With an engaged government, rich natural resources and a young and diverse population, Afghanistan has the potential to make significant progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. However, decades of complex and protracted conflicts, combined with a changing climate, gender inequalities, rapid urbanization and underemployment pose considerable challenges in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 2 on Zero Hunger and improved nutrition.
Over half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, and food insecurity is on the rise, largely due to conflict and insecurity cutting off whole communities from livelihood opportunities. This particularly affects a predominantly young population, more than two-thirds of which are under the age of 25. Concerns about corruption, transparency and illegal industry further exacerbate the situation, and living standards vary greatly between those cities and rural areas. 12.5 million people identified as severely food insecure. Since the beginning of 2019, WFP had supported 3.5 million people in most parts of the country.
Undernutrition is of particular concern in women, children, displaced people, returnees, households headed by women, people with disabilities and the poor. Despite progress in recent years, undernutrition rates are now increasing and the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 remains high at 41 percent at the national level, with peaks of 60 to 70 percent in some provinces. In the first six months of 2019, WFP reached 162,800 girls and boys under 5 and mothers with treatment of moderate acute malnutrition.
Every year, some 250,000 people on average are affected by a wide range of environmental disasters including floods, droughts, avalanches, landslides and earthquakes. In 2018, that number was much higher, with the country seeing its worst drought in over a decade. The impact of disasters and dependency on water from rain or snowmelt severely limit the productivity of the agricultural sector, which provides a source of income for 44 percent of the population. During the severe drought that struck the country throughout 2018, WFP scaled up its emergency operations, reaching 3 million who were affected.
By the end of 2018, WFP had provided food assistance to more than 2.7 million people affected by the drought in 22 of 24 provinces, with assistance continuing into 2019.
Present in Afghanistan since 1963, the World Food Programme works with partners to ensure that, in line with humanitarian principles, assistance reaches conflict- and disaster-affected populations wherever they are. WFP also supports the Government in its efforts to achieve SDG2 on Zero Hunger through transformative actions that strengthen the resilience and livelihoods of individuals and communities – with a special focus on women – and support local economies, thus contributing to the long-term development and stability of the country.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Afghanistan
In the context of ongoing conflict and frequent natural disasters, WFP provides unconditional, fortified and nutritionally-balanced food assistance to vulnerable groups including people displaced by conflict, those affected by disasters, refugees, returnees from neighboring countries, and people affected by seasonal food insecurity.
WFP works together with communities to strengthen their ability to reduce the risk of disasters and adapt to climate change, while also creating employment opportunities both in urban and rural areas. This includes constructing or rehabilitating roads, canals, flood protection walls and reforestation, as well as vocational training.
WFP provides nutritional support tailored according to age, gender and vulnerability. In 2018, WFP treated or prevented malnutrition among nearly 500,000 girls, boys and pregnant or nursing mothers. In close partnership with UNICEF and WHO, WFP works to address lifelong consequences of poor nutrition for children such as stunting, and also addresses emergency situations where malnutrition rates may quickly rise.
WFP is working with the Government and commercial partners to provide people throughout the country with access to nutritious food at affordable prices by supporting smallholder farmers, building local milling and fortification capacity, and strengthening value chains and food safety measures.
Advocacy for Zero Hunger
WFP supports government officials and partners in establishing Zero Hunger as a development priority and enhancing the coherence of their Zero Hunger policy through capacity strengthening, advocacy, public awareness and research, including the creation of Food Security and Nutrition committees at the province level to promote local ownership.
To enhance the ability of the Government and the broader humanitarian and development community to respond to affected populations’ needs, WFP assists with the provision of assistance in beneficiary management, supply chain, information and communication technology, and facilities and information management.