Natural calamities kill and displace many Afghans every year. Besides casualties, the affected people and people who are displaced as a consequent of natural disasters are faced with many problems, but the government, on the one hand, lacks preventive measures and has poorly reacted after the occurrence of such events.
The Afghan Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, in a meeting of the ministers’ council of Afghanistan on 30 January 2017, said that the recent snow falls in various provinces have caused many casualties and economic losses and, in this regard, called for immediate aids. He said, “Snow falls are more intensified than that we have been prepared to.
Based on the statement of Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), 21 people have killed and 16 others are injured in various natural disasters (cold weather, snowing and raining) in various provinces. The statement adds that in these disasters, 21 residential houses were totally destroyed and 59 others were partly destroyed.
Officials in Jawzjan province have also said that 47 people, most of them children, are killed, due to the cold weather, in Darzab district of this province. They have said that these people are killed due to lack of access to health centers, road blockades and lack of shelters.
Since, after security events, natural disasters are the second type of events that cause more casualties in Afghanistan, here we have tried to analyze natural disasters and preventive measures against them.
Natural disasters and counter mechanisms
There are various types of natural disasters such as earthquake, storms, thunder, flood, avalanche, drought, high temperatures and etc. Some of the natural disasters are caused directly as a result of human activities on earth. For instance, air pollution and deforestation are the two deeds of humans that result in floods.
Generally, natural disasters are adverse events that occur in various types and in various places all over the world and cause human and financial damages. Although, these events cannot be totally prevented, but by undertaking some preventive measures, its damages can be reduced to minimum levels.
Based on the studies that were conducted in areas of natural disasters, there are for stages to reduce human and financial losses in a natural disaster:
First: before the occurrence of the incident;
Second: when the signs of a natural disaster are appeared;
Third: during the occurrence of the incident;
Fourth: after the occurrence of the incident.
The most important stage is before the occurrence of the incident when we can use all the facilities of the administrations that are created to fight against these disasters and at this stage, these administrations must enhance their capacity to counter such calamities. In addition, these organs must inform people and must, with its preventive measures, decrease the level of human and financial losses.
Natural disasters in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a mountainous country and, therefore, in this country there is high level of earthquakes, avalanches, storms, floods, landslides and etc. Cold weather in the winter and thoughts are natural challenges that Afghans have most often deal with.
Afghanistan is the 12th most prone country to earthquakes in the world, 24th to floods and 22th to droughts.
Estimated statistics show that between 1970 and 2012, approximately 9 to 20 thousand people are killed by earthquakes in Afghanistan. Only in 2012, about 383 natural incidents have occurred which have affected 258 thousand people in 195 districts. 479 people are killed in these incidents.
The 1998 earthquake in Afghanistan was one of the deadliest natural events in Afghanistan which, besides financial damages, killed four to four and a half thousand people in Takhar province and injured more than ten thousand others. Major earthquakes have also occurred in 2oo2, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2015 which sometimes killed hundreds of people; the epicenter of most of these earthquakes were Hindu Kush Mountains. Another natural incident that is said to be unprecedented in the modern history of Afghanistan was landslide in Argoi, Badakhshan province in 2014, which left more than 2500 dead. 300 residential houses were destroyed in this incident.
The organs that fight against natural disasters are responsible to detect threats and find ways to decrease them and in case of the occurrence of an incident, they must immediately conduct the rescue operations and undertake the reconstruction process in the affected areas.
The activities of the administrations that fight against natural disasters have not been effective in the past year and, spending immense amounts of money, they have failed to address people’s challenges. Lack of management, facilities and experts in this area are the most serious challenges of the Afghan government. The relevant administrations always speak of preparations, but when the incidents occur, they fail to address these incidents and, consequently, people suffer heavy human and financial losses.
This year’s winter and the government’s measures
Currently, there are 1.2 million Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) leaving in worst situations in Afghanistan. In the meanwhile, more than 800 thousand Afghan refugees have returned from neighboring countries. The internally displaced people and the newly returned refugees are the main victims of this year’s cold weather and until now dozens of them are killed in cold weather and snow falls.
The Afghan Chief Executive, in the meeting of ministers’ council, called for 550 million dollars of aid to address human situation in Afghanistan in 2017 and added that, based on the estimation of the United Nations, 9 million people are in need of humanitarian aids this year.
Minister of ANDMA Wais Barmak, during a press conference, said that previously 700 million Afghanis had been appropriated to address natural calamities but now, with the increasing security incidents and IDPs, this amount was raised to 1.6 billion Afghanis.
While the NUG promoted the department of ANDMA to the state’s ministry of ANDMA and pledged to improve its legal foundations, administrations and capacity. But, unfortunately, the Afghan government has been slow regarding the fight against natural disasters and yet no change has occurred regarding in various fields of the fight against natural disasters. The activities of this institution is still confined to register natural incidents and to help the affected people after the incidents.
In addition, the ANDMA has several other domestic and foreign correlative institutions such as OCHA, UNICEF, IOM, IMMAP, UNHCR, WFP, ACBAR and ARCS; but still these institutions have failed to undertake preventive measures and decrease the level of damages. The main reason behind this failure is the structure of these institutions which needs serious attention of the government.