Afghanistan - despite contributing very little to global emissions - has already been facing the growing impacts of climate change on a huge scale, yet is extremely ill-equipped to deal with the consequences. This means when volatile weather and natural disasters hit, men, women and children across the country are extremely at risk of losing their lives and livelihoods, and find it very difficult to recover.

What is climate change doing to Afghanistan?

Most of the time, extreme weather, natural disasters and other climate-related challenges experienced by Afghans are related to water: in recent years, many Afghans have experienced the fallout of consecutive droughts, flash floods, contraction of water-borne diseases and conflict over scarce resources.

In other words, whether there's too much of it or too little of it, the climate crisis in Afghanistan is being experienced as a water crisis. 


Afghanistan has experienced two consecutive harsh droughts in recent years, which has decimated agricultural production. This is because farmers do not have enough water to properly irrigate their land, meaning crop yields decrease and farmers are left unable to sustain their families. These droughts have therefore had a huge impact on the spiking levels of food insecurity in Afghanistan since 2021.

Due to decades of instability, there is also a lack of water storage systems in Afghanistan, meaning that when droughts hit and water is scarce, there are few reserves that can be utilised to minimise the impact. 

With the percentage of Afghan families experiencing drought conditions rising from 39% in 2021 to 64% in 2022, these climatic shocks are undoubtedly increasing in severity and frequency as a result of the climate crisis, and severely hampering access to water.


Due to these droughts, as well as destruction caused by conflict and deforestation, Afghanistan's land is extremely degraded. This makes floods extremely common in Afghanistan, because the ground struggles to absorb a sufficient amount of water, meaning melting snow caps or rainfall runs off of hillsides too quickly and into the villages below. This flooding, as well as threatening peoples lives, regularly sweeps away houses, livestock, and destroys agricultural lands.

To compound this, links have also been found between rising temperatures and a higher incidence rate of damaging locust swarms, with wet weather conditions such as those after floods creating the perfect environment for pests to multiply. Such a link further endangers rural livelihoods, with this year’s locust outbreak threatening up to a quarter of Afghanistan’s total annual wheat harvest.

Water-borne diseases

On top of this, many Afghan families are encountering illnesses caused by water-borne diseases. UNICEF now estimate that 8 in 10 Afghans currently drink unsafe water, meaning that millions of Afghan families risk contracting preventable illness daily in search of drinking water. Acute watery diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death in Afghan children under five. 

Scientists fear these diseases will increase because climate change may be changing the quality of water sources and disasters often contaminate water supplies. Eventually, infectious diseases, such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid - all of which are already very prevalent in Afghanistan, due to a lack of drinking water facilities in many remote areas - may become more common.

Conflict and instability

Afghanistan has faced conflict for over 40 years, but natural resource scarcity - namely the lack of available water for the land locked country - threatens to ignite clashes in local communities and with neighbouring countries. For example, in 2023 there have been growing tensions between Iran and Afghanistan over water rights related to the Helmand River.

To compound this, decades of political instability has contributed to the mismanagement of Afghanistan's waterways and pipe systems, leaving many families unable to access water even when supply is stable.

How do we solve a water crisis?

To reduce water crises, we have to help Afghan communities to adapt to become more resilient to the climate crisis.

Afghanaid leads large-scale climate adaptation and water and sanitation projects in six provinces across Afghanistan. Activities include:

  • Building and rehabilitating irrigation infrastructure: from canal cleaning to water reservoir construction, Afghanaid improves water storage and distribution infrastructure.
  • Livelihood support: this includes supplying drought-resistant wheat and training farmers in updated and climate-smart agricultural techniques which helps to reduce land degradation and restore biodiversity. We also support men and women to develop new vocational skills that reduces their sole dependency on the land.
  • Disaster risk-reduction: to minimise the damage caused when disasters strike, we work with communities to adapt their landscapes, constructing flood protection walls, gully plugs, digging trenches and terraces to help control floodwaters.
  • Community-based disaster management committees: with the aim of promoting social cohesion and the inclusion of marginalised community members, we form and support local governance groups to develop their skills in identifying and managing risks, democratically managing resources, and sustaining community infrastructure.
  • Improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities and knowledge: by delivering training on how to avoid water-borne diseases, providing water filters as well as building clean water and toilet facilities for communities, we help reduce the number of avoidable deaths and improve school attendance for young boys and girls.

What can I do to help Afghans battle climate change?

With your help and led by local peoplewe can ensure more communities have the knowledge, infrastructure and resilience to tackle the complex challenges they face as the climate crisis intensifies. Stand alongside communities in Afghanistan and donate today:

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