The conflict between pro-government forces and non-state armed groups (NSAGs) is the first and foremost driver of hunger across the country. According to reporting by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, as of May 2018, the Afghan government controls approximately 56.3% of Afghanistan’s districts (totalling 229 districts). The remaining districts – totalling 178 – are either under the control of or contested by NSAGs.9 The conflict both creates the conditions for and compounds wide-spread poverty, lack of sustainable livelihood opportunities, poor infrastructure and a lack of access to basic services such as clean water, sanitation and healthcare – ultimately driving a lack of access to and poor utilization of food as well as deepening under-development. As stated by OCHA in its Humanitarian Needs Overview, “the most severe needs are found in provinces experiencing ongoing conflict or hosting large numbers of IDPs and returnees. These areas are simultaneously affected by structural deficits predating the current crisis and include chronic food insecurity, malnutrition and limited access to safe water and healthcare.”
Across the country, approximately 9.8 million people face severe acute food insecurity (IPC phase 3 and phase 4) with an estimated 2.6 million people who are classified as facing emergency levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4 - Emergency). This corresponds to a 17.4% increase compared to the previous analysis in 2017. According to the last nationwide nutritional survey, approximately 10% of children suffer from wasting (low weight for height) and approximately 41% suffer from stunting (low height for age) indicative of widespread chronic malnutrition. However, recent SMART surveys conducted by ACF at a provincial level indicate that the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition is much higher.
At the heart of this current food security crisis are two main drivers: conflict and drought, both having led, and continuing to lead, to significant waves of displacement. While conflict is a significant driver of this deteriorating situation, it is increasingly recognized that natural disasters, and in particular drought, have profound impacts on the food security of the Afghan population. Due to the 2018 drought, on the 2.2 millions already chronically food insecure farming households, 1.4 million will become acutely food insecure and require emergency assistance over the coming months and into the next lean season. Despite being a chronical issue, drought-related requirements were only incorporated in the revised Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) in May 2018, increasing by 27% the financial requirements on the original appeal.
The humanitarian response system must be systematically driven by the severity of needs. However, the drivers of hunger in Afghanistan cannot be adequately addressed through emergency response alone. A collective response that prioritises the needs of the population and addresses the vulnerabilities across the Humanitarian-Development Nexus and its link to peace is urgently required. Billions of dollars are being invested in Afghanistan ($15.2 billion from 2016-2020 following Brussels conference). Whilst such long-term investments continue to be needed, Afghanistan’s progress continues to be undermined by instability, displacement and chronic unmet humanitarian needs. The aid system must direct its effort to address the gap between humanitarian and development actors to provide early recovery and resilience programmes.