Afghanistan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda
Food and nutrition insecurity is pervasive in Afghanistan due to insufficient availability, limited access, poor diets and inadequate utilization of food, and unstable food supplies caused by disasters that render large segments of the population vulnerable. According to NNS 2013, 40.9% children of 0 to 59 months of age were stunted, while 9.5% were wasted (5.5% moderate and 4% were severe wasting).
NNS 2013 indicated that; micronutrient deficiencies are a major problem in Afghanistan like the other developing countries. Anemia (Hb levels <11.99gm/dl), most commonly secondary to iron deficiency, is rampant in women of reproductive age (40.4%) and children 6-59 months of age (44.9%), to the extent of being a public health problem. Majority of both women of reproductive age (95.5%) and children 6-59 months (81.0%) were deficient in vitamin D (<20.0 ng/mL) with a large proportion of women reproductive age (64.7%) suffer from severe vitamin D deficiency (<8.0 ng/mL) while a significant majority of children (64.2%) suffers from moderate deficiency (8.0-20.0 ng/mL). Information related to infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices were collected from mothers of children under 24 months of age. 69.4% infants were reported to have been breastfed within one hour of birth. Half the infants surveyed (52.4%) also received pre-lacteal feeds. Colostrum feeding practices were very common (87.5%) across Afghanistan. More than half (58.4%) of the infants aged 0-6 months were exclusively breastfed.
Also, other National surveys reported, today 39% of Afghans are poor, 3.4 million people are severely food-insecure, and another 5.9 million are moderately food and nutrition insecure. The predominant causes of food and nutrition insecurity in Afghanistan are limited food production and availability of food supplies, insufficient access to food, food shortages arising from disasters and price shocks and poor diets, health, water and sanitation conditions which prevent proper food utilization.
To overcome these challenges, the GoIRA in coordination with UN agencies (FAO, UNICEF and WFP) started working on drafting a national agenda on Food Security and Nutrition in 2012. After many workshops, assessments, field visits and developing of the framework for the agenda and approval by the government of Afghanistan, the process of drafting the National Food Security and Nutrition Agenda completed in 2013.
The National Food Security and Nutrition (AFSeN) Agenda was proposed to Councils of Ministers once again by H. E. the minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in 2016 that was approved by the National Unity Government, after going through required legal process.
In the implementation of AFSeN Agenda, the main players at the central government level are MAIL, MRRD, MoPH, MoLSAMD and ANDMA. Others with direct or facilitating roles are MoCI, MoE, Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW), CSO, Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA), Ministry of Finance (MoF) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). All these governmental institutions coordinate their efforts for implementation of AFSeN Agenda under the structure of High Level Food Security and Nutrition Steering Committee, which will be leading by H. E the chief executive of Afghanistan. The committee is responsible for overall supervision, monitoring and evaluation of AFSeN Agenda.
The Goal of AFSeN is to ensure that no Afghan suffers from hunger and every Afghan is well-nourished at all times.
Objective 1: Assure the availability of sufficient food for all Afghans.
Objective 2: Improve economic and physical access to food, especially by vulnerable and food insecure population groups.
Objective 3: Ensure stable food supplies over time and in disaster situations.
Objective 4: Promote healthy diets, adequate food utilization and better nutrition particularly by women and children.
The Structure of High Level Food Security and Nutrition Steering Committee:
- High Level Food Security and Nutrition Committee:composed of line ministries, governmental administrations and the representatives from UN agencies, private sector and civil society of whom their membership to the committee will be formally confirmed today. The High – Level Food Security and Nutrition Steering Committee shall meet once every six months chaired by H. E the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
- Executive Food Security and Nutrition Committee: is composed of deputy ministers and general technical directors to whom the ToR will be provided by the National Technical Food Security and Nutrition Secretariat and will be endorsed after its formal approval by executive committee. The executive committee will meet once a month co – chaired by MoPH, MAIL, a representative from Director General of the Ministers Council Secretariat one representative from UN agencies (FAO, UNICEF, WFP) alternatively. This committee reports the results of its meetings and decisions to High Level Food Security and Nutrition Steering Committee.
- Technical Working Groups:these technical working groups are designed to facilitate the task sharing on implementation of AFSeN Agenda and are composed of experts and technical people from line ministries and administrations. The three groups proposed are: 1) Food Security Technical Working Group, 2) Nutrition Technical Working Group and 3) Advocacy and Public Awareness Technical Working Group. The meetings of technical groups will be held monthly base and report the result of their decisions to Executive Committee.
- Taskforce inside each ministry/agency:The overall purpose of creating a taskforce is to have a platform in which all related member of the institution assembles together to ensure that all policies, strategies, rules and programs are in line with the AFSeN Agenda and that the capacity of the member ministry/agency is developed and awareness on food and nutrition issues and AFSeN Agenda raised.
To provide technical support to High Level Food Security and Nutrition Steering Committee, a MoU was signed between Office of H. E the Chief Executive of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and three UN agencies (FAO, UNICEF and WFP) on 18th April 2017. The secretariat will operate under the structure of H. E Chief Executive office and under direct supervision of the Directorate General of the Ministers Council Secretariat. The secretariat is responsible to provide support to the High-Level Food Security and Nutrition Steering Committee in establishing the coordination of all Food Security and Nutrition Related decisions with line ministries, UN and donor agencies, national and international organizations, private sector and civil society.