Afghanistan: Multi-hazard risk assessment

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The impacts of natural hazards are increasing around the world due to population growth, urbanization, globalization, and climate change-induced changes in extreme weather (UNISDR and CRED, 2016). Poor and fragile countries are hit hardest by disasters, since the population has less ability to respond to and recover from such shocks (Hallegatte et al., 2015; Jongman et al., 2015). In addition, there is a strong relationship between fragility, conflict, and disasters. On the one hand, disasters caused by natural hazards can result in resource scarcity and social grievances, and are shown to significantly increase the risk of violent conflicts (Nel and Righarts, 2008; Xu et al., 2016). On the other hand, conflict and fragility increases social vulnerability and may therefore intensify disaster impacts.

Being both a natural hazard and conflict prone country, Afghanistan is highly exposed and vulnerable to disasters, including floods, earthquakes, droughts, avalanches, and landslides. An estimated 59 percent of the population is affected by climate shocks, whereas 19 percent suffers security-related shocks (The World Bank, 2016), with over 16,000 fatalities from floods and earthquakes since 1990. In addition to the impact on the population, natural hazards frequently affect economic sectors and major infrastructure. Prolonged droughts strongly affect agricultural production, especially since irrigation infrastructure is often lacking. Some of the major road transport corridors, such as the Salang Pass connecting Kabul to the northern regions, are closed off on an annual basis due to avalanches and landslides. Strong earthquakes occur every few years around Afghanistan—there have been around 100 damaging earthquakes since 1900 according to the CATDAT database (Daniell et al., 2011). In 2015, a Mw 7.5 earthquake in the Hindu Kush mountains caused 117 fatalities and destroyed over 7,000 houses (IFRC, 2015).

The effective management of disaster risk is therefore increasingly important to support the development and stability of Afghanistan. Over the past decades, disaster risk management in Afghanistan has been focused on response (Shroder and Shroder, 2014) and recovery (Sadiqi et al., 2017) to events. Recently, the Government of Afghanistan has started working more intensively with development partners—including the World Bank, United Nations organizations, and various NGOs—on prevention and preparedness activities. This includes construction of physical flood, landslide, and avalanche protection measures, as well as the implementation of community-based early warning systems.