Tens of thousands flee drought-stricken region in Afghanistan
KABUL, May 10 (AFP) - The entire population of the Registan desert in southern Afghanistan has fled as a drought, described as the worst in 30 years, hit the war-ravaged country, a UN report said Wednesday.
It said the hardest hit areas were Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Uruzgan and Nimroz provinces.
But it expressed concern over possible scarcity of food and fodder all over Afghanistan as a moderate drought was affecting much of the rest of the country.
The United Nations report said inhabitants of the Registan desert migrated after their water sources dried up.
It did not give a figure but Abdul Hai Mutmaen, a spokesman for the ruling Taliban militia, said around 300,000 families had been evacuated from Registan to neighbouring Herat and other adjacent provinces.
The UN said owners of livestock, especially nomads and farmers dependent on rainfall, were seriously affected by the drought.
"The mortality rate amongst livestock in the most affected parts of Afghanistan is estaimated to be in the range of 50 per cent to 60 per cent," it said.
The report said the impoverished central region of Hazarajat might also be badly hit by the drought in coming months, which could trigger an influx of people from rural areas to Kabul.
It warned that shallow wells in the Taliban's Kandahar headquarters were drying up as the water table dropped and, if the drought continued, a water crisis could grip the city, 90 percent of whose population relies on the wells.
However, the Taliban, which controls most of the country, criticised the UN for not taking "practical measures."
"There are enormous problems in terms of lack of water for drinking and irrigation in many parts of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabdul and Uruzgan," Mutmaen said.
"The local people are upset why the United Nations and other international aid groups have not done something practical," he said.
Mutmaen said Taliban helicopters and tankers were supplying drinking water to affected villages.
Farmers in Kabul also said the drought had affected vegetable and wheat cultivation.
"There is no water even to purchase for our small gardens," Mohammad Ehsan, a farmer in Sarasiab village south of Kabul said.
Taliban officials on Tuesday said at least 25 people, most of them children, had died of dehydration and hunger in the drought-stricken regions.
The deaths over the past few weeks were reported in Shorabak and Hazarajuft districts of Helmund where a Taliban-sponsored mass evacuation is underway, they said.
Some 4,000 families have been evacuated from the worst-affected areas in Helmund to other places in Afghansitan, Taliban officials said, adding that another 1,200 families moved across the border into the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, which is itself reeling under the effects of the drought.
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