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Drought; another Challenging Threat for Afghans

Published Date: June 2, 2018

 

By Zia ul Islam Shirani \ CSRS

For now, Drought is another big challenge in the war-torn Afghanistan that, after insecurity and wars, has put the life of millions of Afghans at risk.  

In its latest report, The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has indicated that a drought is affecting two out of three provinces across Afghanistan with more than two million people expected to become severely food insecure. [1] 

Last week President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani presided over the meeting on countering drought and its consequences which was attended by international donor agencies representatives where he thanked their efforts and emphasized on their assistance to drought affected areas. Meanwhile UNAMA chief Yamamoto assured his agency’s cooperation with Afghan government in this regard.[2]

The overall impact of Climate Changes and, particularly, of Drought in Afghanistan and the present situation, reasons behind and ways out are analyzed here.   

 

Drought in Afghanistan

Local drought is being arrived in different parts of the country once in every 3 to 5 years; however, zone-level drought is being arrived once in every 9 to 11 years and national-level drought is being arrived once in every 20 to 30 years, according to Asian Development Bank.    

If we consider the last two decades, it is for the fifth time that Afghanistan faced drought. During Civil War, Afghanistan faced long-lasting drought in 1995 which became out from it due to continuous precipitation in 2002 and 2003. Afghanistan, once again, faced drought in 2008, 2010 and 2012 which has a negative impact of agricultural products, particularly, the wheat crops. Overall, this situation also put an impact on Afghan economic growth as well. For example, the growth of agriculture sector in Afghanistan was 21 percent in 2008; however this number increased to 51 percent in 2009 which had a positive impact of the country’s economic growth.         

According to the World Bank, approximately 6.5 million people have been affected by drought in Afghanistan since 2002 which does not included the present number of people affected by drought. The World Bank also expects that Afghanistan will suffer a loss of 3 Billion USD in agricultural field if severe drought is arrived in this country. [3]

 

Present Drought and its Impacts

The government and international agencies share concerns over the ongoing drought in Afghanistan since last three weeks. According to the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), the drought is being divided into three categories with regards to its level of threat: 

There are 15 provinces in the first category (Jawzjan, Badghis, Faryab, Ghor, Uruzgan, Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Samangan, Balkh, Baghlan, Kunduz, Herat, Farah and Nimroz); the second category contains 6 provinces (Maidan Wardak, Logar, Takhar, Paktia, Nuristan and Sari Pul) and the third category encloses 13 provinces (Ghazni, Daikundi, Bamyan, Kapisa, Parwan, Panjshir, Kabul, Badakhshan, Laghman, Kunar, Nangarhar, Paktika and Khost). [4]     

Approximately, 2 million people have been faced hunger due to drought in these provinces where, for now, 13 million people have encounter lack of adequate food, and thus, 500 Million USD is needed for tackling this threat and providing assistance to the affected persons.   

There are concerns that the country’s economic situation will also be impacted by the ongoing drought. Because the country’s economy, to a large extent, is relied on agriculture and it assumed that the wheat production will be decreased by 2.5 million tons from that of 4.2 million tons. Additionally, there is a presumption of increasing internal displacement which has got negative impact of the country’s economy.       

 

Reasons behind drought in Afghanistan

  • Afghanistan’s water flowing to other countries; Afghan has large resources of fresh water whose large portion is flowing to Afghanistan’s neighboring countries which, as a result, faces Afghans with lack of water. According to the information provided by the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), 75 billion miter cubic of water is being produced in Afghanistan annually; however, Afghanistan could use only 25 percent of these waters and the remaining 75 percent are flowing to other countries.      
  • Lack of precipitations; Afghanistan is a land-locked mountainous country whose water resources are mainly dependent on seasonal precipitations. According to OCHA, below average snowfall and a precipitation deficit of 70 per cent has been registered in most parts of the country and water points and fountains across the country have dried up and the lack of rain and snow melt has made rivers run low or dry up completely and thus Afghans are faced a threat of drought.
  • Climate Changes; Generally, the earth’s temperature which is a result of emission of gases and temperature from factories on global level has caused in climate changes; however, devastation of jungles in Afghanistan due to war is also considered as an aspect of climate changes in the country. Because, the existence of jungles and the greenness of land keep the weather cooler, and the snow freezers and resources colder and thus prevent them from being melted out.

 

Why shared efforts on Drought are needed?

Poor management of water and drought are considered as one of the greatest threats towards human life. Poverty and hunger is being engendered by drought and seasonal changes which make the people to leave their homes and migrate to other areas for the search of work, food, drink and good life.

Afghanistan is an agricultural country and almost 15 million of its people provide their living through agricultural in villages and rural areas, so drought is harmful for them in every case. As seasonal changes are considered as a most important reason behind people’s displacement, OCHA says that at the beginning of May, the first migration movements of 21,000 persons, were reported from Badghis and Ghor provinces to Herat City, Herat Province, due to drought and depleted food stocks of families.        

Considering the ongoing drought and its consequences in the country, a serious struggle against it is needed, and most importantly, the shared efforts of the government and international agencies are vital in this regard. The governmental bodies or ministries have not got the amount in the budget to be able to struggle against the ongoing drought solitarily.     

According to MAIL, nearly 500 Million USD is needed to tackle drought; in the case, this ministry has got only 8 to 9 million USD in its budget. Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) has got a total budget of 9 million USD. Thus, the assistance of international agencies is much needed in struggle absent drought.      

Nevertheless, considering the current situation, it is supposed to provide the needed persons with assistance as soon as possible and speed up the series of assistance provision. But for now, it seems that OCHA is faced challenges in gathering the assistance; as it has been able to collect only 22 per cent of the entire 500 million USD required for struggle against drought.    

End

[1] OCHA: Drought grips large part of Afghanistan: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/20180525_ocha_afghanistan_monthly_humanitarian_bulletin_april_2018_en_final.pdf

[2] For further information: http://bakhtarnews.com.af/eng/politics/item/33349-president-ghani-asks-donor-agencies-to-assist-drought-hit-areas.html?tmpl=component&print=1

 

[3] See online: http://blogs.worldbank.org/endpovertyinsouthasia/governance/voices/water/ppps/endpovertyinsouthasia/prs/archive/201707

[4] See online: https://pa.azadiradio.com/a/29254840.html

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