A prolonged drought is affecting large parts of Afghanistan following the lowest snowfall and rain in more than 17 years.
Shortages of food and drinking water are already being felt, particularly in rural areas where most families depend on farming for their survival. The United Nations estimates that two million people in 20 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces are at serious risk.
In the western province of Badghis, where World Vision has development projects, at least 450,000 people face food and water shortages. Hungry families have been forced to sell their livestock at extremely low prices so they can buy food. The sale price of one sheep in the local market has plunged from US$150 to US$28 and is dropping further with each passing day.
Some parts of the drought-hit region are faring better than others. For example, in areas where World Vision is implementing an Australian Government-funded agriculture project, it’s expected that farmers will experience just a 10 percent reduction in crop yields. But in other areas where farmers remain completely reliant on rainfall, crops are expected to be down by 70 percent.
World Vision staff in the region report that families are exhausting their coping mechanisms. Around 20,000 people have recently fled from Ghor and Badghis provinces to neighbouring Herat with the hope of finding food, water and medical care.
There is a real danger that without help desperate families may resort to selling their children, particularly their daughters for dowry, to survive.
"The resources are simply not enough."
World Vision's National Director in Afghanistan, Jim Alexander, reports on the urgent needs facing drought-affected families who've arrived in Herat Province seeking food, water and medical care.
How is World Vision responding to the drought in Afghanistan?
World Vision has been working in Afghanistan since 2002, and is the only international NGO in Badghis with reach beyond the provincial capital.
We are working in partnership with the United Nations to respond to urgent needs created by the drought. Since May 2018, we have distributed around 450 metric tonnes of food among 3,750 families in Badghis, as well as buckets, jerry cans and water purification tablets among 6,600 families. In Herat Province, a mobile team is providing basic health services among displaced people.
In addition, we are building three solar-powered water systems to provide 30,000 drought-affected people with access to clean water. Once urgent needs have been met, our staff hope to work with affected communities to address long-term food and fodder challenges.
Our current projects in Afghanistan span three provinces where we are working with communities to improve rural livelihoods, develop irrigation and drinking water systems, and to promote peace building and women’s empowerment. These projects are funded by the governments of Australia, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, as well as various UN agencies.