FAO in Afghanistan

World hunger is on the rise again, threatening to turn back decades of gains, says FAO


Kabul, Afghanistan - More than 820 million worldwide people suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2017, an increase of 17 million from 2016. A number of factors are leading to this growth in malnutrition and hunger. One is conflict. Studies show that over half of the chronically undernourished people in the world live in conflict zones. Extreme weather events linked to climate change also drive hunger and malnutrition when farmers in countries hit by these events cannot produce enough food to feed their families. And finally, rapidly increasing overweight and obesity levels in people who have access to abundant, but poor quality food are increasing dietary deficiencies. Taken together, all of these factors are reversing progress made in the decades-long fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Food insecurity and malnutrition are major challenges here in Afghanistan. The latest figures show that approximately one-third of all Afghans are food insecure. Decades of conflict, the influx of returnees, and natural disasters are all contributing factors. And this insecurity is particularly pronounced this year as most of the country is suffering from a devastating drought. This drought is preventing farmers from growing crops, is forcing pastoralists to sell off their animals, and is resulting in large numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) who are putting additional stress on an already-stressed food system. According to the latest UN figures, drought has displaced more than 524 000 people across the country, especially in the Western region. Taken together, all of these factors are greatly escalating the number of Afghans who are food insecure.

In order to raise awareness about the continuing problem of hunger and malnutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in close coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), observed the 38th anniversary of the World Food Day on the MAIL compound. The day was commemorated with a series of talks, food demonstrations, and videos from FAO and MAIL, all of which showcase food security efforts from Afghanistan or around the world.  

H.E. Nasir Ahmad Durrani, the Minister of MAIL, remarked that “MAIL has taken some serious actions to eradicate poverty and hunger, this year we distributed 119,000 tons of wheat from our strategic reserves to the needy and affected people in 25 provinces in Afghanistan.”

H.E. Eng. Mohammad Khan Takal, the Deputy Minister of Energy and Water added that “he feels that the Government must create opportunities for greater private sector investments in agriculture, boost social protection programmes, link food producers with urban areas, and help smallholder farmers adopt sustainable agricultural methods.”

Other notable figures also remarked on the event, including, Mr. Rajendra Aryal, FAO Representative in Afghanistan. Mr. Aryal said that “this year, World Food Day takes place at a critical moment in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. Hunger has been increasing for three years now and we are losing ground. All UN Member Countries pledged to end poverty and hunger when they committed to the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 2, Zero Hunger is still achievable if we remain jointly focused on this goal in the years ahead.” Mr. Zlatan Milisic, World Food Programme Country Director in Afghanistan echoed the sentiments of both Ministers and Mr. Aryal, and noted that “the root causes of hunger are diverse and investments across agriculture, rural development, social protections, and more are needed.”

World Food Day is one of the most widely-celebrated days in the UN calendar. It is organized by FAO country offices, national governments, and other stakeholders in over 130 countries across the globe. The theme for this year, Our Actions are Our Future: A # Zero Hunger World by 2030 is Possible, is meant to remind the world that Zero Hunger is possible if we join forces to apply best practices, learn from past lessons and all use the best evidence available to design data-driven and locally-appropriate food and nutrition security solutions.