Severe food insecurity on the rise in Afghanistan – “extremely alarming trend”
The number of people in Aghanistan resorting to selling land or turning to friends or family for help because of food insecurity has doubled in the last year, according to a joint report released today by several UN and other aid agencies.
The 2015 Seasonal Food Security Assessment in Afghanistan (SFSA), published by the country’s Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC), found that at the peak of the lean season the number of Afghans facing severe food insecurity increased from 4.7 percent of the population 12 months ago to 5.9 percent today. This means more than 1.5 million people are now classed as severely food insecure, an increase of more than 317,000. Another 7.3 million people – more than one out of every four Afghans – are classed as moderately food insecure.
But most concerning is the finding that the proportion of severely food insecure people who have already exhausted their capacity to cope with these emergencies has increased – meaning many more are now forced to sell land, take children out of school to work, or depend on relatives. The SFSA report indicates that the number of people engaged in these last ditch actions has doubled over the past year to more than 20 percent of food insecure people across the country. This will leave even more Afghan people signficantly vulnerable to extreme poverty.
“When people resort to these measures, they have no resilience against future shocks,” said Claude Jibidar, Representative and Country Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Afghanistan today. “These figures are extremely alarming, especially in a country where more than one third of all people are already food insecure. This report could portent a future spike in the next 12 months in the need for food and other humanitarian assistance.”
“Although Afghanistan will produce slightly more wheat this year, a large number of poor and hungry people will not be able to purchase food from the market,” said Tomio Shichiri, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in Afghanistan. “It is a question of access rather than production. Special attention needs to be given to female-headed households and displaced people for agriculture-based livelihoods.”
The report shows that female-headed households are almost 50 percent more likely to be severely food insecure than other households in Afghanistan, having a much poorer diet than their peers and a much lower income. Women who head their household are also twice as likely to use emergency coping strategies, such as begging. People displaced from their homes by conflicts or disasters, particularly those living in tents, also suffer from poor diets. Khost and Paktika provinces, which host over 35,000 displaced households (more than 200,000 people), need immediate support to prevent food insecurity from worsening.
FSAC, FAO, WFP and the Government said that a lack of funding could exacerbate this problem even further. “It is the last resort when farmers start selling productive assets such as livestock, machinery or land,” said Mr. Abdul Majid, FSAC Coordinator. “This is not only a loss for farmers but for the all community – as skills and means for agricultural production will be lost – saturating the urban labour market.”
“It is striking to know that one third of the Afghan population is food insecure and their situation continues to worsen,” said HE Assadullah Zamir, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. “We request the donor community to continue assisting the most vulnerable Afghans before it becomes too late.”
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