Crystals of frost ran along the ridges of hundreds of tiny tents in a refugee camp just outside Qaleh-Ye Now in northwestern Afghanistan. Inside were families forced to leave their homes –– not because of a war in its 17th year, but because of what many in the province say is the worst drought they can remember.
In western Afghanistan, more than 250,000 people have been displaced this year alone. Badghis is one of the least developed provinces in Afghanistan and, like much of the country, is almost entirely reliant on rain-fed agriculture. With poor snowfall last winter and almost no rain over the summer, the effects of the drought have been more severe here than in any other part of Afghanistan.
Problems associated with the drought in Badghis have a way of compounding on themselves. With no harvest from their summer crops, farmers don’t have enough to feed their families or make an income, nor do they have seeds to plant for the next season’s crop.
“We’re shivering at night,” said Aziza, cradling her fourth child, Sohaila. “Water is coming from her nose but not from the sky.”
A few aid organizations, such as World Vision International, are providing flour to some of the 70,000 families in need of food in Badghis province. The Norwegian Refugee Council is also handing out cash grants to farmers to feed their families.
One 7-month-old baby, named Parwane, was found to be severely malnourished. Her mother, who was also starving, was unable to produce breast milk. Nurses weighed Parwane and measured the circumference of her upper arm before feeding her high-protein baby food.
The effects of the drought are only expected to worsen in 2019, with nearly half of all Afghans facing food shortages already.