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Afghanistan’s hunger crisis is worsening due to climate change

Afghanistan’s hunger crisis is worsening due to climate change

drought

drought
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public domain

Allawddin Rahimi had already been devastated by drought when the Taliban invaded his village in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban’s takeover left Rahimi with no choice but flee.


“I wasn’t as worried about the Taliban’s return as I was about the Taliban’s return.” “That dried up our only income and source of food,” Rahimi (37), said from Bandar Abbas in Iran. Rahimi arrived in November to look for a job. He earns $3.50 per hour as a laborer on a building site. He sends it home to support his seven-member family in Afghanistan’s Balkh.

The planet is warming, and the worst drought in the past two decades has coincided the Afghanistan’s political-economic upheaval. Climate change will have serious consequences for Afghanistan in the next decades. The United Nations and the Afghan government are predicting that the country will experience extreme temperature rises of over 6 degrees Celsius if global carbon emission levels continue to rise. Afghanistan is already one the most impoverished countries in the world. Its economy has been ravaged by billions of dollars worth of aid, leaving it less prepared than ever to face the global warming and reduced rainfall challenges.

The fallout from the Taliban’s takeover, coupled with the drought and soaring wheat prices thanks to Russia’s war with Ukraine, means that some 10 million people—more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s population—are near famine. According to the Afghan Analysts Network in Kabul, urban residents are now as vulnerable to starvation than rural citizens who depend on local crops for their income and sustenance.

“The drought and the heat are the overarching drivers, in addition to a lot of other things. Mary Ellen McGroarty was the country director of U.N. World Food Program in Kabul. “They’re just wiping off the coping mechanism that households would normally use.”

It’s not only rural farmers that are suffering. Sayed Ehsan, a former teacher in Mazar-i-Sharif was once the capital of Balkh. After the Taliban closed his school, he borrowed $5,000 to pay his relative and sold his jewels to his wife for approximately $1,000 to buy a taxi. He makes around $100 per month.

His wife and he have many foodless days. Their four children, aged between 4 and 7, eat only once or twice daily. Instead of the traditional pilaf (a local dish with rice, raisins and lamb), meals are often made up of bread and green Tea. A bowl of soup and a piece of meat is their favorite meal.

Ehsan stated in a telephone interview that “there is no other choice.” “The only thing that matters right now is that our survival and food are not compromised.” We are like wild animals fighting for bread in a jungle. This is Afghanistan’s current situation.

Ehsan said that he’s heard of people selling their babies for between 15,000 ($170), and 20,000 Afghanis to buy food. He said that it was alarming for all and explains why the country is facing a severe hunger crisis.

According to Andy Hoell (a research meteorologist at U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Physical-Sciences Laboratory), low moisture in the soil and poor rainfall indicate poor harvests.

The recovery of Afghanistan from 2021’s drought will depend on snow and rainfall. This was due to a dramatic drop in water melting near the Hindu Kush mountains. Meteorologists warn that the La Niña weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean threatens to prolong the drought at least until the end of the year. The growing risk of extreme weather According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), this could also increase the risk of water scarcity in rural areas.

The timing of last year’s La Niña couldn’t have been worse. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (a U.S. government-backed site that provides information and data on food-insecure countries), the Taliban advanced and U.S. soldiers began to withdraw. The chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan after the 20-year war saw the fundamentalist Islamist group gain power in August 2021.

According to Mohammad Assem Mayar who was a former lecturer of water resource management at Kabul Polytechnic University of Afghanistan, and guest author for the Afghan Analysts Network on climate change, Afghanistan’s last year’s harvest saw a 30% drop in wheat yield. Mayar and other experts believe that the 2021 drought could continue as rainfall falls below average levels over the next few months.

Richard Trenchard (UN Food and Agriculture Organization representative in Afghanistan) stated that wheat is the backbone for Afghan livelihoods. More than 70% of farmland—much of it lacking in water—is used to grow the crop. U.S. Sanctions have also cut off much the country’s banking system and left its central banks struggling to finance imports essential goods including food.

McGroarty, a representative of the World Food Program, urged the U.S., and other countries to impose sanctions against Afghanistan’s economy in order to maintain access to food and other essential supplies. Although the U.S. has stated that it will not block humanitarian imports, the decision to seize half of the assets of the Central Bank of Afghanistan to pay the Sept. 11 victims has drawn wide criticism.

There are no signs of policy change, so it is up to the weather to decide who gets to eat this year. “We all are looking at the snowfall. McGroarty stated that this is going to be crucial.

Massive displacement has occurred in Afghanistan as people fled to urban centers and across borders. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network Network, the most severely affected areas include the west and north where Rahimi used the farm.

People who arrive in cities often need to rely upon the WFP and other organizations for help. Many Afghan cities have many food markets, but few people can afford to buy it. Since the Taliban came to power, prices have risen more than 50% and many people have lost their jobs. According to the WFP the WFP expects that acute malnutrition will worsen in 25 of the 34 provinces.

Ghulam Qader, a shopkeeper at Kabul’s main food market said that he has bags of flour and rice and cooking oil, but no one is buying them. Although he can sell some food by slightly lowering the prices, most of the food left over ends up being spoiled or thrown away. There are only two or three customers per week, compared to as many as fifteen last year.

Mahmood SIDDIQI, a 42-year old economics lecturer at a Kabul-based university, has to rely upon the WFP to feed his family. Although the Siddiqi family has been through decades of civil war and conflict, this is their first time facing hunger and malnutrition. “People are only concerned with food. Siddiqi stated that everyone is suffering, from the poor to middle class.

Siddiqi worked at a Kabul private university until it was closed down by the Taliban. The Taliban banned women from attending schools. He sold his smartphone, computer and television to help his family survive until he could access help from the WFP.

That involved obtaining a special card—via biometric checks and approval from a government-appointed local elder—that qualifies his family for food handouts. He’s promised a monthly ration of 50 kgs flour, 5 liters cooking oil, and 7 kilograms beans over six months.

Siddiqi stated, “Without them support, we would perish in a matter of days.”

The National Water Affairs Regulation Authority, the former government, had announced plans for 44 dams to improve agricultural production months before the Taliban took power. It is unclear what the future holds for these projects and many others related to water or irrigation.

The Taliban claims it has begun work on Afghanistan’s “biggest ever Canal Project” to irrigate more that 580,000 hectares in the country’s northern region. This is done by diverting water flow from the Amu Darya River, which marks a portion of the border with Uzbekistan. Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesman for the group, stated that Qosh Tepa’s canal project was launched on March 30. It is expected to cost around 60 billion Afghanis and create 200,000 new jobs. Karimi stated that funding will come from the Taliban’s own revenue sources, but did not provide further details.

See Also
world water day, groundwater

Mayar stated that regardless of what happens with the project the regime will need to manage water resources to ensure food safety in the future. Mayar stated that the ideal solution would be to build and modernize dams to increase Afghanistan’s water storage capacity. This is currently 10 times less than Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. The majority of the current structures date back to the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and the subsequent four decades without ceaseless conflict. The Taliban frequently targeted dams built by the U.S. after the 2001 invasion.

Iran, which shares a long frontier with the country has also accused the government headed by President Ashraf Ghani, of violating a 1973 agreement regarding water access to the Helmand River. Iranian state media reported last month about officials meeting with Taliban officials to discuss managing flows into Iran’s Sistan Baluchestan province. There, farmers have been protesting water shortage and dry conditions.

“Some of the water issues are very serious right now, but could get much worse,” said Graeme Smith from the Washington-based International Crisis Group.

How severe the crisis turns out will depend on how the international community responds to the Taliban. The U.S., European Union (and most of their allies) have listed it as a terrorist organization. Washington has stated that it will release $3.5 million to organizations like the U.N. who are working on the ground.

McGroarty is the U.N. representative in the country. She says the WFP faces a shortage of $1.9Billion of the $2.6B needed to provide food for 23 million people. Her team has reduced daily Baskets can contain as low as 50% of the 2,100 calories per person.

McGroarty stated, “I’m afraid for the people who are trying to get across this winter. I hope we can do enough in time so that we can save lives and give people some help and comfort.”


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Climate change is making Afghanistan’s hunger crisis worse (April 6, 2022).
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