The drought in Afghanistan is the worst in decades and is exacerbated by climate change. Besides the economic collapse, there may soon be a full-blown crisis. The United Nations is very concerned about development.
Haji Wali Jan bought half a dozen plastic containers that he will take to the well in the western village of Qamar Qalagh on Friday.
It is one of the few days a week that he and those who live on the same side of the village are allowed to use the water source.
When it’s finally his turn to fill the water from the well, the 66-year-old fills one container, then another.
The water flowing from the tap flows quickly. It begins to fill a new container, but the pumping water narrows more and stops before the container is full.
The water is gone for the day.
Worst drought in a long time
The drought now raging in Afghanistan is the worst in decades. It is now entering its second year, which has been exacerbated by climate change.
The drought affected 25 of the country’s 34 provinces. It is estimated that this year’s wheat harvest has declined by 20 percent compared to last year.
Combined with the war, drought has helped drive more than 700,000 people from their homes this year. Winter may make things worse.
“This drought is affecting an already vulnerable community and may be another turning point on the path to disaster,” the Afghanistan office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in a Twitter message in November.
And they continued: – If no action is taken, agriculture could collapse.
UN experts believe that rainfall and snowfall in Afghanistan will continue until 2022.
Several periods of drought
Afghanistan has long suffered from regular droughts. But in a 2019 report, the FAO warned that climate change could make it more frequent and severe. Last year’s drought came shortly after the 2018 drought that was then the worst in Afghanistan in several years.
Amidst the drought, the Afghan economy also collapsed in the wake of Taliban control in August. This has resulted in the blocking of international funds for the Taliban government and the freezing of billions of the country’s assets abroad.
Jobs and livestock disappeared, leaving families desperate for ways to find food.
Last month, the FAO said 18.8 million Afghans are unable to feed themselves daily, and by the end of the year the figure will be 23 million, or nearly 60 percent of the population.
Small villages hit by drought in 2018 Qamar Qalg are now unable to provide enough water to survive.
1 of 2Photo: Aetros Giannakouris / AP / NTB
Qamar Qalagh consists of a group of mud houses in the mountains outside the western city of Herat. About 150 families live here who earn their living from their livestock, mainly camels and goats. The men acted as guardians in the transition of Quala Islam to Iran.
Most of this work ended with dehydration. Now the main income of the village comes from the sale of sand.
Ajab Gul and his two young sons dug sand from the riverbed and stuffed it into bags on the last day. They earn about 18 kroner for a full working day.
– Grass was growing here, says Gul while raising his hand to his nose.
When a camel passes through it, you only see the head. That was 20 years ago, he says.
Now there is no more grass there.
Two years ago, the main village well dried up. Residents raised funds to dig deeper. It worked for a while, but then they started running out again.
Then the residents began a rationing system: half could bring water one day, and the other half the next.
But even rationing is no longer enough. According to Wali Jan.
When he couldn’t fill his pots with water on Friday, he sent two of his grandchildren to an alternate water source away. They turned the task into a game: the older boy, about 9 years old, pushes the wheelbarrow, while his younger brother sits next to the containers.
They went up a hill and down and on the other side across another dry river: they walked about 3 kilometers in total.
They reached a watering hole, where the surface was covered with green algae. They had to fill the containers that they had to take home again.
When they returned to the village, their grandfather greeted them on the steep hill. He undid the turban and tied one end of the long scarf around a handle in front of the wheelbarrow to help the boys lift it up the last hill to the family home.
The old and the young are almost the only men left in the village. Most healthy men traveled to look for work in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan or Turkey.
You never meet anyone outdoors these days, says Summer Gul, who is also a man in his sixties.
– He adds that there are only women and children inside the houses.
But finding jobs elsewhere in Afghanistan is not that easy either.
– economic collapse
As climate change brings droughts and further devastation to villages, major cities are struggling to deal with the consequences of a severely weak economy.
Inflation and unemployment are skyrocketing, and international aid, which represented about 75 percent of the previous government’s budget, is completely exhausted – and new government aid is unlikely to come as long as the Taliban rule.
“My message is meant to be a wake-up call about the humanitarian consequences of the economic collapse and the need for urgent action,” said Martin Griffiths, OCHA chief.
He believes that the economic collapse in Afghanistan is happening before the eyes of the world, and urges the international community to take action to prevent more deaths.
– We see that the economic collapse is increasing uncontrollably. He says conditions are getting worse every week.
Hospitals without electricity People are starvingIt is not uncommon to see three or four children per hospital bed. In addition, tens of thousands of unpaid doctors, teachers, and government officials are struggling to make ends meet.
In addition to emergency humanitarian aid, donor land should also support important services for the Afghan people, including education, hospitals, electricity, and paid civil servants. They have to help the country with an economy and banking system that has “actually shut down,” Griffiths said.
He believes that during the winter the money should be sent to workers on the front lines. At the same time, he must reassess the situation in the country: he previously said that the country can recover during the winter with purely humanitarian assistance, but the deteriorating economic situation means that this is no longer the case.
He used several examples: 4 million children have been taken out of school and another 9 million will soon be out. The reason is that 70 percent of teachers have not received their salaries since August.
Earlier this year, the Taliban seized large parts of the country and also captured the capital Kabul on August 15, without opposition from the Afghan army or the country’s president, Ashraf Ghani, who fled.
On Thursday, he lined up for his first interview since the escape. Here he claimed he had no choice – had to flee.
The Taliban initially promised tolerance and inclusion towards women and ethnic minorities, but their actions so far have drawn criticism from the international community.
But the acquisition also had significant financial consequences. And the Central Bank of Afghanistan’s $9 billion in reserves, most of which are in the United States, have been frozen. The International Monetary Fund has also banned about $450 million due to the “lack of clarity” in the new government.
The Taliban regime banned all foreign exchange transactions. They called on the United States to ease sanctions and release Afghanistan’s assets abroad so that the government can pay the salaries of teachers, doctors and other public sector employees.
Asking for help from the United States
According to Griffiths, the United Nations has asked the United States and other countries to donate money and insists they do not want to go to the Taliban, but directly to people who need it.
Griffiths said the World Bank, the United Nations and the US government are making “enormous efforts” to deal with the liquidity crisis in Afghanistan. On December 21, he traveled to Washington to discuss the economic collapse in Afghanistan with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The goal of the United Nations is to raise funds to help the Afghan people. The World Bank is already said to have provided $280 million in humanitarian aid. The European Union earlier announced an emergency aid package of 300 million euros.
Griffiths warns that the country is on the brink of disaster and that conditions will be completely unsustainable if important societal functions are not restored.
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