Photo: UNDP via X

On World Water Day, the UN Warns of Water Crisis in Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – On the occasion of World Water Day, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reports that Afghanistan is grappling with a dire water crisis, leaving approximately 79% of its population without adequate access to this essential resource.

In a statement on Friday, March 22, the UNDP emphasized that the water crisis in Afghanistan is not an individual issue. Instead, it is the outcome of several interlinked factors such as severe drought, economic instability, and prolonged conflicts, all of which have significantly impaired the country’s water infrastructure.

“The situation is further aggravated by the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events, which have led to the destruction of vital water sources and facilities,” the UN agency said.

According to the UNDP statement, in 2023, 67% of households in Afghanistan encountered difficulties due to drought, while 16% were impacted by incidents related to floods.

Afghanistan is facing one of the worst droughts, along with food and water shortages, in decades, amidst an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe that threatens millions of people across the country.

The Global Climate Risk Index says Afghanistan is the world’s sixth most affected country by climate-related threats.

Previously, the Taliban-controlled National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) reported that 21 million people in Afghanistan lack access to clean drinking water, attributing climate change as the primary cause.

The situation in Kabul and many other major cities has become increasingly concerning with the rising population. Many residents, without proper plans or monitoring from the municipality or government, have resorted to digging hundreds or even thousands of wells.

UNDP says that the water crisis disproportionately affects female-headed households, which face additional barriers in accessing public water facilities, thereby exacerbating their vulnerability.

“Water can create peace or spark conflict. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people struggle for access, tensions can rise. By cooperating on water, we can balance everyone’s water needs and help stabilize the world,” the UN agency said.

The water crisis in Afghanistan has worsened amidst the country’s most severe humanitarian crisis in decades. According to the UN, over 23 million people, nearly two-thirds of its population, require urgent humanitarian aid this year, with women comprising 52% of this figure.

In a social media post, UNDP reported that it has constructed and rehabilitated over 824 km of irrigation channels in Afghanistan. As a result, more than 17,000 hectares of agricultural land are now thriving, ensuring sustainable livelihoods and food security across the country.

“Over 4.4 million people now have better access to schools, health facilities, water points, and emergency shelters,” UNDP said.