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Drought grips large parts of Afghanistan

06 Jun 2018
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Nimroz Province, close to Chakhansur: the ongoing drought has dried up wells, rivers, fountains and water points. Credit: Relief International

A drought is affecting two out of three provinces across Afghanistan, meaning that more than 2 million people are expected to become severely food insecure and in desperate need of life-saving humanitarian assistance in the coming six months.

In recent months, a precipitation deficit of 70 per cent has been registered across most of Afghanistan due to La Niña conditions, and this year’s main harvest is expected to be below average for the fifth consecutive year. Agriculture is one of the country’s main livelihoods, with nearly 15 million people relying on farming, livestock or agriculture-related labour opportunities in the 20 provinces most affected by the drought.

“Afghanistan has three harvests during the year, and we lost the first one, which accounts for about half of the entire harvests,” said Toby Lanzer, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan. “I do fear that without quick action now, the number of families affected by the drought will grow precipitously.”

Water points and fountains across the country have dried up, and rivers have run low or dried up. In many cases, farmers could do nothing but watch their seeds dry out and their crops fail. Herders could not find any pastures, and tens of thousands of sheep and goats have died.


With nearly 15 million people relying on farming, livestock or agriculture-related labour opportunities in the 20 provinces most affected by the drought, more than 2 million people are expected to become severely food insecure. Credit: WFP

In the Western Region, which is hardest hit by the drought, farmers have given up hope for the harvest. To save their cattle, they started feeding them with the wheat that could not germinate. More than 20,000 people have already migrated from Badghis and Ghor Provinces, both in the Western Region, to neighbouring Hirat Province due to the drought. They received life-saving humanitarian assistance including food, emergency shelter and essential household items from authorities, United Nations agencies and NGOs.

Complementary to the Government’s response, the humanitarian community is seeking to assist 1.4 million of the most vulnerable girls, boys, women and men affected by the drought as part of the revised financial requirements of the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), which now calls for US$117 million in addition to the $430 million requested at the beginning of the year.

“This is a natural disaster, this is not Afghanistan’s fault,” stressed Mr. Lanzer. “We are asking the international community to show real empathy, because people will need either food or cash so that they can access markets where there still is food. If people are given minimum amounts of cash, they will be able to continue to access markets, then we could avert what I have described as untenable hunger six months down the road.”

The Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) for Afghanistan is already addressing the effects of the drought by providing approximately $1.2 million for food, water, sanitation and drought-tolerant wheat seeds to communities living in the hardest-hit areas of Badghis Province. The CHF was the second largest funder of the 2017 Afghanistan HRP, but contributions are still needed to enable the CHF to deliver urgent and life-saving assistance in 2018 for the drought and other priority humanitarian needs in Afghanistan.