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UN warns of more flooding in Afghanistan


An Afghan man collects his belongings from his damaged home after heavy flooding in Ghor province in western Afghanistan, May 18, 2024.
An Afghan man collects his belongings from his damaged home after heavy flooding in Ghor province in western Afghanistan, May 18, 2024.

As the United Nations warns of more "intensive" floods affecting food security in Afghanistan in the coming months, experts say the country needs long-term planning to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.

The U.N. said that floods in the northeastern and northwestern provinces in the past two weeks have affected more than 80,000 people in the country.

Local Taliban officials in the western province of Ghor said Thursday that last week's flood in the province killed at least 50 people and damaged more than 4,000 houses and shops.

According to the U.N., floods on May 10 and 11 in the northeastern provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar and Baghlan killed 347 people and injured 1,651. The floods destroyed 7,800 houses, killed nearly 14,000 livestock and destroyed about 24,000 hectares of land in the three provinces.

The worsening climate crisis has brought about "the erratic weather pattern," which has "become the norm" in the country, according to the World Food Program.

"The affected people are living in districts with higher food insecurity," said Ziauddin Safi, a spokesperson for WFP in Afghanistan, adding that "the floods are caused by unusual rainfall after a dry winter that left the ground too hard to absorb the rain caused by climate crisis."

"Unfortunately, WFP expects more floods in the future," Safi added.

Afghanistan remains one of the world's most vulnerable countries to climate change, though it has one of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions.

People remove mud from the courtyard of their houses after floods in Maymana, the capital city of Faryab province, Afghanistan, May 19, 2024.
People remove mud from the courtyard of their houses after floods in Maymana, the capital city of Faryab province, Afghanistan, May 19, 2024.

According to the INFORM Risk Index 2023, the country is ranked fourth on the list of countries most at risk of a crisis.

Afghanistan is also one of the most vulnerable and least prepared countries on the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index.

Najibullah Sadid, an Afghan water specialist at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, told VOA that Afghanistan needs a long-term plan to mitigate the effects of climate change but that the country lacks resources.

"Unfortunately, without international economic support, implementing projects [to mitigate the effects of climate change] in Afghanistan is impossible," Sadid said.

He added that Afghanistan needs support from the U.N. Green Climate Fund and Loss and Damage Fund for Developing Countries.

Sadid said that Afghanistan has no capacity to prepare communities in the face of challenges caused by climate change.

Sadruddin Fakhruddin, a former Afghan official at the Ministry of Agriculture, told VOA that most of the affected people in the provinces depend on agriculture, and the floods "washed away the agricultural land and destroyed the irrigation system."

WFP has called for an additional $14.5 million to assist flood-affected people with "emergency food and nutrition assistance and resilience-building projects."

Even before the recent floods, the country was facing a humanitarian crisis.

WFP had requested $670 million for the first six months of 2024 to reach some 16 million people who needed food assistance in Afghanistan.

According to the U.N., 4 million people, including 3.2 million children under the age of 5, are malnourished in Afghanistan.

"Acute malnutrition is above emergency thresholds in 25 out of 34 provinces, and is expected to worsen, with almost half of children under 5 and a quarter of pregnant and breastfeeding women needing life-saving nutrition support in the next 12 months," according to WFP.

"Women and children were disproportionately affected by the floods as they were inside their homes during the heavy rains, while men sheltered in public buildings such as mosques," said the Gender in Humanitarian Action Working Group and the Women Advisory Group to the Humanitarian Country Team.

Fakhruddin said better management of resources is needed in the long term to mitigate the adverse effects of natural disasters in Afghanistan.

"In the short term, food security would be important; however, in the long term, issues such as reforestation, land and water management would need to be addressed."

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