More Afghans displaced by drought than conflict, UN says

NAN

No fewer than 275,000 people have been displaced by drought in Afghanistan – 52,000 more than the number uprooted by conflict this year – with over two million threatened by the effects of water shortages, the UN said.

Reports from the UN and aid charities described farmers lacking seeds to sow following crop failures in some areas and livestock dying for the want of anything to eat.

Afghanistan, a country where nearly 20 million people rely on farming, has suffered a 45 per cent fall in agricultural output this year as the drought has bitten, officials at the ministry of agriculture have said.

In a regular update, the UN humanitarian office reported that 120,000 people fleeing the drought arrived in Qala-e-Naw city in Badghis province in the week to Sept. 9.

A second UN report, with data covering August, said more than 100,000 people may have moved to Herat city for the same reason by the end of last month.

It estimated 2.2 million Afghans would be affected by the drought this year.

In Qala-e-Naw, where there are an estimated 66,500 drought-displaced people, supplies and humanitarian aid are already insufficient to meet the needs of newly arrived families.

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The UN cited an assessment by aid charity World Vision International that 99 per cent of people in Badghis said their food situation was worse or a lot worse than a year ago.

“The assessment also indicates that most farmers lost last season’s harvest and nearly all of them lack seeds for new planting season,” the UN report said.

The report also added that about 40 per cent of livestock has been lost in Badghis due to a lack of pasture and fodder.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), a U.S. funded food security monitoring service, said in a report on Aug. 31 that the number of Afghans in a food “crisis” was atypically high.

“Crisis” is step three on a five step scale, where four is “emergency” and five is “catastrophe” and possible famine.

In Badghis and Faryab provinces, emergency outcomes are expected to emerge in January, FEWS NET said.

“Normally during this time period, food security outcomes begin to seasonally improve in much of the country, but due to drought and severe reduction in wheat production, reduced labour opportunities, and continued conflict more households face Crisis outcomes than normal,” it said.