By Abubakar Siddique
RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi
August 31, 2022
Mira Jan lost his home, crops, and livestock in the devastating floods that have struck large swaths of Afghanistan.
“Our house was swept away by the raging floods,” Jan, a farmer in the eastern province of Nangarhar, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi. “We were only able to save ourselves and our children. We have nothing to live off now.”
Jan is among the tens of thousands of Afghans affected by the deadly floods that have swept the country in recent weeks. Over 250 people have been killed and thousands of homes have been destroyed.
The floods have exacerbated the devastating economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that has been fueled by the Taliban’s seizure of power in August 2021.
Afghans are facing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with half of the around 40-million population threatened by starvation. Cut off from foreign aid and crippled by international sanctions, Afghanistan’s economy is on the verge of collapse.
The flooding comes as Afghanistan reels from a series of natural disasters. The country is in the midst of the worst drought for years. In June, a devastating earthquake killed at least 1,000 people in southeastern Afghanistan, where many are still relying on assistance to survive.
The United Nations’ humanitarian coordination organization, OCHA, estimated on August 30 that 256 people have been killed in the floods that have affected over 100,000 people in 32 out of the country’s 34 provinces. The worst hit areas are in eastern Afghanistan, including Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
The UN agency said the floods have damaged 34,000 hectares of agricultural land and killed 7,500 livestock. The floods struck during the summer harvest season, hitting the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.
Philippe Kropf, the head of communications at the World Food Program (WFP) in Afghanistan, said the natural disasters in the South Asian country have added to the “unrelenting hardship for populations already in terrible suffering.”
Katherine Carey, the deputy head of OCHA, said that, with 75 percent of Afghanistan’s rural population dependent on agriculture, the loss of farmland, crops, and livestock will have a lasting economic impact on livelihoods.
“Critical civilian infrastructure, including roads and bridges, have also been either damaged or destroyed, cutting people off from areas and restricting access to markets,” she said.
Experts say unseasonal rains this summer triggered the floods. The heavy rains on land dried up by years of drought also caused landslides.
The 256 people killed by flooding in Afghanistan this summer represents a 75 percent increase from last year, when 147 people lost their lives.
Afghanistan has also lost much of its forest cover during the last four decades of war, magnifying the impact of climate change.
Carey said that Afghanistan is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. She said vulnerable Afghans need longer-term reconstruction and development support.
OCHA said 85,000 people have received humanitarian assistance, including food, tents, health-care services, water, sanitation, and hygiene kits.
But the WFP said it needs $172 million to preposition food in rugged and remote areas before winter sets in.
Aid groups are now in a battle against time to reach vulnerable Afghans affected by the floods.
“The floods destroyed everything that we had built or invested in during the last few decades,” said Abdul, a farmer who lives in Shahwali Kot, a district in the southern province of Kandahar.
The floods have damaged over 100 hectares of farmland in the rural district.
In Nangarhar Province, Bibi Jamala is unsure how she is going to survive. “We are left with nothing,” the widow told Radio Azadi. “The flood washed away our home and all our belongings.”