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Afghanistan Drought

Millions in Need of Support to Meet Immediate Needs and Rebuild Livelihoods

In 2010/11, limited rain and snow fall has led to drought in Afghanistan’s north, north-east and west. The drought conditions have really affected the wheat crop this year, causing serious deterioration in food supplies in this already struggling area. ActionAid partners have estimated that 2.7m more people will lose food security in the affected Afghanistan areas, due to the drought conditions.

The current conditions of the area are serious. Water sources dried up earlier than usual this year, making it very difficult for people to access water. At the same time, contamination of the few available water sources has been reported, causing illness and acute diarrhoea across the country. This, coupled with insufficient food consumption, due to the affected wheat crops is likely to mark an increase in severe acute malnutrition.

Effects of the drought

Food

At the moment, an estimated 73 per cent of the population in the afflicted Afghanistan regions will only have access to food for the next two months.  Unfortunately the most vulnerable households are affected most seriously, expected to raise alarms to food crisis in the coming months, which is to last until the end of next year’s harvest, around August 2012.

Jobs and Income

The damage in wheat crops has immediately affected farmers and the agriculture business. Livestock businesses are also affected due to the limitations in animal food, leading to steep increase in livestock food prices. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs as a result. This has lead to workers seeking harmful solutions such as reducing quality of meals, selling female livestock, going into debt and migrating in search for work.

To give an idea of numbers, it is thought that around 50 per cent of livestock has been sold, in the parts of Afghanistan suffering from the droughts; the animals were sold 40-50 per cent below the average prices; most shockingly, 50-80 per cent of young men have left their homes to find employment elsewhere.

What we need to do

Immediate Humanitarian Needs

As it has been time-consuming to complete assessments of the damages in the affected areas, international response to the droughts has been slow. There is now immediate need to help Afghanistan, particularly as winter is approaching making the areas inaccessible and the living conditions even more difficult and unmanageable.

Strengthening Existing Coping Mechanisms

While some food and water aid is needed, to provide with longer-lasting help and avoid causing dependency on aid, the coping of the afflicted areas must be reinforced. The current issue is that despite some water and food resources, access to them is restricted. Support will need to encourage the local open market, with cash-based interventions and practical help. This will help the local community without undermining the existing system and markets.

Building Community Resilience

Finally, we must look at the longer-term support we can give to Afghanistan, to help the area withstand future droughts. This can be done by introducing drought-resistant crops, river- irrigation systems, non-agricultural livelihoods and so on. Essentially, we need to help the area become resistant to future natural disasters by encouraging community-based natural resource management and alternative plans for making a living and handling such disasters.