Dry winter threatens lives of 1 million Afghans, says UNICEF

Afghan children play on an abandoned armored vehicle in Kabul. A lack of rain, in late 2017 and early this year, is leading to food insecurity and water scarcity that could worsen the already high malnutrition rates among children in Afghanistan. (Reuters)
Updated 23 April 2018
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Dry winter threatens lives of 1 million Afghans, says UNICEF

  • A harsh winter has adversely affected much of Afghanistan and led to drought.
  • A drought emergency task force has been set up by the Afghan government to coordinate and align the response across all sectors, including education, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, food security and agriculture.

KABUL: A severe dry winter has affected 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, threatening the lives of 1 million Afghans, in addition to another 2 million who may feel its impact in the coming months as a hot summer approaches, UNICEF warned on Monday.

A lack of rain in late 2017 and early this year is leading to food insecurity and water scarcity that could worsen the already high malnutrition rates among children, UNICEF said in a statement.

Food insecurity and reduced access to safe water are beginning to take their toll on the 10 worst affected provinces where 20 to 30 percent of water sources are reportedly dry, the statement said.

“The impact on children could be devastating as these areas have pre-existing high rates of malnutrition. Without adequate nutritious food and safe water for drinking, as well as for hygiene and sanitation, children’s health will only worsen.”

“The extremely dry winter has affected 22 provinces in Afghanistan and now threatens to negatively impact the lives of one million people, with an additional 2 million who may feel its effects over the coming months,” it added.

The priority is to prevent the situation from deteriorating by responding to the needs of children and families in the worst affected areas, Adele Khodr, UNICEF representative in Afghanistan, said in the statement.

The organization said the impact of the drought could not have come at a worse time as cases of severe acute malnutrition — seasonal malnutrition — rise on average by about 25 percent each year in the summer months. Some 1.6 million children and 443,000 pregnant and lactating women suffer from malnutrition all over Afghanistan, notes the UN body.

A drought emergency task force has been set up by the Afghan government to coordinate and align the response across all sectors, including education, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, food security and agriculture.

Cattle and other animals have perished by the hundreds as a result of drought which has forced some farmers from northern areas to send their cattle into central Asia for survival and grazing, according to residents.

President Ashraf Ghani recently ordered the country’s agriculture ministry to distribute forage to farmers.

Due to bad crops and a lack of access to clean drinking water, an estimated 100 families from the Bala Murghab district of Badghis province have been forced to move to Herat to find alternative work, UNICEF said.

“The situation is further complicated as a result of escalating conflict that often occurs at this time of year, leading to increased displacement and reduced access for humanitarian workers,” it said.

Among the affected provinces are Badghis, Bamyan, Daykundi, Ghor, Helmand, Kandahar, Jawzjan, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Nuristan, Takhar, and Uruzgan which are in a state of critical priority for nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance.

Thirteen provinces, out of the country’s total of 34, received less than 30 percent of their average annual rainfall in the period October 2017 to the end of February 2018.

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At least 8 killed in blast near Kabul University

Updated 19 July 2019
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At least 8 killed in blast near Kabul University

  • No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack
  • Explosion happened when a number of students were waiting near the campus gate to attend an exam

KABUL: At least eight people were killed and dozens more wounded Friday when a bomb detonated near a major university in Kabul while students were waiting to take an exam, officials said.

The blast comes amid an unending wave of violence across Afghanistan, where civilians are being killed every day in the country’s grueling conflict, now in its 18th year.

The Taliban denied any involvement in Friday’s blast, which took place near the southern entrance to Kabul University, an official with the interior ministry’s media office said.

Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said the death toll had reached eight, with another 33 injured.

“Wounded patients have been receiving the required medical and surgical treatment,” he said on Twitter.

The heavily militarized Afghan capital remains one of the highest-profile targets for both the Taliban and the so-called Daesh group, with both regularly launching devastating attacks that often kill and maim civilians.

Bahar Mehr, the interior ministry official, said five people had been killed including a traffic police officer.

“The wounded were law students gathered for (an examination). We do not know how many students had gathered there,” he said.

The blast had been caused by a sticky bomb, he said, a common threat in Kabul where criminals and insurgents often slap explosives under vehicles.

Local media reports said police had been pursuing the vehicle when it detonated.

“The university and the examination ceremony were not the target of the attack, and we are investigating,” Firdaws Faramarz, Kabul police spokesman, told TV network TOLO.

Last week, Daesh claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at a wedding ceremony in Nangarhar province.

The hard-line Sunni extremists have a growing footprint in Afghanistan and the United States wants to leave a counter-terrorism force in the country to tackle them in the event of a peace deal with the Taliban.