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Drought conundrum, a vicious cycle

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The intensity of drought which has stricken a colossal two-thirds of the war-torn country strikes as a chronic conundrum choking economically unstable population and cohorts massively dependent upon livestock and agriculture. Drought with this enormity could potentially trigger famine, malnourishment, extreme poverty and displacement. And in case of Afghanistan, it has already brought about displacement and poverty.

Just as UN warned that this year’s drought has affected Afghanistan’s 20 provinces, its effects are seen in magnanimous proportions.The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance estimates that out of approximately 2.2 million people affected by the drought at least 1.4 million will become acutely food insecure. This drought will have a particularly detrimental effect on already food insecure farming households.

A prolonged lack of rain and dissipating groundwater destroyed fields and killed livestock. All wells and the springs dried up. Farming has been impossible because of the lack of rain. And because of lack of pastures, cattle continue to perish.

It is a vicious cycle that the poorest cohort of the society, particularly those already displaced by conflict, are worst affected; Drought directly and severely affects farming and as far as farming is the spinal cord of the economy, a severed farming decreases rural livelihood; and a shrunk livelihood in turn impinges detriment on economy; and it is hunger and unemployment that are partly responsible for driving the vicious cycle of war and conflicts in Afghanistan.

Displaced people affected by the drought are prevented from reaching markets and aid due to the ongoing armed conflict. Chronically unstable and ungoverned, and threatened by Islamist militants, multitudes are now grappling with drought. People are forced to leave their villages. It isn’t the fighting, though, that force people leave their homes. Instead, they are seeking shelter from a devastating drought that has ruined their livelihood. More than 5,000 families have sought refuge in Herat during the past month. All fled their villages in the nearby provinces of Badghis, Ghor, and Faryab.

As long as Afghanistan remains violent, with large chunks of land controlled by a multitude of often conflicting armed groups, it will be impossible to deliver emergency assistance, let alone long-term development.

It is incumbent upon the government to reconsider its disaster management policy. The very tangible threat of climate change and its negative effects are continuously neglected in national development plans. The country’s agricultural sector must be given priority and climate change effect should not be neglected.