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Afghanistan: Drought - Feb 2021

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Afghanistan has been experiencing below-normal rainfall since October 2020. Such conditions are expected to continue through the first half of 2021 in the country according to forecasters. The conditions have affected the winter season snow accumulation, which is critical for water access during the spring and summer agricultural seasons. It is anticipated that the situation will have an impact on both rain-fed and irrigated agriculture/livestock, as well as on the availability of water for drinking, washing, and sanitation. Mid-March through to the end of July will likely be the peak period during which drought impacts on crops and livestock (agricultural drought) would manifest. The wheat production deficit is expected to be 16 to 27 per cent this year and as a result, requiring increased top-up from international suppliers. Such drivers would further affect communities already suffering from the ongoing economic crises exacerbated by the secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including high prices of basic commodities, conflict, and food insecurity.

The ongoing food insecurity situation is very much worse than the previous years. According to the IPC report, from November 2019 to March 2020, 2,695,000 people were in IPC phase 4 and 8,591,000 people were in IPC phase 3. Based on the same IPC report (produced recently by Food Security Cluster and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock), between November 2020 and March 2021 – a period that corresponds to the lean season –around 13.15 million people (42% of the total population) have been experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above), out of which nearly 4.3 million people are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and an estimated 8.85 million people are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Moreover, only five provinces of the country were in IPC phase 4 in the first quarter of 2020, but by March 2021, 10 provinces of the country are classified in IPC phase 4. (IFRC, 19 Mar 2021)

Nearly 11 million people in Afghanistan are experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above) due to conflict, COVID-19, high food prices and rampant unemployment, between March and May 2021 (the lean season in most parts of the country.) This includes around 7.8 million people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and 3.2 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and require urgent action to save lives, reduce food gaps and save and protect livelihoods. Between June and November 2021 (harvest and post-harvest seasons), a slight improvement in food security is expected, with the number of people in IPC Phase 3 or above decreasing to 9.5 million, with 6.7 million in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and 2.7 million in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). The areas that were in Phase 4 in the current analysis period are expected to remain in Phase 4 in the projection period, despite slight seasonal improvements. It is likely that household’s food access will improve slightly with the onset of the harvest, better job opportunities, as well as seasonal decreases in prices; however, rainfall forecasts suggest that the harvest will be below average, which will likely affect food availability during the following lean season. The food security situation has relatively improved compared to the last three years, aside from the impacts of drought in 2018 and the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. However, the food security situation is still concerning and expected to deteriorate further during the 2021-2022 lean season. (IPC, 22 Apr 2021)

As per a multi-sectoral needs’ analysis conducted by the Inter Cluster Country Team (ICCT), 25 provinces are estimated to be highly impacted by drought, although the drought has not yet been officially declared by the government of Afghanistan. The impact of the climatic events, storm-related flooding, conflict, and COVID-19 will vary across regions based on the degree to which these phenomena manifest and interact with pre-existing vulnerabilities in various locations The drought will likely result in nearly an additional 110,000 children who will be severely acutely malnourished and at risk of dying. Along with recent increases due to worsening insecurity and COVID-19, there will be nearly 1 million children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in Afghanistan over the next year. (UNICEF, 31 May 2021)