Extreme cold has devastated the Afghan livestock sector, killing
over 300 000 animals since late December and seriously affecting
livelihoods. High prices for fuel, vegetable oil and cereals
are compounding the vulnerability of poor households, reducing
their access to food.
The harshest winter weather conditions in nearly 30 years have
killed over 800 people, and many others, notably shepherds and
their families, have suffered severe frostbite, requiring disabling
amputation, according to a recent FAO report.
Food and medical supplies have been running short as roads in
remote areas remain blocked by heavy snowfall. Winter crops in
the hardest-hit areas have been severely damaged, in particular
vegetables, which are the main source of nutrition during the
lean winter months.
“The situation is very worrying,” says Samuel Kugbei,
acting FAO Representative in Afghanistan. “Livestock are
a lifeline for many of the affected households, whose food situation
is already precarious. Without assistance, they risk even greater
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation
and Livestock of Afghanistan, FAO has distributed 20 tonnes of
feed in Herat, one of the hardest-hit provinces. FAO is also
providing 60 tonnes of feed concentrate to the worst-affected
farmers in Bamyan Province.
The UN agency is seeking over $2 million to provide an additional
1 500 tonnes of feed, as well as vaccines, multi-vitamins and
anti-parasitic treatment for the livestock of 50 000 vulnerable
farming families. So far, ECHO, the European Commission’s
humanitarian aid department, has pledged over $500 000 to provide
500 tonnes of feed concentrate.
Import needs likely to be unmet
High world wheat prices, and the low purchasing power of the
bulk of the population, mean that the country’s commercial
import requirement this year of 550 000 tonnes of wheat, the
main staple, is unlikely to be met. The food aid requirement
had been estimated at 100 000 tonnes of wheat, but this figure
may need to be revised upward.
Early prospects for the 2008 wheat crop, currently in its dormancy
period, are favourable, however. According to FAO, the heavy
snowfall in January helped make up for below-normal precipitation
earlier in the season. Damage to wheat in severely affected areas
is difficult to assess at this stage, FAO says, as most of the
crops are still covered by snow.
With temperatures beginning to rise, snow is melting rapidly
in the mountains and flooding of major rivers is expected in
the spring. FAO is currently working with the national disaster
management authorities and its UN and humanitarian partners on
a flood preparedness and rapid response plan.
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