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Afghanistan: Drought - 2018-2019

Disaster types

La Niña has had a devastating effect on this year’s planting season, with a rain, snow and sleet deficit of 70 per cent prevailing across most of the country. With last year’s wheat production already reported to be 57 per cent below the five-year average, the 2018 harvest is forecast to be even lower: down from 4.2 million metric tons to 3.5 million metric tons. (OCHA, 25 Apr 2018)

Forecasts indicate below-average to average precipitation for the remaining weeks of the spring wet season. Along with cumulative precipitation deficits, the below-average forecast is reflective of a low frequency of storms entering the region, increasing the risk for extended periods of dryness that could impact agricultural production. (FEWS NET, 4 May 2018)

In the past week, another 120,000 people have arrived in Qala-e-Naw City, Badghis, due to the drought. In Kandahar, assessment teams verified the arrival of 2,800 drought-displaced people from Badghis and Ghor and 1,400 in the district centre of Maiwand, Kandahar. The total displacement due to the drought has reached a total of 275,000 people, exceeding the number of people displaced by conflict in 2018 by 52,000 people. In Qala-e-Naw, partners are ramping up assistance across all sectors and are deploying additional staff, though the gaps remain significant. Further, WFP plans to further scale up food assistance in areas of origin to allow families to return to their villages, reaching up to 100 per cent of the population in the most affected districts. In Hilmand Province, IRC started a new project to assist 2,100 drought affected people. (OCHA 9 Sep 2018)

Badghis, Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Hilmand, Nimroz, Uruzgan, Kubduz, Takhar, Herat, Ghor and Farah are among the worst affected provinces...The government launched a USD 100 million appeal in mid-April through MAIL for immediate livestock protection for an initial two months of assistance for fodder/feed support and an overall demand of USD 550 million for a 10 months fodder / feed support throughout the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. (IFRC, 16 May 2018)

In the 20 provinces most affected by the drought, nearly 15 million people rely on farming, livestock or labour opportunities in agriculture. Of these, an estimated 2 million people will become severely food insecure due to the drought. Humanitarian partners are ramping up their response across the country...trying to reach 1.4 million of the most vulnerable girls, boys, women and men struck by the drought. Partners urgently need $115 million; the majority of this amount will provide food support to help families through the lean season and to provide them with drinking water for six months. (OCHA, 25 May 2018)

The Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has been revised to to include response to the drought and now calls for $547 million. The additional funding will allow humanitarian partners to incorporate assistance to 1.4 million people mostly affected by the drought[.] (OCHA, 31 May 2018).

Food security outcomes in the agropastoral areas are worse than is typical during the spring and summer months. Livestock productivity and body conditions are below normal levels in many areas due to very poor rangeland conditions, leading to low income from livestock sales and limited household availability of livestock products. Most rangeland areas have received well below average rainfall amounts, except for localized parts of western, southwestern, and southeastern provinces. (FEWS NET, 31 May 2018)

Although several significant precipitation events during late spring helped alleviate dryness across the country, late rainfall was not sufficient to mitigate seasonal dryness in many parts of the country, which is most severe in the northwest but also significant across much of the north, northeast, southwest and central provinces. Field reports confirm that area planted for rainfed wheat is less than that of last year due to dry soil conditions and the use of extended areas for grazing, while a significant proportion of planted rainfed areas may have reduced yields due to dryness. (FEWS NET, 6 Jun 2018).

The intense drought between April and September is expected to further aggravate the already poor malnutrition status within the 20 affected provinces, and the impact may extend to December. As a result, an increase in acute malnutrition caseload between July and December 2018 is expected. In addition, the severity of acute malnutrition among children under five may get worse, resulting in cases that are more complicated. As of 19 July, it is reasonable to assume that the increase in magnitude and severity of acute malnutrition and disease will stretch the capacity of health facilities to provide treatment, and that in the medium to long-term, children will face heightened vulnerability to morbidity and mortality. (WHO, 19 Jul 2018).

In Hirat City, Hirat, humanitarian teams identified more than 51,000 people who have recently migrated to the city from drought-affected areas in neighbouring Badghis and Ghor provinces. The families are living in dozens of sites on the outskirts of the cities in makeshift shelters. In Qala-e-Naw, Bagdhis, teams identified nearly 7,000 people who have moved from rural areas to the provincial capital due to the drought. Cash distributions have started for these displaced families. The Government has distributed wheat grain to 15,000 families in four districts of Badghis, and WFP is preparing to distribute 1,250 metric tons of food in two districts of the same province. (OCHA, 23 Jul 2018)

Poor households in the northern areas will be the most affected by the drought due to reduced household wheat stocks and income from on-farm labor where food consumption deficits will continue through the next harvest (Spring 2019). Poor households in central areas of the country dependent on remittances from migrant workers in Iran are expected to see a decrease in remittances and further weakening of the Iranian rial (IRR) against the U.S. Dollar (USD) and Afghani (AFN) to drive low incomes. (FEWS NET, 31 Jul 2018)

As of 6 August, approximately 4,000 people arrived in Qala-e-Naw, Badghis, during the past week, reportedly displaced by drought from Muqur district. In Kunduz Province, more than 10,000 people have reportedly been displaced between different districts due to the drought. (OCHA, 6 Aug 2018)

As of 12 August, some 1,400 families reportedly arrived in the centre of Abkamari district, Badghis, from villages affected by the drought in the district. In Farah City, Farah, assessment teams identified nearly 600 people displaced by the drought from within the province. Further, around 280 displaced people were identified as having been displaced from their villages in Shahrak district, Ghor, due to the drought. In Qala-e-Naw, Badghis, authorities designated a new site for 1,700 families who arrived recently in the city due to the drought. (OCHA, 12 Aug 2018)

The drought continues to force people from their rural homes to the urban centres in Badghis, Ghor and Hirat provinces where their number surpassed 100,000 since May, according to humanitarian partners. The situation of drought-induced IDPs in Hirat city, Hirat remains dire. In the past week, six children reportedly died in the informal sites due to sickness, in a fire accident and at birth. WASH, health and protection services on the sites are picking up, but there are large gaps notably of emergency shelter. DRC-DDG and UNICEF have started protection monitoring on sites housing some 35,000 people. (OCHA, 19 Aug 2018)

An estimated 275,000 people have been displaced as a result of the drought in Afghanistan. Newly displaced people arriving in Hirat during the last week have been reported, but not confirmed. In response to the drought, WFP started food distributions for 47,000 people in rural areas of Ghor Province. (OCHA, 17 Sep 2018)

In the first half of September, an estimated 120,000 people have been displaced from rural areas of Badghis to Qala-e-Naw as a result of drought. As of 20 September, an estimated 253,600 people are currently displaced from drought affected areas across the Western Region. A further 28,000 people displaced by the drought have returned to their homes in Muqur district of Badghis, in the last two weeks, upon assurances of food distributions in their home villages. Existing response capacity at more than a dozen sites in Qala-e-Naw and its surroundings is limited: around 42,000 people have insufficient access to safe drinking water and over 130,000 people have no access to sanitation facilities with people living in makeshift shelters. (OCHA, 24 Sep 2018)

Due to drought, high levels of food assistance needs will persist through the start of the lean season. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present throughout Afghanistan due to declining purchasing power, disruption of normal livelihoods due to conflict, and poor rainfed staple performance and will contribute to the increased food assistance needs as compared to recent years. The worst-affected households will likely experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as large food deficits emerge with the onset of winter in. (FEWS NET, 30 Sep 2018)

On 16 October, [UN] Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund...and [CERF] have allocated $34.6 million in emergency aid to support 2.2 million people affected by a severe drought. With these funds, 7 national NGOs, 15 international NGOs and 4 UN agencies will distribute food and seeds, maintain primary health services, provide emergency shelter, safe drinking water, improve hygiene and sanitation, treat severe malnutrition, and help farmers protect their livestock. (OCHA, 16 Oct 2018)

Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present throughout Afghanistan due to declining purchasing power, disruption of normal livelihoods due to conflict, and poor rainfed staple performance and will contribute to the increased food assistance needs as compared to recent years. Poor household dependent on rainfed wheat production, particularly in northern, northeastern, and northwestern areas, are expected to experience difficulty meeting consumption requirements until next year’s spring harvest. The worst-affected households will likely experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as large food deficits emerge with the onset of winter (IFRC, 1 Nov 2018).

According to the latest IPC report, Badghis is among the three provinces with IPC Phase 4 (emergency), whereas, Ghor, Hirat and Farah provinces are classified as IPC phase 3 (crisis). The most affected provinces with large-scale displacement are Badghis and Hirat provinces which accounts 74% of the total IDPs (OCHA, 19 Nov 2018).

In October-November, WFP reached nearly 1.6 million drought-affected people with food assistance in all 20 affected provinces, providing more than 27,000 mt of food and transferring over US$1.45 million cash assistance to the affected people. Meanwhile, prepositioning of food and nutrition supplies continues in remote areas in nine provinces, to cover the needs of 499,000 people (3,400 metric tons prepositioned in the last week of November). (OCHA, 9 Dec 2018)

During 17 - 23 December, as part of the ongoing full-scale drought response, WFP and its partners reached 104,500 drought-affected people both in rural and urban areas of eight provinces with 720 (mt) of food and US$180,000 in cash transfers to cover food needs. In the first three weeks of December, WFP and partners assisted nearly 450,000 drought-affected people with some 3,750 (mt) of food and US$540,000 in cash transfers. (OCHA, 23 Dec 2018)

As part of the ongoing full-scale drought response, WFP and its partners reached 162,000 drought-affected people both in rural and urban areas of eight provinces during 8 - 14 January 2019. This included food for more than 40,000 people in informal settlements in and around Qalae-Naw in Badghis, who were displaced due to the drought. In total, WFP and partners distributed more than 4,400 metric tons (mt) of food in Badakhshan, Badghis, Ghor, Helmand, Herat, Samangan, Sar-e-Pul and Takhar provinces. (OCHA, 14 Jan 2019)

Afghan Red Crescent Society..conducted an emergency needs assessment in nine drought affected provinces in December 2018 and January 2019. The emergency needs assessment report indicated that the priority needs of the affected population, who are staying in rural areas and IDP camps, are food, water, health care and livelihood support. Almost 60 to 70 per cent of the water points are now dry. Most of the affected communities in province of the country have very low latrine coverage. The water treatment is equally low, at less than 10 per cent. (IFRC, 17 Mar 2019)

As of 31 March, humanitarian partners have reached 4.4 million people affected by drought with support, 91 per cent of those targeted for assistance. Of those reached, 438,600 people are in areas of displacement, while the remainder are in drought-affected rural areas. (OCHA, 23 Apr 2019)

Food security outcomes across the country are most likely to continue to gradually improve as the main harvest begins in late May/early June. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely to emerge. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are also most likely in areas still recovering from the drought with continued conflict preventing access to agricultural activities. (FEWS Net, 31 May 2019)

As of 30 April, humanitarian partners have reached 4.8 million people affected by drought. Of those reached, 405,000 people are in places of displacement, while the remainder are in drought-affected rural areas. (OCHA, 29 May 2019)

According to WFP, the drought support is scaling down starting in April, which will transition to seasonal support at the end of June. (WFP, 31 May 2019).

As of 31 May, humanitarian partners have reached 4.9 million people affected by drought. Of those reached, 450,600 people are in places of displacement, while the remainder are in drought-affected rural areas. (OCHA, 23 Jun 2019)

Food security outcomes are anticipated to generally improve across the country from June to September 2019, due to the above average wheat harvest, favorable livestock prices, and high demand for agriculture labor during the harvest. Most poor households across the country are likely to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to continue in displaced households, undocumented returnees and areas of Badghis province which was significantly affected by last year’s drought and conflict. (FEWS Net, 29 Jun 2019)

As of 8 July 2019, the impact of drought has heavily influenced population movement within Afghanistan and caused the displacement of 287,000 people primarily from the north-western and western regions. The sudden influx of over a quarter million people into the outskirts of Herat has led to the emergence of 19 vast and sprawling informal settlements. The food security and livelihoods situation has significantly deteriorated over the past months, driven mostly by the severe drought in 2018. An estimated 13.5 million people are severely food insecure and require emergency assistance. Twenty provinces of Afghanistan are food insecure and identified as having acute humanitarian food needs, health and WASH issues and their livelihoods. (IFRC, 9 July 2019)

Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to be widespread as a result of the harvest and many households access own foods. However, areas of Badghis where many households are still recovering from the drought, undocumented returnees, and displaced households are expected to continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). As winter starts in October/November across much of the country, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely to emerge as many households are expected to rely on markets with below average incomes. (FEWS Net, 31 Jul 2019)

In reviewing the situation, [FAO] stated that the deteriorating food security and livelihood situation has continued into in the latter half of 2019, driven mostly by the worst drought in a decade last year. The severe drought has affected more than two-thirds of the country and destroyed the agriculture sector. Despite reports of good harvests for 2019, FAO predicted that it will not be enough to alleviate food insecurities in the region. (FAO, 16 Sep 2019)

Between August and October 2019, it is estimated that 10.23 million people (33% of the total population) are in severe acute food insecurity and require urgent humanitarian action. These include around 7.79 million people in a crisis situation (IPC Phase 3) and 2.43 million people in an emergency situation (IPC Phase 4). Around 10.37 million people are also in a stressed situation (IPC Phase 2) and require livelihood support. During the projection analysis period, from November 2019 to March 2020, around 11.30 million people (37% of the total population) are estimated to be likely to experience severe acute food insecurity, out of which an estimated 8.6 million people likely be in an emergency situation (IPC Phase 4). Furthermore around 9.45 million people will be in a stressed situation (IPC Phase 2). (IPC, 30 Sep 2019)

Conflict and insecurity continue to disrupt livelihoods across most of the country with over 380,000 people displaced since the start of 2019. Additionally, over 440,000 people have returned from Iran and Pakistan to date in 2019. Most of the returned and internally displaced populations are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as these households have limited ability to access labor markets. Moreover, poor households impacted by weak labor markets, and below average remittances in higher elevated areas of the country remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). The rest of the country is in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as many households continue to consume own foods, although have below average incomes. (FEWS Net, 26 Nov 2019)

Reports state that humanitarian food assistance will be necessary through the upcoming winter to mitigate food consumption gaps and prevent malnutrition in Afghanistan, especially as up to 85 percent of the country’s food comes from irrigated farming. It is predicted that, due to the effects of the drought, the number of people experiencing crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity will rise to 14.3 million people between the period of November 2019 and March 2020. This is an increase by 113 percent over the same period a year previous, as per Flowminder 2020 population projections. (OCHA, 20 Dec 2019).

Many millions of people are still reeling from the crippling effects of the 2018-19 drought and struggling to recover. The cumulative impacts of decades of war, combined with recurrent natural disasters and chronic poverty, have resulted in crippling debt and depleted people’s capacity to cope with repeated shocks. Over 14 million people are projected to experience crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity, in the first quarter of 2020. Malnutrition is soaring, with over 3 million children and women acutely malnourished, requiring specialised nutrition supplies and medicines. (OCHA, 7 Jan 2020)

According to the IOM, almost 11,000 undocumented Afghans returned from Iran and Pakistan, and 700 people have been newly displaced by conflict in January 2020. These populations are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity as they have lost their typical livelihood activities and have limited ability to enter the labor markets. Many poor households across the country are facing food consumption gaps as households have depleted their food stocks and face difficulty accessing income to purchase food. Many of these households are in the Central Highlands and Northeastern parts of the country with these areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present in areas where households have access to remittances or labor opportunities although at below average levels. As winter progresses, more households are expected to rely on markets for food with below average purchasing power. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to emerge across parts of the country. (FEWS Net, 3 Feb 2020)