Does Afghanistan still matter to the world?
Afghanistan is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster and will collapse if any natural event occurs.
Apart from the geostrategic interest of various powers in Afghanistan, the country is more than that. Stability in Afghanistan is closely linked to the stability in the wider region of Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. This article will look into the perspective of disaster management and the forthcoming refugee crisis.
Afghanistan and Disasters are synonyms. It is a country prone to a number of natural and man-made disasters. The three main types of disasters Afghanistan frequently faced are landslides, avalanches, and flash floods. Since 2000, there have been about 9 major earthquakes that killed hundreds and displaced thousands of families.
In the overall ND-GAIN country index, Afghanistan ranks at 176 out of 181 countries. In readiness it is 182 out of 192 countries, in vulnerabilities, it ranks 171 out of 182 countries. The Notre-Dame-Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) 2018 is a measurement tool that helps governments, businesses, and communities examine risks exacerbated by climate change, such as over-crowding, food insecurity, inadequate infrastructure, and civil conflicts.
A mountainous country consists of more than 50% of the total land area lying above 6,500 ft. (2,000 m) that is a rugged, inhospitable landscape. A total population of 38,041,754 with a GDP per capita of only $502.12 ranked among the poorest countries in the world.
Within low-income countries, Afghanistan takes second place in terms of the number of fatalities from natural disasters between 1980 and 2015. For every 1 million inhabitants 1,150 people die in Afghanistan, 50% of these fatalities are from geophysical and weather-related events, respectively.
Decades of civil war, continuous environmental degradation as well as, lack of disaster management apparatus at any level have all contributed to the increasing vulnerability of the Afghan people to natural disasters. Furthermore, extreme poverty and diminishing international financial support all add to the burden of natural disasters on the people of Afghanistan.
The recent conflict escalated after the sudden departure of the US Army from the country. The fight erupted in several cities and thousands of people fled under the fire and have now been displaced internally.
With no functional central government out of a few bigger cities, a slightest of a natural event can be blown up to a full-scale disaster. The absence of government apparatus at the province and local level is itself a disaster in the making.
A humanitarian disaster of the decade.
The summer season, when the ice melts in the mountains, is also a landslide and flooding season in Afghanistan. A single disaster can lead to mass migration to neighboring countries. The international community already stressed under the COVID-19 pandemic response will not be able to deploy the needed resources to conflict-ridden regions of Afghanistan.
People who leave their houses and migrate, the misery will not end there, it has just started. Neighboring Pakistan bore the major burden of Afghan refugees in the past forty years. There are still around three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan and no sight of going back to Afghanistan. Some of them who have never been to their homeland was born and raised in Pakistan. Many players of Afghanistan’s International cricket team were raised in refugee camps in Pakistan and learned their first lessons of cricket there.
Neighboring Pakistan and Iran cannot afford to host more refugees due to their own unstable economies. The bordering regions in Pakistan also went under the spell of terrorism from 2004 to 2014. These districts are going through the redevelopment phase and cannot afford to take millions of depilated refugees again.
What should be done?
The poorest of the poor are suffering and will suffer more in Afghanistan. And, this is the time the world community should act.
Time and again studies have shown the socioeconomic conditions are the biggest reason the youth are inclined to join terrorist organizations. There is not one but multiple terrorist organizations operating in the wider region. Who will stop another Afghan generation to become foot soldiers in imminent civil war and proxies of regional power?.
International intervention is needed right now. Not to stop the eminent civil war, but more to save young Afghans from a humanitarian crisis and becoming the fuel of the grand game.
In 2001, when the coalition under the USA removed the Taliban government, Afghanistan only had fifty kilometers of paved road. Twenty years ago, few hundred girls were in the schools, now roughly 9 million children in school in Afghanistan today, as many as 3.5 million — roughly 40 percent — are girls. In the past twenty years, a lot of progress in infrastructure and institution building has been made. This should not go in vain.
A natural event (disaster) in times of an ongoing civil war will be more deadly than the normal times. The suffering of Afghan people can be minimized by creating awareness and taking the disaster management apparatus at the community level by including them into a suitable warning system, disaster preparedness, and management of disasters through the application of information technology tools.