(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Severe drought prompts flash floods

Flash waters damaging a village in the north of Kabul.
Noorullah Stanikzai/IRIN

The Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA) has said severe drought has led to the hardening of the land in the worst-affected provinces, thus increasing the chances of rain – even light rain - turning into flash floods.

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“Drought has dried bushes and plants which naturally resist the flow of water to some extent. It has also hardened the land and made it less absorbent,” Abdul Matin Edrak, the director of ANDMA, told IRIN in Kabul on 6 August.

The warning comes as light summer rain has reportedly caused flash floods in several drought-stricken parts of the country, adversely affecting people and their livelihoods.

“Even when there is light rain, it fast turns into instant flooding because of several factors resulting from drought,” Edrak said.

According to ANDMA reports, at least five people and hundreds of livestock have perished in flash floods in Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, Kunar, Nangarhar and Saripol provinces since 30 July.

Flash floods have also washed away houses, agricultural land, bridges and roads, ANDMA said.

Many areas are vulnerable to floods because over 60 percent of woodland has been lost in almost three decades of conflict. Poor preservation policies, poverty, and lack of awareness have not helped, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.

Worst drought since 2000

Parts of Afghanistan, mostly in the north and northeast, are suffering the most severe drought in at least the past eight years, according to satellite imagery by the US Geographic Survey.

“Summer temperatures have been high and are forecast to remain above normal in many lowland areas. These high temperatures increase water evaporation, affecting water availability for the autumn (September and October) planting season, particularly for winter wheat,” the Famine Early Warning System (FEWSNET) of the US Agency for International Development reported. 

The Agriculture Ministry said up to 80 percent of rain-fed agriculture had been adversely affected by drought, and land irrigated by means other than rain had also been affected to varying degrees.

“This, coupled with high food prices and ongoing conflict, has contributed to deteriorating food security,” FEWSNET reported in July.

To mitigate the most urgent humanitarian impacts of drought and high food prices the Afghan government and UN agencies have appealed for over US$400 million to assist 4.5 million of the most vulnerable people.

Meanwhile, the government has decided to import large quantities of wheat from Pakistan and other regional countries to meet domestic food needs.

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