Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

The Challenges of Winter Season in Afghanistan

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The Challenges of Winter Season  in Afghanistan

The natural challenges are usually high in Afghanistan but it is higher in the winter seasons. These challenges consist of road blockage, snowstorm, snow-slippage, human causalities, destructive floods, rise of goods’ prices and so on. In regard to route blockage, it includes the closure of central transit roads to provinces as well as blockage of provincial roads to the provincial centers due to the snowfall in some parts of the country, but flooding occurs in the south provinces which restrict people’s access to health care centers, markets and also traveling from one province to another. Though the quality of disasters management is poor in Afghanistan but it is poorer in winter seasons. According to the meteorological prediction, this winter Afghanistan will witness heavier rainfall and snowfall, and so we should not underestimate the danger of natural disasters and the vulnerability of people. Therefore, the State Department dealing with natural disasters should be more prepared to deal with the probable incidents in the coming weeks and months.
Based on primary reports, the recent snowfall has already affected some parts of the country. As quoted by media reports, it has already blocked several connecting ways and highways and also killed several people in various parts of the country. For example, 6 people lost his life in Kandahar province, 11 people died in Helmand and Herat provinces. As quoted by media reports, 6 family members died after the roof of a house collapsed In Kandahar province. Thus, 3 people died and 3 other injured in Kajaki district of Helmand province. In addition to the casualties in the two neighboring southern provinces, the floods are the biggest threat to the closure of districts’ connecting routes to the center causing the country’s citizens to live in a state of emergency.
Thus, the intensive snowfall has also affected the western provinces. For example, it has taken the life of 6 family members in district of Engil of Heart province after the roof of a house collapsed. Likewise, two others died in the Adraskan district of this province. In addition to the casualties in the province, the roads and highways leading to the province have also been blocked.
Meanwhile, Herat police have announced that highways leading to the province, including Herat-Turghandi, Herat-Islam Qala and Herat-Kandahar highways, have been blocked and Herat police have urged drivers to refrain from traffic in these areas.
There is also snowfall in the central provinces of the country but the winter is longer there due to the cold and mountainous regions. In spite of routes blockage in central areas, there is also risk of snowstorm and snow-slippage due to the fact that these areas are snowy for long period of this season. In recent years, the media have frequently reported the deaths of people in these areas as a result of snow-slippage. Recently, a car was stuck in Bamyan province but it was rescued by Bamyan officials. Currently, Bamyan’s communication way to Ghor and Dikundi has also been blocked. Due to the lack of proper roads and also mountainous features of these areas a little snowfall can also block the ways and so traffic accidents are high in these provinces even in summer.
The Ministry of State for Emergency Situations has declared that heavy snowfall is going on in 13 provinces while it has been raining in other provinces.  Therefore, the officials urged people to cooperate with officials in the area and report to officials if there are any issues. In the meanwhile, the Ministry of State for Emergency is expected to anticipate events and have pre-planned programs to prevent human casualties. In the other words, this ministry should not only have pre-designed programs but also need to have active and trained personnel and the required ability to prevent human casualties or rescue operations. Otherwise, just waiting for the events or taking actions after the events will not be useful and will not help people in emergency situation. 
The consequence of recent snowfall is not limited to blockage of roads and tolls in central, western and southern areas, but also disrupted traffic in Northern provinces. The media reports indicate that the Salang Tunnel, which connects nine Northern provinces with Kabul, is only open to small passenger cars and it is blocked on freight vehicles. Because of these issues the prize many food items have unprecedentedly increased in country, especially Kabul. In these circumstances, may opportunist traders misuse from the current situation and farther pressure the already poor people. So, the responsibility of the officials must not be confined to advising drivers in order not to forget using chains in their cars but they need to create a comprehensive program so as to tackle the challenges. From one hand, they should try to minimize the natural damages; on the other hand, they should not allow the free market elements to press the people in the freezing winter.
Last but not least, the Ministry of State for Emergency has the least allocated budget and facilities to cope with the widespread problems. According to current financial year budget, it has only 141 million budgets with 383 personnel which are never enough for the widespread challenges. So, it is neither enough budgets nor there are necessary equipments and infrastructure to carry out its responsibilities. Most often this agency is not able to carry out its responsible and so the police and army are invited to undertake jobs. Therefore, the natural and social incidents always impose heavy costs on the people.  In recent years, when several times markets or residential apartment caught fires it imposed millions of expenses on people but the Fire Department and the National Directorate of Natural Disaster were not able to put out the fire before it burn everything.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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