Afghanistan: Time running out to avert winter of hunger

“This is a race against time.”
Matt Waldman
Oxfam’s Head of Policy in Kabul
Publié le : 30 Août 2008

Millions of Afghans face food shortages; mortality rates for women and children could rise

With Afghanistan’s bitter winter drawing nearer, international agency Oxfam warned today that time is running out to avert a humanitarian crisis, with funding urgently needed. Up to 5 million Afghans face severe food shortages, yet the appeal for Afghanistan has a huge funding shortfall, with less than a fifth of the $404 million needed to respond, and not enough staff to organize and coordinate the massive aid effort required.

Large parts of Afghanistan are facing crisis as a result of the cumulative effect of factors including the harsh winter, high food prices, drought, and increasing and spreading insecurity.

An Oxfam assessment in one of the worst affected provinces, Daikundi, shows that people may be facing the worst conditions in over 20 years – and similar conditions can be found in other provinces. As it is almost impossible to deliver aid to rural areas during the harsh Afghan winter, concerted action is needed now to avert the crisis.

“This is a race against time, the international community needs to respond quickly before winter when conditions deteriorate. The health of one million young children and half a million women are at serious risk due to malnutrition,’ said Oxfam’s Head of Policy in Kabul, Matt Waldman.

‘If the response is slow or insufficient, people could be forced to sell assets or leave their homes and villages, and there could be a further deterioration of stability. Infant, child and maternal mortality rates – already some of the world’s highest – could increase even further.’

Oxfam calls on donor countries urgently to provide sufficient funding for the response, especially the emergency appeal for Afghanistan launched in July, and support measures to increase the humanitarian capacity of the UN in the country. Some countries such as the UK, US and Canada, as well as the EC, have already committed funds, but many more have not.

In a letter to International Development ministers around the world Oxfam warns that this is a crucial time to support Afghanistan’s development and also calls for long-term measures to strengthen food security and reduce vulnerability to disasters; in particular:

  • capacity-building and reform of the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority; and

  • action to enhance the effectiveness of agricultural assistance, and land and water management, including through reform of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Oxfam also believes that a range of measures are required to enhance aid effectiveness – set out in the recent ACBAR report – including full transparency, indicators and targets with monitoring of aid effectiveness, more effective coordination mechanisms, and greater equity in the distribution of aid.

In five provinces, including highly affected areas such as Badakhshan and Daikundi, Oxfam is assessing the impact of drought and price rises on people’s access to food and water and is planning an initial emergency response of $1.8 million. In Badakhshan, for example, Oxfam will assist with the rehabilitation of water supplies and provide cash to enable 17,500 people to improve their consumption of food and clean water.

Oxfam is also implementing longer-term rural programs, directly or through Afghan partners, in a total of 11 provinces. These aim to promote sustainable livelihoods including through the distribution of seeds and fertilizer, livestock, supporting grain banks and increasing people’s purchasing power through cash-for-work projects.

Notes aux rédactions

Available on request: Oxfam template letter to development ministers / briefing paper on Daikundi.

According to the Afghanistan Joint Emergency Appeal launched by the UN and Afghan Government in July 2008 an estimated 1.2 million children under-five and 540,000 pregnant and lactating women are highly vulnerable to malnutrition in 22 affected provinces.

ACBAR is the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an alliance of 100 national and international NGOs operating in Afghanistan; the report referenced above is ‘Falling Short: Aid effectiveness in Afghanistan’ published in March 2008.