Update on Afghanistan drought 21 Jun 2001

For the past 20 years, Afghanistan has represented one of the most serious challenges to international aid agencies. Ongoing conflict and deprivation means that Afghanistan has one of the worst poverty levels seen in any country in the world today.

What is the new situation?

The second severe drought in two consecutive years is now compounding the problems facing Afghans, and it is becoming clear just how serious the food crisis has become.

The predicted output of cereal crops in 2001 has dropped by one third compared to 1999. Even allowing for the commercial imports and food aid already planned, over 1 million additional tonnes of cereals are required if the country is to avoid widespread hunger and loss of life. Ironically, the great successes made in the past year in reducing the opium crop have resulted in a loss of income for rural households at a highly vulnerable time. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that up to 5 million people have little or no access to food and will require international humanitarian food aid, and has launched an appeal for $76 million to target those worst affected.

At least 160,000 people have already left their homes due to lack of food, roughly half crossing into Pakistan, and others moving to seek assistance within Afghanistan, many into camps near Herat, Western Afghanistan. As well as meeting the needs of those already displaced, aid agencies are particularly concerned to provide assistance in rural areas to prevent even more people leaving their homes.

What is CAFOD doing in response?

Currently, CAFOD does not have an ongoing programme of work in Afghanistan, as in recent years we have focused on other countries. However, CAFOD has previously provided humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, including in response to the earthquake in Takhar, north-east Afghanistan which occurred in February 1998.

In the light of the seriousness of the current drought we have been monitoring the situation closely, and have established links with partner organisations, such as Christian Aid, who are in a strong position to respond effectively over the next 12 month period.

Other issues


In central and north eastern areas, continued conflict between the Taliban and Northern Alliance forces continues to contribute to the problems affecting ordinary Afghans. However, the principal cause of displacement across the country at the moment is not conflict but a lack of food caused by drought.

Human rights

Both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance have been criticised on their respective human rights records, with much associated media coverage. While these issues are of great concern, it is vital that discussion of these issues does not obscure the primary concern of humanitarian aid agencies to address the current threat to life and livelihood of millions of Afghans.

CAFOD, Romero Close, Stockwell Road, London, SW9 9TY
Tel: 00 44 20 7733 7900
Fax: 00 44 20 7274 9630