SEATTLE, Washington — Afghanistan is facing a multi-pronged crisis. Due to the conflicts, drought and frequent natural disasters in the region, humanitarian aid is desperately needed for more than 6.3 million Afghans. This number presents a 90 percent increase from the previous year. In addition, 4.9 million Afghans need food assistance in 2019. Important changes are needed in the agriculture sector in order to adapt to changes in climate and prevent food insecurity in the future.
The Role of Agriculture in Afghanistan Food Crisis
Agriculture plays a major role in food security in Afghanistan. More than 60 percent of Afghans rely on agriculture as their source of income. Unfortunately, droughts and floods have made it harder for these workers to make a living and access food. Over the last 10 years, an estimated 400,000 people each year have been affected by natural disasters, and climate change may cause even greater problems in the future.
With the projected increase of temperature by 2060, droughts and flooding are expected to become even more frequent. Consequently, agricultural productivity will go down and food insecurity will increase. Afghanistan has shown growth in the agricultural sector, but it is still recovering from the damage caused by years of conflicts. As a result, Afghanistan is largely dependant on importing food, more so than other countries in the region.
The Effects of the Food Crisis
Importing food along with low food production causes increases in food prices, making it more difficult for Afghans to access food. As of late 2018, an alarming 3.3 million people were facing crisis-level food insecurity, which is 74 percent higher than the previous year. In addition, 85 percent of roads are in poor conditions, further restricting access for people who rely on markets for basic food supplies. The food that is available is often poor in nutrition.
Anemia and vitamin deficiency are at alarmingly high rates, especially for women and children. Malnutrition is partially a product of a weak healthcare system and poor sanitation facilities that have been torn apart by years of conflict. In around 60 percent of Afghanistan, the global acute malnutrition rate is classified as an emergency. More than 40 percent of children in Afghanistan suffer from stunting due to malnutrition. The 18-year conflict has clearly had its impact, but various nongovernmental organizations and countries are working hard to fight the Afghanistan food crisis.
Organizations Fighting Afghanistan Food Crisis
In 2016, more than 5.25 million Afghans received food assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP). Nearly 500,000 of the most vulnerable were given baskets of nutrient-rich foods to fight malnutrition. The WFP also offered food to unemployed Afghans who attended job training as well as children who went to school, incentivizing the development of marketable skills and helping Afghans secure better-paying jobs.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N. focuses its efforts on growing the agricultural sector. By working with the government to create seed enterprises and tailoring seeds to local growing conditions, the FAO helped to triple seed production within four years. The FAO also works to prevent farmers from selling or killing profitable livestock due to expensive animal food. To encourage families to keep farm animals instead, FAO provides animal health services and food to farmers.
At the end of 2018, the U.K. dedicated $39.8 million towards the Afghanistan food crisis. The money will go towards providing tents for more than 200,000 displaced people as well as food and cash for more than 600,000 Afghans affected by the crisis. The plan also focuses on malnutrition by providing monthly rations of nutritious food for children to stave off malnutrition. The U.K. hopes to further help victims of the drought through improving access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation.
Millions of Afghans are being affected by an increasingly devastating food crisis. While nongovernmental organizations and foreign countries are working towards improving these conditions, there is still more work to be done to put an end to the Afghanistan food crisis. Adaptations in agriculture must be made in order to prevent further crop failure as a result of climate change.
– Massarath Fatima