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Drought-hit Afghans brace for harsh winter

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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 Afghan’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.

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