Another drought looms. Is Afghanistan better prepared?
By Stefanie Glinski
Snow and rainfall were nearly half their normal levels in parts of the country during a warm winter triggered by La Niña conditions. Farmers worry there’s not enough water from the winter melt to sustain their harvests, raising fears of crop failures and food shortages that could push people to abandon their lands.
The last major drought to hit Afghanistan offers a blueprint of the dangers ahead – and of the pitfalls of an inadequate aid response. In 2018, some 250,000 people fled their homes as waters ran dry. Farmers left behind parched fields, and herders sold off livestock at a fraction of their costs. In western Afghanistan, families fled to barebone tent camps on the edges of places like Herat city, where tens of thousands remain today, unwilling or unable to return home.
The warning signs are already dire. Afghanistan needs about six million metric tonnes of wheat each year, but this year’s deficit is estimated to be about 2.6 million metric tonnes, according to the FAO. More than a third of the population face crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity caused by conflict, COVID-19, soaring food prices, and unemployment.
And some worry there’s not enough focus on the drought’s longer-term consequences for displacement – for example, how to handle dynamics between different waves of migrants, or how to help people return home.
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