Northern Afghanistan’s Drought in Winter

The World Food Program assists some 2.4 million people affected by the drought in Afghanistan. Photo by: Silke Buhr / WFP

Aid groups and officials in Afghanistan are becoming increasingly concerned for the remote villages in the country’s north. The region is in the midst of one of its worst droughts, and soon access to these villages could be blocked due to expected heavy snowfall this winter.

Afghanistan’s winter spans November to March, with thousands of villagers left isolated for months due to blocked mountain routes resulting from massive snowing.

“If the weather gets very, very cold in the remote areas and if the aid doesn’t come, those families will be in danger of starvation,” Rahmatullah Zahid, disaster coordinator in Balkh province, told The Associated Press.

Balkh is among the 14 provinces hit by the current drought. Food shortages currently affect around 2.6 million Afghans.

Back in October, the United Nations appealed for $142 million to help these provinces, where up to 80 percent of non-irrigated field produced minimal to no crops. The United States, European governments and aid groups have so far promised $49 million.

Aidan O’Leary, who heads the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has underscored the need for increased focus on economic development, considering the recurring droughts in the area.

“What you’re dealing with here is basically trying to maintain a rural, agrarian lifestyle in a climate that might not be conducive,” O’Leary said. “What’s the solution? Are you looking at better seeds? … Are you looking at alternative crops? Are you looking at alternative livelihoods?”

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About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.