Nearly 20 million people in Afghanistan – almost half the population – are facing acute hunger, humanitarians warned in a UN-backed report, published on Monday.
The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis for the country also revealed a pocket of “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity in the northeast, affecting thousands.
The analysis was conducted in January and February by partners who include the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sister agency the World Food Programme (WFP), and many non-governmental organizations.
Although humanitarian assistance helped avert a food security catastrophe over the harsh winter in Afghanistan, hunger still persists at unprecedented levels, according to the report.
Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in the country, described the food security situation as dire.
“Humanitarian assistance remains desperately important, as do the needs to rebuild shattered agricultural livelihoods and re-connect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country. Unless these happen, there will be no way out of this crisis,” he said.
The IPC was developed in 2004 to determine the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and acute malnutrition situations in a country.
The report predicts there will be a slight improvement in food security in Afghanistan from June through November, with the number of people facing acute food insecurity dropping to 18.9 million.
This is partly due to the coming wheat harvest, which runs from May to August, as well as the scale-up in food assistance this year and increased support to agriculture.
“Food assistance and emergency livelihood support are the lifeline for the people of Afghanistan. We mounted the world’s largest humanitarian food operation in a matter of months, reaching more than 16 million people since August 2021,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Afghanistan.
However, the report warned that any gains will be limited, as lingering drought and the economic crisis continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions across the country.
The partners were particularly concerned that a small pocket of “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity – IPC 5, the highest phase on the scale – has been detected, marking a first since the scale was introduced in Afghanistan in 2011.
More than 20,000 people in Ghor province, located in the northeast, are facing catastrophic levels of hunger resulting from a long period of harsh winter and disastrous agricultural conditions.
The report said that although the upcoming harvest will bring some relief for millions, that relief will only be short-term for many.
Fallout from the war in Ukraine continues to put pressure on Afghanistan’s wheat supply, food commodities, agricultural inputs, and fuel prices.
Furthermore, access to seeds, fertilizer and water for irrigation is limited, labour opportunities are scarce, and people have incurred enormous debts to buy food over the past few months.