Afghanistan on brink of climate catastrophe, UN warns

Photo: OCHA

On World Earth Day, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warned that Afghanistan is on the brink of a climate catastrophe and called for immediate action to bolster the country’s climate resilience.

The UNDP report highlighted that exacerbated by climate change, ongoing droughts threaten the survival and well-being of millions of Afghans reliant on natural resources. “That is why we must act now to support Afghanistan in building its climate resilience and securing a sustainable future for its people and the planet,” the report emphasized.

Afghanistan, a landlocked country in south-central Asia with a diverse population of approximately 38 million, has endured significant political turmoil and international sanctions that threaten to erode years of progress.

Ranked sixth among countries most vulnerable to climate change and fourth in overall disaster risk for 2023, Afghanistan has seen a temperature increase of 1.8°C since 1950 — higher than the global average increase of 1.5°C. This change has devastated agriculture and the agricultural value chain, which are pivotal to the country’s economy, and has amplified the impacts of conflict, poverty, and displacement.


The report noted that over 80% of the population depends on natural resources for their livelihoods, yet only 12% of the land is arable, with just 6% currently cultivated. Climate change is reducing the availability and quality of water, soil, and crops, significantly increasing the risk of hunger and malnutrition for millions.

Floods are a recurrent hazard, incurring $400 million in economic losses annually and affecting an average of 335,000 people due to inadequate infrastructure. The 2018 drought, which was particularly severe, impacted over two million people and caused massive displacements, disproportionately affecting the poorest Afghans — 85% of whom live in precarious conditions with limited resilience to climate hazards.

The UN highlighted the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai as a critical opportunity to address the impacts of climate change and enhance climate resilience in Afghanistan. “This is not merely a moral duty but also a strategic necessity for both regional stability and global security,” the report stated.

From 2022 to 2023, the UNDP has conducted community programs in 18 districts across 12 provinces, rehabilitating water infrastructure, irrigating over 225,000 hectares of farmland, and protecting 89,000 hectares from flooding.