Some of the families could manage to take the remaining livestocks with them while escaping drought. Many families lost their livestocks or sold them away half price. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Some of the families could manage to take the remaining livestocks with them while escaping drought. Many families lost their livestocks or sold them away half price. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Drought-hit Afghans brace for harsh winter

NRC|Published 18. Oct 2018|Edited 17. Oct 2018
People displaced in Afghanistan’s worst drought-affected province, Badghis, urgently need food and better shelter to survive the upcoming winter months.

“We fear that cold and hungry children will be hit by winter illnesses leading to entirely preventable deaths,” warned Chris Nyamandi, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Afghanistan. “Temperatures have already dropped close to zero degrees at night and the next few weeks will be really testing for families with freezing temperatures coming up. 

People in displacement settlements in Badghis are sleeping in flimsy makeshift shelters that are ill-equipped to withstand Afghanistan’s harsh winters. In addition, once winter sets in the dry river beds where many displaced families are settled will swell with water and flash floods will dangerously compound the already dire situation for drought-hit communities. Water-borne diseases may become rife, and claim the lives of already malnourished, cold, displaced children.

"We came here and slept in the open with nothing but a tarpaulin over our head. My daughter first got pneumonia. Then she died," said young mother Sultana, 24. After being displaced two months ago because of the drought, she lost her three month old daughter due to the cold in one of the displacement settlements in Badghis.

Four years of failed rains have led to massive loss of livelihoods for half a million Afghans in the northwestern province of Badghis. Ninety-five per cent of the population there rely on agriculture, livestock and crops to survive. People have been left without enough food to feed their families. The upcoming severe winter months will likely deteriorate their situation.

Over 260,000 people have so far been displaced by drought across four provinces in western Afghanistan. Many families have been split up – some have left their homes to find assistance, while others have stayed behind in their villages.

“We cannot abandon Afghanistan at this critical junction. Better shelters must be built, and food stocks put in place, so families can survive the freezing months ahead. We have to ensure Afghans survive this winter despite the odds,” said Nyamandi.

Sultana, 24, (right in blue) and Hajira, 32, (left in dotted red)

 Sultana lost her three months daughter due to cold in one of the IDP settlement in Badghis, Afghanistan. The family have forced to come from Kharistan area to Qala-e-naw city due to sever drought some two months ago. 

"My little was fine before we left the village. We came here and slept in the open with only a tarpaulin over our head. My daughter got pneumonia at the beginning and latter she died," said her mother grieving.

"She cries all the day and often comes here to talk to me and forget about her daughter," Hajira mother of five said.

"She lost her daughter due to cold and it made me worried not losing my children," she adds. 

Hajira has five children and also a seven months pregnant. She asks for immediate shelter and winterization assistance as winter is looming. 

"We can't go back to our home because we can't find even a drop water as all wells and water sources have dried up," she said when we asked if they are planning to go back. Though the family do not have proper shelter in Sanjetak settlement, but they have been provided with water tracking and water tanks. 
PHoto: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Sultana (right) lost her three-month-old daughter after they fled to one of the settlements for internally displaced people in Badghis. "She cries all the day and often comes here to talk to me and forget about her daughter," Hajira (left) says. They cannot go home because all the water resources in their village have dried up. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC
Note to editors:
  • NRC has spokespeople available for interview in Afghanistan.
  • Photos of drought affected, displaced families in Badghis can be downloaded free here
  • Drone footage from families residing in displacement settlements in Badghis can be downloaded free here.
  • Filmed interviews and B-roll from families residing in displacement settlements in Badghis can be downloaded for free here.

For more information, please contact:

  • Global: NRC media hotline, info@nrc.no, +47 905 62 329