LONDON One of the UKs leading humanitarian and development charities, Christian Aid, has warned that millions of people are facing severe hunger in Afghanistan after parts of the country witnessed complete harvest failure.
A field survey in 66 villages in the west and northwest of Afghanistan has revealed that in the worst affected areas, farmers have lost 100 percent of their crops after a failure of the main rains last winter and spring.
Christian Aid reports that people are already suffering from the hunger that is driving farmers and agricultural laborers out of the drought-affected areas in search of work.
The hunger is further impacting livestock farmers by forcing them to sell their animals or move them to areas where there is still pasture and water, developments which are exacerbating the existing food shortages, Christian Aid said.
The assessment reported that children, pregnant women, landless families and the elderly are the groups most exposed to the threat of health problems in the face of the current food shortages.
People are not dying of starvation yet, but it is very obvious that a great deal of help is needed or the situation will become very serious within a few months, said Sultan Maqsood Fazel, Christian Aids advocacy officer in Afghanistan. Meat is scarce in some areas and people are telling us that their food supplies will not last much longer.
There is a shortage of water in rivers and wells and the rapidly falling water tables have resulted in an acute shortage of drinking water and water for irrigating farmland, said Dr Ahmad Zia Shams, program manager in Herat for Christian Aid partner organization Agency for Humanitarian and Development Assistance in Afghanistan (AHDAA), which builds irrigation systems and provides drinking water.
Christian Aid is working to alleviate the situation by funding several projects in Herat province to dig new wells or expand existing ones.
The charity has already started contacting donors to raise funds to provide assistance to those affected by the drought and will launch a joint appeal with other agencies later this month.
Christian Aid is appealing for money urgently needed to provide drinking water, food, animal fodder and counseling. It will also use the funds raised for longer-term priorities like healthcare and agricultural improvement work.
The charity called on international donors, including the UK government, to pledge money to the emergency drought appeal launched by the UN and Afghan government, which have asked for 76 million dollars.
This week the world will clearly be remembering the terrible events of Sept 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, said Christian Aid spokesman, John Davison.
We would ask them also to remember that five years ago, there was a drought in Afghanistan that threatened the lives of five million people. While much has happened on the international scene over this period, once again we are facing a serious drought threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions in Afghanistan, he added.