Drought brings food crisis in Afghanistan after US troop withdrawal

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Drought brings food crisis in Afghanistan after US troop withdrawal

SINGAPORE, Aug 6 – Millions of Afghans are struggling to put food on the table as prolonged drought disrupts supplies in a country reeling from a surge in violence as U.S.-led foreign troops complete their withdrawal.

Aid organizations are calling on donors for urgent funds and humanitarian assistance with the annual wheat harvest expected to plummet by nearly half and millions of livestock at risk of death as water supplies run dry.

“It’s a multiple shock,” said Necephor Mghendi, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Afghanistan.

“Generally, there has been an impact on availability and distribution of food … and the conflict is causing internal displacement, which means increased demand for resources in certain regions.”

The entire country is facing moderate to severe drought, President Ashraf Ghani said in late June, acknowledging that the national disaster management budget was not enough to cover what experts say is one of the worst droughts in decades in terms of geographic scale.

Photo taken on Feb. 19, 2021 shows a dam affected by drought in Kandahar city, Afghanistan.
Afghanistan’s severe drought threatens at least 12 million people in the war-torn country, according to the United Nations.
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

“We … will not allow the country to face famine,” Ghani said in a statement. “Our effort is to address all districts, even those under the Taliban control.”

The Islamist insurgents have stepped up their campaign to defeat Ghani’s U.S.-backed government as foreign forces leave after 20 years of conflict and have swept into numerous rural districts across the country.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani acknowledges that some regions of the country are under heavy Taliban control.
Getty Images

With very little functioning irrigation, Afghanistan relies on snow melting in its mountains to keep its rivers flowing and fields watered during the summer and snowfall last winter was again very low.

Fahad Saeed, a climate scientist at Climate Analytics, said a La Niña phenomenon and a weakening jet stream moving weather systems more slowly across the planet could be factors behind Afghanistan’s extremely dry weather.

Shahr Banoo, 15, comforts her 10-month-old son, Saber, who is being treated for severe acute malnutrition, or SAM, at the Mofleh Pediatric Hospital in Herat Province, Afghanistan, June 18, 2019.
15-year-old Shahr Banoo comforts her 10-month-old son, who is being treated for malnutrition at the Mofleh Pediatric Hospital in Herat Province, Afghanistan.
Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Mothers wait for medical staff to examine their babies for malnutrition at the Mofleh Pediatric Hospital in Herat Province, Afghanistan, June 18, 2019.
Mothers wait for medical workers to examine their babies for malnutrition at the Mofleh Pediatric Hospital in Herat Province, Afghanistan.
Fairfax Media via Getty Images

While it is difficult to link individual events to climate change, scientists agree that global warming driven by greenhouse gas emissions is contributing to extreme weather around the world.

“Afghanistan is a good example of climate injustice. It has historically no role in the climate change mess but they are bearing the brunt of it,” Saeed said.

Afghanistan was one of 23 countries the United Nations identified as “hunger hotspots” in a report last month, with at least 12 million people out of a population estimated at 36 million facing a food security crisis of not knowing when or where their next meal will come from.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani says the government does not have sufficient resources to respond to depleting livestock and water.
REUTERS

The IFRC is trying to raise US$16.5 million but has managed less than half of that, Mghendi said.

“It’s a dire humanitarian situation that requires as much support as possible to get the very basics,” Mghendi said.

“Every dollar will help somebody.”

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