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Monday, 10 April, 2000, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
UN warns of Afghan drought
Woman washing clothes
Water is running out in southern provinces
By Kate Clark in Kabul

The UN has warned of a possible water emergency in southern Afghanistan.

It says the drought could result in crop failure in the region which is the country's breadbasket.

After an exceptionally dry winter, people here are anxiously quoting an old saying: "Kabul can survive without gold, but not without snow".

Snowfall on the high mountains usually provides meltwater for irrigation and spring rains should replenish rivers and reservoirs.

But not this year.

The period for rain will soon be at an end and the next rains aren't expected until December.

Locals in the southern city of Kandahar, stronghold of the Taleban movement, say it is the worst drought for 40 years.

Pumps are either running dry or supplying undrinkable water.

At the moment, the UN says, water seems to be available at deeper levels.

Nomads in the south and west are selling their animals because they can't find water or grazing for them - that is if they have any animals left alive.

The UN says some nomads in desert areas have already lost all their stock.

Poor harvest

Most Afghans are completely reliant on the food they grow.

Some are facing their third poor harvest in a row and have no resources to fall back on.

Families are looking to send their young men abroad to work, but with Iran clamping down on Afghan immigrants, even that escape route may be blocked.

The UN and other non-governmental organisations have formed a taskforce to respond to the drought.

There is already an emergency feeding programme in three southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Zabol providing food for 40% of the population.

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See also:

20 Dec 99 | South Asia
Afghanistan's mindless war
28 Nov 99 | South Asia
UN aid for Afghan refugees
15 Aug 99 | South Asia
UN concern for Afghan civilians
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