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10 Million Afghans Need Urgent Help After Floods, Drought

FILE - Internally displaced Afghan family sits inside a tent at a refugee camp in Herat province, Afghanistan, Oct. 14, 2018.
FILE - Internally displaced Afghan family sits inside a tent at a refugee camp in Herat province, Afghanistan, Oct. 14, 2018.

An estimated 10 million people in Afghanistan, more than a quarter of its population, are facing “severe acute” food insecurity and are in need of urgent “life-saving” humanitarian assistance in the wake of recent floods and drought, warns an international relief agency.

Three years of drought have contributed to massive crop failure, economic hardship, hunger and loss of life, and forced 266,000 people from their homes, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in a statement issued Thursday.

In the outgoing month of March, it noted, extreme weather deepened extreme hardship, when above normal rain and snow fell on soil with limited vegetation or ability to soak up the water, bringing flash floods to nine provinces in Afghanistan. The calamity killed 63 people and displaced at least 281,000 to makeshift camps with inadequate services.

Rising temperatures due to climate change are increasing the hardship for Afghans because they are leading to changes in snowmelt, and rainfall is getting more erratic, with an increased risk of floods and droughts in a country where repeated disasters and ongoing conflict have eroded the people’s capacity to cope, the agency said.

“The floods should be the wake-up call that triggers a massive investment to help people who at the moment are out of sight in an under-estimated, silent crisis with limited access by humanitarian agencies or media,” said Ariel Kestens, IFRC country chief.

“They are out of reach because of conflict and out of scope because this is a large, slow-onset disaster, and because many people in need are displaced by disaster,” Kestens added.

Aid workers note that across many parts of Afghanistan, people suffer from a lack of safe water, proper sanitation and healthcare, which contribute to catastrophic levels of malnutrition.

The United States this week also announced more than $61 million in additional humanitarian assistance for providing emergency food assistance, nutrition services, hygiene kits, safe drinking water, access to latrines and protection for people in the worst affected Afghan regions.

The U.S. has provided more than $293 million in financial relief to the crisis-hit country since the fiscal year 2018, making it the single largest donor of humanitarian assistance. Washington has recently also stepped up diplomatic efforts to seek a political settlement to the conflict with the Taliban.

Afghan civilians continue to bear the brunt of the 18-year-old war that continues to kill and injure record numbers of civilians and displace tens of thousands of families.