Over the past five years, the food security situation in Afghanistan has steadily deteriorated with the percentage of food insecure people doubling (from 37 per cent in September 2015 to 76 per cent in November 2020), while the proportion of people in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity has increased more than five-fold (from 8 per cent to 42 per cent over the same period), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report.
According to the report, the 2020 Seasonal Food Security Assessment (SFSA) shows that with the onset of COVID-19, the scale of acute food insecurity in the country is now comparable to the situation faced in 2018-2019 – the worst year for food insecurity in recent memory which resulted from a devastating drought.
“The number of people in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification – IPC 3+) has risen from 13.9 million in November 20199 to 16.9 million, or 42 per cent of the population in November 2020. Food insecurity, forced displacement, low access to health services, and poor access to water and sanitation have also led to a sharp decline in the nutritional status of children. Almost half of children under five need life-saving nutrition support, as do a quarter of pregnant and lactating women (PLW),” the report reads.
“The economic and social conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have also exacerbated protection risks for vulnerable families, many of whom had already depleted limited financial, mental, and social coping capacities due to prolonged conflict or recurrent natural disasters. The additional stress from the pandemic has pushed households to adopt negative coping mechanisms, including increasingly requiring children to work or marry to offset financial burdens. The economic downturn in the region has also triggered record numbers of voluntary and involuntary return of migrants back to Afghanistan. 2020 was the largest return year on record for undocumented Afghan migrants with 824,000 as of early December, exceeding the 806,000 who returned from Iran and Pakistan in 2018. Despite these escalating needs, there has not been a commensurate increase in funding in 2020, resulting in substantial unmet needs with consequences for 2021.”
OCHA said, in particular, many of the more complex or durable solutions planned for 2020 could not be implemented.
“Thus, while substantial numbers of people have been assisted (7.6m people by the end of quarter three), much of this has been with higher-reach, lower-cost COVID-19 response activities and not through the delivery of the more comprehensive packages of assistance the humanitarian community had sought to deliver. Financial strains and fear of catching COVID-19 meant that facility based primary health and trauma services were underutilized in 2020, resulting in deteriorating health needs in 2021. The delayed rollout of social safety net assistance by development actors in 2020 is also a factor in escalating humanitarian needs for 2021,” the report added.