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.


France preparing Channel Tunnel checks in case of ‘no deal’ Brexit

Updated 42 min 29 sec ago
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France preparing Channel Tunnel checks in case of ‘no deal’ Brexit

  • Nathalie Loiseau, France’s Europe minister, insisted Paris was “determined to have a good deal” with Britain on its departure from the EU
  • Brexit talks are on a knife-edge, with British Prime Minister Theresa May set to make a pitch to EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday

LUXEMBOURG: France is making urgent preparations for Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal, including imposing checks at the Channel Tunnel, a senior minister warned Tuesday.
Nathalie Loiseau, France’s Europe minister, insisted Paris was “determined to have a good deal” with Britain on its departure from the EU but said “no deal” preparations were under way.
Brexit talks are on a knife-edge, with British Prime Minister Theresa May set to make a pitch to EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday at a summit billed as the last chance to agree a draft deal in time for Brexit day on March 29.
European ministers have been keen to stress their desire to reach an accord with London but EU President Donald Tusk said in a letter inviting leaders to the summit that the “no deal” scenario was “more likely than ever before.”
Loiseau said “everything is on the table” and France had set up the mechanisms to pass emergency legislation to deal with the chaos expected in the event of “no deal.”
“We are prepared for all scenarios including the absence of an agreement,” she said as she arrived for a meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg.
“A few days ago I presented in cabinet a plan prepared with the foreign minister to allow us to legislate by decree, in order to take all necessary measures in case of no deal.”
The measures relate to French people in Britain and British citizens in France, she said — as well as the Channel Tunnel, which carries substantial numbers of passengers and quantities of freight each day.
“Clearly these (measures) will include everything to do with the Channel Tunnel — checks which could be necessary if there is no deal,” she said.
May on Monday admitted there was still “disagreement” over how to keep open Britain’s land border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, although she said a deal was still “achievable.”
Talks on Sunday between British Brexit minister Dominic Raab and the EU negotiator Michel Barnier ended without breakthrough on the Irish border issue.
London and Brussels say they want no checks imposed on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but the problem persists of how to square that aim with Britain’s decision to leave the EU’s single market and the customs union.