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IRIN, October 18, 2006

AFGHANISTAN: Millions face hunger as drought worsens, warns aid group

Another 6.5 million people are likely to suffer chronic food insecurity due to the lack of rainfall this year, Christian Aid said.

Drought-stricken family in Herat province during the Taliban in 2000
Drought-stricken family in Herat province during the Taliban in 2000

QALAT, 18 October (IRIN) - Some 2.5 million drought-stricken Afghans across much of the country have lost their crops and are facing acute food shortages, international aid group Christian Aid warned on Wednesday in the capital, Kabul.

An assessment carried out by the aid group in 66 villages in the provinces of Badghis, Farah, Faryab, Herat and Ghor, mainly in the northwest, found that many people have lost 70 to 80 percent of their rain-fed crops following too little rain last winter and spring.

According to government figures, around 20,000 people have left their homes in order to survive, the UK based aid group has said.

"It is really vital now to realise the plight of these [drought-stricken] people as the winter is getting closer and snow could close roads to many of the remote parts of those provinces," said Sultan Maqsood Fazil, Christian Aid's advocacy officer in Afghanistan.

The drought is also acute in other parts of Afghanistan. Abdul Manan, 40, left his house in the Shamalzo district of the southern province of Zabul after his garden and wheat crops dried up and moved his family to Qalat, the provincial capital.

"I lost all I had there including 500 almond trees which are completely dried up. I also lost my wheat crops," the father-of-four maintained. "Even finding drinking water was so difficult that people have been forced to leave their houses."

Manan is one of thousands of individuals who have left their houses in Zabul, a province that has been badly hit by consecutive years of drought. More than 2,500 families who live in various districts of Zabul have recently left their villages and now many of them are living in Qalat city, according to Akhtar Mohammad Afzal, head of the provincial Rural Rehabilitation and Development (RRD) office.

"Many people are still leaving their villages due to severe drought and water shortages and coming to Qalat or Kandahar city, [but] have not seen any assistance yet," Afzal asserted.

Another 6.5 million people are likely to suffer chronic food insecurity due to the lack of rainfall this year, Christian Aid said.

Local authorities in Helmand province had earlier appealed for urgent assistance for some 5,000 families who have been displaced by drought and recent fighting in the area.

The combination of insecurity and drought is making it hard to get humanitarian aid to the area.

"It is relatively difficult for aid agencies and the government to get relief assistance into those [southern] areas where there is currently insurgency fighting. This will greatly increase displacement and slow down the process of refugee repatriation from neighbouring countries in the long run," Fazil maintained.

Category: Poverty - Views: 8534


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