Overview of needs
As the temperature continues to drop in 2019, shelter needs for the winter is of highest priority to save lives and help people survive the winter season. As 70 per cent of Afghanistan is predominantly mountainous, people living in these areas are more vulnerable to winter conditions due to prolonged periods of freezing temperatures and snow. The vast majority of internally displaced people (IDPs) fled their home without adequate clothing, many are staying in make-shift shelters that do not provide adequate protection from the elements. 95,000 households (approximately 665,000 people) are estimated to need support over winter to alleviate their exposure to the elements due to inadequate shelter. Almost two thirds of the displaced population is estimated to be living in sub-standard shelter and nearly two in three households own less than one blanket per household member. Needs assessments also revealed that people, both internally displaced and host communities are in need of heating, blankets, winter clothing, basic household items, as many displaced people have left most of their belongings behind. Humanitarian partners will also be investing in more durable transitional shelter solutions in an effort to build community resilience, particularly to the winter cold in accordance with the 2020 HRP.
Responding to health needs will also be critical to helping people survive the winter. Diseases such as respiratory infections are more likely to occur among communities with inadequate shelter during the winter months. For example, a 43 per cent increase in respiratory infections during November to February was observed from 2015 to 2018 compared to the yearly average. Furthermore, across many parts of the country, access the health services will likely become restricted as major roads are blocked during the winter months which not only prevents people from accessing health facilities but also limits the provision of timely medical supplies to isolated communities. In response to communal displacement due to severe weather, the provision of safe water and sanitation services and hygiene promotion materials/supplies is also needed in areas that are likely to be affected such as Badakhshan, Bamyan and Daykundi Provinces.
Food and Security Agriculture
Winter in Afghanistan is also the peak hunger period as food production and income generation opportunities become more limited. Small-scale farmers exhaust their production during the post-harvest summer and early winter months. Agriculture makes up over a third of Afghanistan’s economy and employs about three quarters of its population. Up to 85 per cent of the country’s food comes from irrigated farming. After three years in a row of failed rains, Afghanistan suffered a devastating drought that resulted in failed crops, livestock deaths, dried up pastures and the displacement of thousands of farming families. As precipitation improved last winter, many farmers were able to return their places of origin and resume their agriculture-based livelihood activities, but they will need support in resume agricultural activities.
Many households are expected to deplete their limited post-drought food stocks prior to winter especially in high elevation areas. Humanitarian food assistance will be necessary through the upcoming winter to mitigate food consumption gaps and prevent malnutrition. From November 2019 to March 2020, the number of people experiencing crisis and emergency levels of food insecurity is expected to rise to 14.3 million people compared to 12.6 million in the previous period, based on Flowminder 2020 population projections. Surprisingly, urban populations were found to be equally or in some areas even more food insecure than rural populations. Highly food insecure families will have little ability or opportunity to increase their income during winter, which may force them to borrow, sell assets, migrate and skip meals, making them even more vulnerable.