Humanitarians warned that almost 20 million people in Afghanistan – nearly half the population – are experiencing acute hunger in a UN-backed assessment released on Monday. The country’s most recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) research identified a pocket of “catastrophic” food insecurity in the northeast, affecting thousands. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), sister agency the World Food Programme (WFP), and a number of non-governmental groups collaborated on the study in January and February. Despite the fact that humanitarian assistance helped escape a food security disaster in Afghanistan throughout the severe winter, hunger remains at historic levels. The food security situation in the country, according to FAO Representative Richard Trenchard, is severe.
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.
“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.
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. 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.
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