Afghanistan faces enormous recovery needs after three decades of war, civil unrest and recurring natural disasters. Despite recent progress, millions of Afghans still live in severe poverty with a crumbling infrastructure and a landscape that is suffering from environmental damage. This rugged, landlocked country remains one of the poorest in the world, with more than half the population living below the poverty line.
Nearly one-third of Afghanistan's people are food-insecure, which means they cannot get enough nutritious food to support an active, healthy lifestyle.
With an estimated total population of 27 million, Afghanistan still faces enormous challenges after more than three decades of war and civil unrest. Despite recent progress, millions of Afghans still live in severe poverty with limited access to food and other basic requirements. According to the findings of the 2011/2012 National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, 7.6 million people, roughly one-third of the population, are food-insecure, and a further 14 percent are considered to be borderline food-insecure.
Insecurity is a major and growing concern. Insurgent activity and military operations have affected food security in some regions, undermined reconstruction efforts and restricted humanitarian interventions.
Environmental degradation is also a severe problem. War, uncontrolled grazing, pastureland encroachment, illegal logging and the loss of forest and grass cover have worsened drought conditions and reduced agricultural productivity.
The country suffers from one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world. Over half of children under 5 years are chronically malnourished (stunted) and one-fifth of Afghan women of child-bearing age are underweight. Average life expectancy is 62 years, and adult literacy stands at just 28 percent.
Despite the growing insecurity, WFP remains fully operational in most parts of the country, through three area offices and three sub offices, addressing nutritional, educational and environmental deficiencies, and providing livelihood opportunities to food-insecure populations.
WFP has been working continuously in Afghanistan since 1963, and is active in all 34 provinces. In recent years, WFP’s focus has shifted from emergency assistance to rehabilitation and recovery.
WFP assisted nearly 3.5 million people in 2013, primarily in remote, food-insecure rural areas. WFP’s food assistance targets poor and vulnerable families, schoolchildren, illiterate people, returning refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and disabled people – with an emphasis on vulnerable women and girls.
The School Meals School Meals programme aims to help the government rebuild the national education system. In 2013, WFP provided a daily snack of micronutrient-enriched biscuits to nearly 740,000 children to alleviate short-term hunger and encourage school attendance. WFP also provided a take-home ration of vegetable oil to more than 210,000 girl students, as an incentive for their families to send them to school. This part of the food-for-education programme is aimed at closing the gender gap in Afghan classrooms in areas where female enrolment is low.
The school feeding programme will continue in 2014, and nearly 400,000 school students’ girls and boys will receive vegetable oil as a take-home ration in 13 provinces of Afghanistan.
Food for training helps the poor acquire new marketable skills so they can earn a better living. In 2013, WFP provided about 168,000 vulnerable people – mostly women – with food rations to support their families while participants attended classes in literacy, handicraft production, carpentry, plumbing skills, reproductive health or childcare. WFP will continue providing food to thousands of the vocational training participants.
Under the Assets Creation programme, WFP continues to support the building of rural resilience at the community level through the creation and/or rehabilitation of key infrastructure, including roads, canals, flood protection walls and terracing. In 2014 around close to 250,000 people will receive WFP’s food assistance through its Assets Creation Activities.
WFP emergency food assistance supports people affected by natural and man-made disasters. Food reaches people affected by floods and landslides, as well as returning refugees and people displaced by conflict. In 2014, WFP plans to provide emergency food assistance to 1.7 million people including people affected by natural and man-made disasters, and economically stressed people in various parts of Afghanistan. WFP’s support to Economically Stressed Population aims to provide food to the most food insecure households to fill their food consumption gaps during the lean season.
WFP’s nutrition programme in Afghanistan helps fight malnutrition among pregnant women, new mothers and children under the age of 5. This lifesaving food assistance helps women survive pregnancy in a country with one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality. Children receive a specialised nutritious food, which helps prevent the life-long consequences of poor nutrition during those critical years of life. In 2013, WFP provided supplementary food to 92,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers and 76,000 children under the age of 5. In 2014, WFP plans to cover more than 70,000 malnourished pregnant and nursing women as well as 150,000 moderate acute malnourished children aged 6-59 months.
WFP works in partnership with the government to build local capacity. Through its purchase for progress P4P initiative, WFP works with local farmers to boost soy bean production, and with the Ministry of Health to establish food quality and safety standards. Under the P4P scheme, WFP plans to contract 18 flour mills in order to fortify up to 40,000 MT of wheat flour with micronutrients in 2014.
For the first time in Afghanistan, WFP launched an E-voucher project which will cover more than 600 families during its three months pilot phase in Kabul city. The project has started on first May and will end on 31 July 2014. This project will be soon expanded to all cities, subject to successful results.
With road travel representing a real danger for humanitarian staff in many parts of the country, in 2014, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Services UNHAS plans to expand its operations to more destinations with a fleet of three aircraft, with a budget of US$20 million. Thirty percent of costs are covered by ticket purchases, while the remaining 70 percent requires donor funding.
WFP supports the Government of Afghanistan in building Strategic Grain Reserves (SGRs) to hold emergency food supplies of 200,000MT to assist approximately 2.0 million people for up to 6 months. The construction of its first SGR facility with the capacity of 22,000 MT in Kabul was completed in August 2013. Following the successful completion of the Kabul SGR, WFP is currently preparing to embark on the second stage of its collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan, FAO, and the World Bank. This involves the construction of medium sized bagged storage facilities at four locations in Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Kandahar, and Pul-i-Khumri.