Photo: AfghanistanNDMA

Winter Kills 60 People in a Month, Says Taliban      

VANCOUVER, CANADA – The Taliban’s Ministry of National Disaster Management says that winter weather has claimed the lives of 60 people in the country in less than a month.

Janan Sayeq, spokesperson for the ministry said today, March 13 released a video statement in which he reported the casualties caused by severe weather conditions. According to him, another 23 people have been injured.

After a multi-year drought, Afghanistan is experiencing a surprisingly cold winter. Although the precipitation has made many hopeful about a better crop season this coming spring, heavy snowfalls, rain, and cold weather has also left damages behind.

Major transportation routes on key highways have been disrupted several times; cold weather have taken human lives and killed livestock and; rainfalls have caused floods destroying arable land and houses.

The Salang pass which connects the northern provinces to the South and the capital Kabul have been closed several times. According to Abdul Hakim Agha, head of the tunnel’s maintenance authority, the tunnel that penetrates through the Hindu Kush mountains was closed as recently as Monday night due to heavy snowfall.

Taliban officials say nearly 180,000 livestock have perished in this winter season that is coming to an end in a few weeks in most parts of the country.

According to Mr. Sayeq, a total of 1,645 houses have been destroyed either entirely or partially due to heavy rainfalls in the past month.

Yesterday, March 12, local sources from Herat province reported on destruction of homes and death of seven people due to rainfall. The heavy rainfall which began overnight on Monday, March 11, caused the collapse of house roofs in Herat city and the surrounding districts.

The scale of the destruction and people’s suffering have challenged the ability of international humanitarian organizations who bear the brunt of aid delivery and the Taliban administration to attend to those in need. Difficulty in reaching people in mountainous areas and lack of funding in the face of a multidimensional humanitarian crisis have pushed millions to the brink.

The Taliban spokesperson said that the group has managed, in cooperation with international relief agencies, to distribute food and cash assistance to more than 220,000 families.

Particularly vulnerable were the victims of the October earthquake in Herat which left tens of thousands of families without a shelter and the refugees deported by neighboring Pakistan and Iran ahead of the harsh winter.

The World Health Organization announced last fall that nearly 10 million people in Afghanistan had lost access to life saving support due to funding shortfalls.

Although the winter has brought the much needed snow, it is yet to compensate for the severe drought that started in 2019.  Experts still predict that precipitation will be well below average in the upcoming harvest season.

Afghanistan celebrates the equinox on March 22nd as the end of winter, after which the plantation season starts in most parts of the country. Just a week ahead of the ancient Persian new year, Nawroz, snowfalls as heavy as the country has witnessed are mostly unprecedented.