Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan twenty years ago, most of the Western discussion about the country has had to do with terrorism, security, and governance. Understandably, perhaps, much less attention has been given to the most pressing material needs of ordinary Afghans, especially food security, which is now being threatened as never before by climate change.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, Afghanistan is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change—and, in particular, to droughts and floods. Very little of the $2 trillion spent by the United States in Afghanistan since 2001 has been used to help the country’s mostly rural population adapt to the changing conditions that affect their livelihood. In 2018, a drought forced 295,000 Afghans to abandon their homes in search of food and water. Families who could no longer support themselves on the land fled to camps of internally displaced people near big cities. Many of these families have pulled their daughters out of school and married them off in return for a “bride price.” The education of girls is imperiled not only by the Taliban but also by extreme poverty.
The following photos were taken in Bamyan Province in 2019, while the war was still raging. Now that the Taliban have regained control of Afghanistan and the United States and its allies have left, it remains to be seen how much foreign aid will reach the Afghans who need it most on land scarred by forty years of war and now threatened by global changes beyond their control.