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Millions hit by drought in Afghanistan

22nd November 2011

A drought in Afghanistan in recent months has left millions of people facing hunger, disease, and malnutrition, according to international aid agencies.

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The number of affected people may be as high as three million, with wheat crops in the north, northeast, and west of the country almost completely obliterated.

David Skinner, Save the Children's Afghanistan country director, said that families were facing being cut off without food and clean water, that children were going hungry, and that malnutrition levels were already high in Afghanistan.

Even accessing aid will soon be difficult, since heavy snowfall is predicted for the next few weeks. Eventually, roads will be blocked and the risk of avalanches will also rise.

Poor communities that rely on farming in order to survive do not have food to eat, according to nine major charities working inside the country.

Across the country, food prices have also doubled since 2010, and families are forced to skip meals every day.

Other families have resorted to borrowing money or leaving home altogether and moving to Pakistan or Iran.

Manohar Shenoy, Oxfam's Afghanistan director, said the drought had destroyed everything, and that food stocks were already low.

He said that there was very little time for aid organisations to provide people with help, since mountainous areas were likely to be completely cut off soon.

The country's winter generally lasts until March, with snow falling up to 13 feet deep.

During such periods, hundreds of thousands of people are typically completely isolated. With many families short of both money and food, schools are closing and children are being asked to work.

The United Nations has appealed to donors for US$142 million (just over £90 million), but international donors have pledged only 7% of that amount.

Skinner said that, unless aid efforts were ramped up, children in the country could die of starvation.

As a result of the aid shortfall, the European Commission (EC) has stepped up, donating 1.5 million euros to the drought relief fund.

The recent donation brings the total number of donations to US$ 6.1 million.

However, that money is expected to help 72,000 people, and may not be adequate even to do that.

Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, said that the drought had hit communities in many parts of northern Afghanistan already repeatedly weakened by conflict, insecurity and underdevelopment.

 

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