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Editorial: Troublesome cold spell

The relative dry spell compared to previous years since the beginning of the current Afghan solar year had troubled Afghans, particularly farmers, who feared water shortages and its effects on agricultural crops. Afghan masses would hope and pray for precipitation. But now in the winter season, the severe cold spell has proved deadly and troublesome. It has made the not well-off people distressed as avalanches triggered by heavy snowfalls killed 39 people, including 15 deaths in one night, across the country. Moreover, more than 300 houses are either destroyed or partially damaged throughout the country in the past few weeks due to avalanches, flooding and landslides – all of which are induced by the harsh winter. Most of these casualties have occurred due to thick snow collapsing roofs of mud homes while many people are left stranded by heavy snowfalls. The snowfalls are seen to have a positive impact on the country’s agriculture and have apparently contributed to the betterment of air quality in the country – particularly capital Kabul which was hit hard by pollution this year. However, with no proper response and disaster risk management, it seems the risks of snowfalls outweigh the benefits. This is while forecasts suggest that more harsh weather is on the way, meaning more lives would be threatened and financial losses inflicted on people.

As the cold snap and the issues triggered by it is a natural disaster, there can be nothing done to prevent it. However, its risks can be mitigated and those affected properly assisted. Therefore, the State Ministry for Disaster Management should spring into action to distribute winter aids and relief items, as well as initiate rescue efforts. Moreover, it should make all-out efforts to strengthen vulnerable areas and communities against disaster risks and must step up efforts to reduce vulnerabilities, mortality and economic losses stemming from inclement weather. Besides, the ministry should focus on contingency planning, otherwise this severe winter will take heavier toll on people in the mountainous terrain of our country for another two months.

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