As a serious drought tightens its grip on the country, Afghanistan and the international community are “celebrating” the fifth anniversary of the fall of the Talibans. Much like the situation five years ago, Afghans are surviving rather than living and exasperation and fatalism are high.
7th year of drought in 8 years
People will not have enough food to last through the winter. This climatic dysfunction is chronic in Afghanistan but has been accelerating for decades. According to governmental and UN estimates, 2.5 million people are at risk of suffering the effects of this drought, in addition to the 6.5 million Afghans who are already in a situation of food insecurity.
The most vulnerable groups will not have enough food to last them through the winter, nor will they have sufficient revenues to buy food. As such, they develop survival mechanisms which can plunge them yet deeper into the vicious cycle of vulnerability leading to the development of a massive debt to buy food. Faced with a lack of water, populations turn to water sources which are often contaminated and inappropriate for consumption and which can be 5 or 6 hours by foot from their village. The centre of the country, affected by the drought, will be inaccessible during the Afghan winter (December to March); making provision of food from outside impossible throughout this period.
In view of this situation, Action Against Hunger teams are launching food and seed distributions for 36,000 people in the Ghor and Day Kundi provinces (in the centre of the country). “Work for Food” activities have been put in place involving road constructions to help open up the region. 175 lorries loaded with over 2,100 tons of food are currently on their way to the region (of which 700 tons were provided by the World Food Programme). Added to this are water and water sanitation programmes that are being implemented throughout the region (construction and rehabilitation of wells, boreholes, improvement of population’s sanitation conditions). The ability to put these programmes in place is heavily conditioned by on site security developments, particularly in Ghor province.The chronic climatic crises and isolation of the zone prevent economic development based on agriculture, although it cannot be said that a serious strategy of rural development has been put in place by the government since 2002.
5 years after the downfall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is at a crossroad
Even though real evolution took place between 2001 and 2006, Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest countries. “From the population’s point of view the situation is even worse than it was 5 years ago. Living costs have increased, sources of revenue are practically inexistent, security problems are multiplying and the legitimacy of the government is again called into question”, explains Action Against Hunger’s nutrition advisor in Afghanistan for 11 years. Despite the downfall of the Taliban and the promises made, the development and stability of the country have not been achieved and there are no signs of hope for the attainment of these objectives in the short or even long term.
Today the Afghans, frustrated, disillusioned and frightened, continue to live in poor conditions. They have given up hope for an improvement in living conditions, indeed, their only aspiration is for peace.
Faced with the growing frustration of the population, if the international community and Afghan government do not do more – and more specifically do not do better – and if insecurity persists, the Afghans might choose to return to a fundamentalist, authoritarian regime in order to at least benefit from a bit more security.
In these crucial moments for the country, it is more necessary than ever that NGOs act alongside the population to respond to emergencies such as those currently existing in the Centre and South of the country; NGOs must also work alongside the government for the introduction of durable development and infrastructure projects as well as basic services, which are today very deficient in numerous regions.