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  • Farah Al Jallad

Crippled by Climate Change Afghanistan Falls into Deeper Catastrophic Crisis

Afghanistan's people are suffering due to 40 years of war, continuous natural disasters, rising poverty and now COVID-19. Currently, half of the country lives in poverty, with 14 million Afghanis experiencing hunger. Food security is essential for a functioning society, but climate change is continuing to put food production in jeopardy. As one of the most vulnerable countries globally, Afghanistan is struggling to deal with the deadly consequences of climate change amid the hardships of armed conflict.

According to experts, the country is currently undergoing one of the worst droughts in decades and is experiencing a significant decrease in water supplies. Afghanistan's most important crop, wheat, is expected to decline in production by nearly half due to dwindling water resources. Moreover, the extreme drought is also putting millions of livestock at risk of death.

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The severe droughts have also affected many families; almost three-quarters of the population relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture for income; the sector generates more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. As the Afghan population grows, a further decrease in agricultural farming could mean dire consequences.

Along with drought, agricultural land has also decreased by roughly 60% since 1978. Only 12% of the land is now suitable for cultivation. If no effort is made to minimize the risk of these disasters, more people will be driven deeper into poverty.

Scientists all around the globe agree that the increase in natural disasters is a result of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. “The change in rainfall pattern is a sign of climate change,” Najib Aga Fahim, former state minister for disaster management told The Diplomat. “In recent years, two out of three patches of glaciers in the Pamir and Hindu Kush [mountains] have melted. Winter snowfall is replaced with rainfalls that do not store. There are more flash floods.”

While Afghanistan’s people have contributed relatively little to climate change, they are forced to deal with the consequences. Although current forecasts show precipitation levels in the country staying somewhat consistent through the end of the century, warmer temperatures will cause greater evaporation resulting in a decline in life-sustaining water supplies.

Food scarcity isn’t only prevalent for civilians but also for soldiers and police forces. After being at war for nearly 20 years, soldiers are now struggling to fight on the front lines and are being worn down by hunger and fatigue.

As the U.S. military withdraws from Afghanistan after a 20-year effort to rebuild the country’s military, the Taliban is now taking control, triggering an alarming humanitarian crisis. The New York Times reported that Afghan soldiers are surrendering as they succumb to the pressures of fighting a war with no food and little ammunition.

In a recent interview, a colonel from the U.S. military scrutinized the Afghan forces for lack of responsibility, stating that “money cannot buy you commitment," but failed to mention the lack of necessary food resources driven by climate change. Receiving nothing more than slimy potatoes for daily rations, soldiers are fighting to survive the parallel adversities of both war and famine.


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