War, corruption, and poverty have plagued Afghanistan for generations. These have generally led to a myriad of exacerbating issues like a lack of healthcare infrastructure, education, and political unification. Now another devastating obstacle has struck the country: the worst drought in decades.
Droughts of this magnitude are going to affect any country severely, but this one hits Afghanistan particularly hard. Agriculture is Afghanistan’s economic foundation — according to the CIA World Factbook, it composes approximately 23% of the country’s GDP. To contrast, agriculture makes up 0.9% of the United States’s GDP.
20 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have felt the brunt of this drought, and millions of Afghan people have been devastated by its effects. This means dead livestock, failed harvest, and of course, a lack of basic access to water. Thousands of households have been displaced, forced to abandon their homes and move elsewhere where they can find water.
According to the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Emergency Response Mechanism,
Particularly hard hit are the provinces of Ghor and Badghis, who have generated displacement of over 9,000 households into Herat City, and approx. 1,000 households in Qala e Now, Badghis. The vast majority of these households remain unassisted, lacking access to safe drinking water, shelter or adequate sanitation facilities and food, and as a result, sinking into increased vulnerability; sinking into increasing levels of vulnerability and employing negative coping mechanisms such as skipping meals and using money lenders to feed their families.”
Some countries are pitching in to help — the U.K. recently donated $13.1 million to The World Food Programme, who aims to provide aid in the areas worst affected by the drought. They plan to reach and contribute to 1.4 million people, not only providing them with basic supplies but enabling them to have a more successful harvest next year.
This is an essential approach to humanitarian aid necessary to help the Afghan people suffering from this drought. A short-term fix may be welcome, but a more effective, long-term solution includes a level of sustainment that will last longer than just a few months. This is particularly important not only for the families themselves, but to mitigate all the issues involved in mass-migration into major population centers. The drought we see now could amount to what would effectively be a domestic refugee crisis, akin to what the U.S. saw as the “dust bowl” dried up in the 1930s — except in a country that is already afflicted by perpetual war.
Featured image: In this aerial photo taken Friday, Jan. 21,2011, an Afghan vehicle moves through the open desert as seen from a medevac helicopter of the U.S. Army’s Task Force Shadow “Dust Off”, Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment near Marjah in the volatile Helmand Province, Southern Afghanistan. | AP Photo/Kevin Frayer