This year I have written several articles about the drought in Afghanistan and the resulting food shortages. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will be providing aid to over 2 million Afghans in the drought zone during the coming months. This is on top of WFP’s existing mission to feed over 7 million Afghans who are hungry and malnourished. WFP depends on voluntary donations but so far is low on funding for its Afghanistan mission. Here is a series of photos taken by Silke Buhr of WFP which shows one of the drought hit areas.
This should be a wheat field, but nothing has been harvested from here this year. The poorest farmers don’t have any irrigation systems for their fields and rely entirely on rain – which came late and sparse in the winter of 2010/2011. In the 14 provinces of Afghanistan affected by the drought, farmers have lost an average of 80 percent of the rain-fed harvest. (WFP/Silke Buhr)
“I don’t remember it ever being this bad,” says Murat, the leader of the Tartarchal village in Khoram Sarbagh, Samangan province. “13 of the 15 wells in the village have dried up. 400 families are relying on two wells. There is no fodder for our animals. We have nothing left to sell or trade for food.” (WFP/Silke Buhr)
In the isolated villages of the drought-affected areas, people have to walk for hours or days to find water and fodder for their livestock. Many have sold their animals – their main source of income. Assessments show that some 2.8 million people have been affected by the drought. (WFP/Silke Buhr)
Mazuri-Bibi is in her kitchen with her two children. Here entire food stocks are here: a bag of wheat from last year’s harvest, which will last her a month. She is a widow and there is no work for her in the village, so she relies on the charity of her fellow villagers to get by. (WFP/Silke Buhr)
There is still some greenery in Aybak City, the capital of the Samangan province, but water level of the Aybak River is noticeably low. (WFP/Silke Buhr)
Young men in the drought-affected villages are leaving home to look for work to support their families. With the crop failure, there is little need for agricultural labour this year, so they have to travel to cities or neighbouring countries to look for casual work. (WFP/Silke Buhr)
WFP is preparing an emergency operation to assist some 2.4 million people with food and cash vouchers to help them get through until the next harvest. Assistance will begin with general food distributions to help people get through the harsh winter months, and then transition into food for work projects in the spring that will help people improve their food security by improving farming infrastructure, such as irrigation systems. WFP needs US$ 117 million to implement these plans. (WFP/Silke Buhr)