An Afghan woman carries water home for drinking in western Afghanistan, the same water that is being used by animals. Photo credit: Enayatullah Azad /NRC

Severe drought threatens three million Afghans

Published 09. Jun 2021
Time is running out for more than three million Afghans likely to be acutely affected by a drought this year. The looming crisis comes on top of an already critical situation in Afghanistan, with worsening conflict and severe socio-economic impacts of Covid-19.

"This year's drought will be the final straw for millions of Afghans struggling to survive after decades of conflict and more than a year into the Covid-19 pandemic. Memories of being uprooted from their homes due to lack of water during the 2018 drought are still fresh in the minds of hundreds of thousands of people in the country," said Astrid Sletten, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) country director in Afghanistan.

More than 12 million Afghans – one-third of the population – now face 'crisis' or 'emergency' levels of food insecurity. This situation places Afghanistan among the top three countries with the highest number of people in emergency food insecurity globally. The number of people affected already exceeds levels seen during the drought in 2018, according to the new NRC briefing paper: Running out of time – A looming drought in Afghanistan. Three million people in the north and western provinces of the country face particularly dire consequences of the drought due to their reliance on farming.

"The sky has stopped raining on us, the earth has stopped growing grass for us, and eventually the government has also stopped helping us," said Abdul Baqi, 67, who was forced to leave his home during Afghanistan's previous drought and fears what will happen in the coming months.

Afghans in the worst-affected areas are already preparing for the full impact of this year's drought, having lived through the last one in 2018. They told NRC of having to sell off their livestock and household assets, even as prices for these were in freefall. The previous drought forced many people to borrow money and move to displacement sites to survive, as their fields dried up and livestock died from a lack of food and water. Many reported feeling left behind, and that few had received aid during the 2018 drought.

Aid organisations on the ground have learned from previous experience how to support people where they live to prevent displacement, while helping those who need to leave their homes to stay alive. Yet, they are running out of time to prepare because of limited funding and ongoing conflict. Halfway into the year, the humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan is only 16 per cent funded.

"Afghan authorities must take leadership of the response and ensure that we can meet the needs of those most vulnerable," said Sletten. "This is a preventable disaster. If we have the funding to prepare ahead of time, and the support of local and national authorities, we can help prevent countless Afghans from being hit hard by drought again."

Note to editors:

  • The full report, Running out of time – A looming drought in Afghanistan, is available here.
  • Photos from the drought's impact on communities in western Afghanistan are available and free to use here.

For interviews or more information, please contact:

  • Communications Adviser for NRC Afghanistan, Enayatullah Azad: email:, phone: + 93 (0) 72 893 2019
  • NRC's media team in Oslo: Email:, Phone: +47 905 62 329