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Afghan drought – displacing more Afghans than the conflict?

October 17, 2018

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Summary: a drought across large parts of Afghanistan continues to cause grave concern and population displacement.

It is not just war that is driving Afghans out of their country as refugees.  A drought has been affecting Afghanistan for months, highlighting the country’s economic fragility and dependency on international aid:

April 2018, Relief Web, quoting several reliable agencies and NGOs:

In the past week, another 120,000 people have arrived in Qala-e-Naw City, Badghis, due to the drought. In Kandahar, assessment teams verified the arrival of 2,800 drought-displaced people from Badghis and Ghor and 1,400 in the district centre of Maiwand, Kandahar. The total displacement due to the drought has reached a total of 275,000 people…The intense drought between April and September is expected to further aggravate the already poor malnutrition status within the 20 affected provinces, and the impact may extend to December. As a result, an increase in acute malnutrition caseload between July and December 2018 is expected. In addition, the severity of acute malnutrition among children under five may get worse, resulting in cases that are more complicated. As of 19 July, it is reasonable to assume that the increase in magnitude and severity of acute malnutrition and disease will stretch the capacity of health facilities to provide treatment, and that in the medium to long-term, children will face heightened vulnerability to morbidity and mortality

This from the BBC and many other sources over the last few weeks:

A deadly drought in Afghanistan is causing a humanitarian crisis that has displaced more people this year than the war between the government and the Taliban. The BBC’s Secunder Kermani reports from Herat.  Shadi Mohammed, 70, wells up with tears as he walks through the makeshift camp on the outskirts of the western city of Herat, where he lives with his family.

“We are thirsty and hungry. We took what little we could with us, but lost most of it on the way. Now we have nothing. Eight of us live in this small tent,” he says.

“My wife and my brother died. Half of our children are here. The other half were left behind.”

Mr Mohammed is one of an estimated 260,000 people who have been forced from their homes in northern and western Afghanistan because of a severe drought in the region.  The drought is adding to the misery in the country where levels of violence have been increasing since 2014 when international forces formally ended their combat mission…But the UN says that this year, the drought has displaced more Afghans than even the conflict between the Taliban and the government.

From UNOCHA, as at September:

• Some 120,000 people have newly displaced from rural areas of Badghis to Qala-e-Naw during the reporting period.

• The number of people displaced due to the drought is currently more than 250,000 in the Western Region.

• Assistance is being provided in the displacement sites in Badghis and Hirat provinces and efforts are ongoing to scale up assistance in rural areas of origin.

• Around 190,000 people have been reached with safe drinking water in areas of origin and of displacement in Hirat and Badghis provinces.

• Capacity of partners in Badghis province remains significantly insufficient across all sectors of aid.

• Since the beginning of the integrated drought response in August, more than 690,000 people have been reached with life-saving assistance.

2.2m People estimated in May to be affected by the drought.

1.4m People prioritised for assistance to October.

120,000 People displaced by the drought during the reporting period.

39,000 People receiving food assistance during the reporting period in five provinces.

190,000 People receiving safe drinking water during the reporting period.

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