to bring food to people in need.

Enabling the broader humanitarian response

The United Nations Humanitarian Service (UNHAS) continues to support all 160 humanitarian organizations across the country.

These flights are connecting humanitarians between Kabul, Bamyan, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz, Maymana and Mazar, and flying relief supplies and humanitarians from outside the country.

But time is running out. The current level of funding is a drop in the ocean, given the scale of need.

To avoid the worst case scenario, resources will need to be mobilized at unprecedented levels.

Despite the challenging context, WFP plans to continue ramping up its humanitarian assistance for 2022 to feed almost 23 million people.

To meet the task at hand, WFP estimates it could require US$ 220 million per month. This can only be done with the solidarity of the international community.

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