Decades of war, civil unrest and natural disasters have taken a huge toll on Afghanistan. Despite recent progress, millions of Afghans still live in severe poverty, with a crumbling infrastructure and a landscape suffering from environmental damage.
Around 39 percent of Afghans live below the poverty line, with huge differences in living standards between those living in cities and those in rural areas. The country has some of the world’s highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates, and many thousands of children die needlessly each year because they lack access to adequate food and nutrition. Around 41 percent of Afghan children under the age of five are stunted, with low height for their age, while 10 percent are acutely malnourished.
Around 33 percent of Afghans are food insecure – around 9.3 million people – and some 3.4 million of them are severely food insecure. Unemployment is high and economic growth slow, with gender-based violence and access to healthcare and education adding further problems. What’s more, Afghanistan is prone to recurring natural disasters including flooding, earthquakes, avalanches, landslides and droughts, with such disasters affecting 250,000 people every year.
Physical security is a major concern, and insurgent activity and military operations continue to affect food security in some areas. Along with other issues such as illegal logging, uncontrolled grazing and deforestation, this undermines humanitarian efforts. Nearly 750,000 conflict-affected people required humanitarian food assistance in 2016.
WFP has been working in Afghanistan since 1963, helping to tackle the country’s nutritional, educational and environmental problems, and supporting vulnerable people to improve their livelihoods. Active in all 34 provinces, WFP has shifted its focus in recent years from emergency assistance to rehabilitation and recovery.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Afghanistan
The school meals programme helps the government of Afghanistan to improve the gender gap, school enrolment rate and students’ attendance levels. In 2015, WFP gave more than 260,000 students a take-home ration of vegetable oil as an incentive for their families to send them to school.
WFP assisted more than 3.6 million people in 2015, primarily in remote, food-insecure rural areas. WFP’s food assistance focuses on poor and vulnerable families, schoolchildren, illiterate people, returning refugees, internally displaced people and people with disabilities, with an emphasis on vulnerable women and girls.
Food for training
The Food for Training programme helps vulnerable people acquire new, marketable skills so they can earn a better living. In 2015, WFP provided more than 10,000 people – mostly women – with food rations and electronic vouchers to support their families while participants attended classes in literacy, handicraft production, carpentry, plumbing skills, reproductive health or childcare.
Disaster risk reduction
Under its disaster risk reduction activities, WFP continues to help build resilience at the community level by supporting the rehabilitation of key infrastructure, including roads, canals, flood protection walls and terracing. In 2015, more than 475,000 people received WFP food assistance through its assets creation activities.
WFP fights undernutrition in vulnerable young children, pregnant women and new mothers, helping to prevent the lifelong consequences of poor nutrition in the critical early years of life. In 2015, WFP reached almost 184,000 acutely malnourished pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, and more than 144,000 children under five with moderate acute malnutrition. WFP provides fortified wheat flour instead of wheat grain to enhance nutritional value.
Purchase for Progress
WFP works with local farmers to boost soybean production, and with the Ministry of Health to establish food quality and safety standards. WFP supports national flour fortification programmes, including provision of micronutrients for private millers and training to fortify flour for commercial sale. WFP also promotes soya production and fortification, as well as supporting the building of grain reserves to hold emergency food supplies.