CWS emergency appeal: Afghanistan drought and food insecurity

Nearly a decade after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent invasion by US-led military forces, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with about half the population of 32 million living below the poverty line.

Zahra, a quiet but articulate 12-year-old, says she hopes that peace will someday come to Afghanistan so she can pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. She attends the children's rehabilitation center--a joint project of CWS and its partner, the Cooperation Center for Afghanistan.
Photo: Chris Herlinger/CWS

Nearly a decade after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent invasion by US-led military forces, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with about half the population of 32 million living below the poverty line. Life expectancy stands at 44.5 years for both men and women. The country's literacy rate is one of the lowest among developing countries, with only one in three Afghans over age 15 able to read and write.

Afghanistan is undergoing a period of recovery after 23 years of continuous war and instability. Yet much of the country remains insecure. As part of this instability, uncontrolled grazing, pastureland encroachment and illegal logging have contributed to land degradation and a reduction in agricultural productivity.

Since 1999 Afghanistan has suffered from recurring drought. But during the last three years, the situation has worsened and become the most severe in a decade, causing a grave food crisis that threatens millions of people with food insecurity and even starvation. According to Abdur Rashid, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Global Information and Early Warning System, the situation is catastrophic.

In terms of numbers there are 4.5 million extremely vulnerable people, according to the UN, 1.5 million of whom are new refugees. According to UN estimates, some 2.2 million tons of cereals need to be imported into the country this year just to meet basic needs. It was expected that 1.5 million tons would be met through commercial imports. But, in the current situation -- marked by high prices and the smallest wheat harvest in years -- any meaningful commercial imports of food and agricultural inputs are unlikely. The bulk of the .7 million ton shortfall will, therefore, need to be met by the international donor community.

CWS RESPONSE: The overall goal of the CWS program is to provide immediate assistance to mitigate the impact of the drought-induced food shortage among the most vulnerable communities.

The CWS assistance aims to respond to food and safe shelter needs for the most vulnerable and to increase communities' resilience through strengthening livelihoods; increasing the efficiency of irrigation systems; boosting agricultural production (including  preparing for the next winter cropping which begins this month); and increasing household access to water to mitigate against the risk of additional droughts and worsening food insecurity and water-borne diseases.

Three districts of Nangarhar Province, three districts of Takhar Province and one district in Laghman Province have been selected for the CWS response as the recent droughts have had a severe impact on the residents' food security.

The absence of basic facilities and economic opportunities for those displaced returning to Nangarhar and the still-internally displaced in Takhar have led to a situation whereby people cannot even be assured of one good meal a day for themselves and their families. Fueling the problem: the absence of basic facilities such as shelter, potable water, sanitation and health facilities. The absence of employment opportunities also presents difficulties for affected residents, as they have very little opportunities to earn an income. At present the residents of these areas are receiving minimal sporadic assistance from the UN agencies. However, no other government or other humanitarian organization is providing assistance to those affected.

The CWS program seeks to assist 1,300 farmers; they will directly benefit from the response through educational trainings, rehabilitation of irrigation systems, and provision of agricultural inputs. Furthermore, 1,000 families will have access to a clean water supply; 300 people will be engaged in "food for work" projects constructing shelter for their families; and 200 families will receive free food packages.

Response includes:

  • Hold 35 educational trainings with farmers in seven targeted districts;
  • Conduct seven surveys for identification of irrigation system, water supply and agriculture activities;
  • Identify 500 farmers for distribution of improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides;
  • Distribute 25 metric tons of seeds, 50 metric tons of fertilizers, and provide pesticides to 500 farmers;
  • Conduct 30 trainings/awareness rising to 500 framers on agriculture related issues (developed farming activities/practices);
  • Identify 1,000 households for supply of clean drinking water;
  • Construct/dig/drill 40 water supply wells with hand pumps;
  • Support 150 households through shelter construction activities;
  • Support 300 households through provision of food for work (63 metric tons of wheat) in 150 shelter constructions. (Three people from each targeted family will be selected as unskilled labor and the family will be provided food: 15 pounds of wheat per day for one month;
  • The distribution of free food packages will be provided to the most vulnerable 200 women-headed families, disabled and families headed by senior citizens.

BUDGET: $1,103,135, includes $954,910 in direct assistance (construction materials and supplies, shelter materials and project managers) and $148,225 in indirect costs (CWS administration and personnel costs, audit and ACT coordination costs). 

HOW TO HELP: Contributions to support Church World Service emergency response and recovery efforts may be made online, by phone (800-297-1516), or sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.

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