Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

Afghan children fill canisters with water from a water pump outside their temporary homes on the outskirts of Jalalabad. Files/AFP
Updated 27 May 2018
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Drought adds to Afghanistan woes

  • Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought
  • More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces

KABUL: Rain and snow are as important as peace for Afghanistan. But the landlocked and mountainous country this year had its lowest rainfall for years, causing widespread drought and leaving 2 million people facing food shortages.
Livestock in many areas have died, and some farmers have been forced to send their herds for pasture to neighboring Turkmenistan.
Thousands of people have left their homes already due to water shortages, with fears that the situation will worsen in autumn, Afghan and UN officials say.
Twenty of the country’s 34 provinces, including the northern region — Afghanistan’s food basket — have been badly affected, they said.
The aid-reliant Afghan government has begun delivering aid to affected areas. But assistance will be needed for months to come. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said rapid action was needed to enable delivery of food and water. More than $115 million was required for a six-month response in the 20 provinces, it said.
“Drought is gripping large parts of Afghanistan, with more than 2 million people expected to become severely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance for survival,” OCHA said.
“A quick, comprehensive response will enable the delivery of food and water to the rural villages and help to avoid the migration of families to cities where they risk losing all of their few possessions, and where they lack shelter and access to health facilities and schools for their children,” it said.
Water points and fountains across the country have dried up, and the lack of rain and snow melt has made rivers run low or dry up, the organization said.
About 1.5 million goats and sheep in northeast regions are struggling to find food and more than half of the 1,000 villages in the province are suffering from lack of water.
Intensified conflict in many parts of the country is worsening the effects of the drought, limiting communities’ access to markets.
In Helmand, village elders reportedly need to obtain special approval from the armed groups to access markets in areas under government control.
In Uruzgan province, people often cannot access the main market in Tirinkot due to fighting and insecurity on the roads to the provincial capital. Following a temporary closure of the road to neighboring Kandahar province in April due to fighting, wheat prices went up by 50 percent in the city, and the price for fresh produce quadrupled within days.
Engineer Mohammed Sediq Hassani, chief of planning in the government’s Disaster Management Department, said the drought has directly and indirectly taken the lives of dozens of people.

“The impact of drought in terms of taking lives is intangible and slow. An indirect impact can be the recent floods, which claimed the lives of 73 people. Floods happen when there is a drought because of the change of the climate,” he told Arab News.


Top anti-Taliban official killed in Kandahar shooting

Updated 9 min 12 sec ago
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Top anti-Taliban official killed in Kandahar shooting

  • Sources confirm death of police chief Raziq in targeted attack
  • Militant group claims responsibility for incident

KABUL: An anti-Taliban commander was killed in a shooting in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Thursday in an attack involving the United States’ top general in Afghanistan, sources said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident which claimed the life of police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq as he, US General Austin Scott Miller, the governor of Kandahar and a few other top officials were exiting the governor’s compound after a meeting, sources said.

Several local witnesses and two lawmakers from Kandahar confirmed Raziq’s death, while reports quoted Interior Minister Wais Barmak as saying that Kandahar’s governor and spy chief were also injured in the attack. 

While General Miller escaped unhurt, two US soldiers were injured and a local journalist was killed in the shooting. Raziq was the top anti-Taliban commander for Afghanistan’s southern region and was known to have survived several assassination attempts. He was on the militant group’s watchlist for using torture techniques against Taliban inmates, but enjoyed reasonable security in Kandahar.

Ahmad Shuja, an analyst, termed Raziq’s death as a big loss for the region. “And that's another big effect of Raziq's assassination: The Americans lost a steadfast ally with whom they had worked so well for so many years and on whom they had come to depend so much,” he said.

The attack comes a day after a parliamentarian candidate and another key anti-Taliban figure from the Helmand province was killed in his campaign office. It follows the deaths of a United Arab Emirates’ ambassador, along with five other UAE diplomats and a few local officials in January last year. They were killed by explosives hidden in a government building, in Kandahar.

Reacting to news of Raziq’s death, Omar Zakhailwal, Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, tweeted: “A dark day! Shocked & heartbroken by the demise of close friend, great patriot & national hero Gen Abdul Raziq who single-handedly restored stability to a volatile Kandahar and the greater south ...."