1.1 Afghanistan Humanitarian Background

Disasters, Conflicts and Migration

Natural Disasters



Comments / Details



There have been several seasons of drought in Afghanistan in recent decades. According to an analysis of climate and drought records by Asia Development Bank, localized droughts have a periodicity of three to five years. Droughts covering large areas recur every 9-11 years.

South and central areas are more affected. Dry season is July to September.



Afghanistan is situated on a major plate boundary. The location of the country is on the boundary where two tectonic plates, the Iranian Plate and the Eurasian Plate, meet.

List of events:



  • 21 June 2005- Cholera in Afghanistan
  • 29 August 2003 - Diphtheria in Afghanistan
  • 21 January 2003 - Pertussis in Afghanistan - Update
  • 8 January 2003 - Pertussis in Afghanistan
  • 17 July 2002 - Acute watery diarrhoeal syndrome in Afghanistan
  • 22 May 2002 - Leishmaniasis in Afghanistan
  • 26 July 2001  - Cholera in Afghanistan
  • 12 September 2000 - Cholera in Afghanistan
  • 24 August 2000 - Acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome
  • 11 July 2000 - Acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome in Afghanistan
  • 19 June 2000 - Acute haemorrhagic fever syndrome in Afghanistan
  • 24 February 2020 - Covid 19

Extreme Temperatures


Recurrent. Several documented events. Cold waves and extreme winter conditions affects thousands people.



74 documented events since 1900. Flash Flood and General flood. Most probable between February and May. Northern, Western and North Eastern regions are prone to severe flooding resulting in erosion, destruction of infrastructure and agricultural land.

Insect Infestation






Volcanic Eruptions




High Winds



Other Comments

Afghanistan is prone to earthquakes, floods, droughts, landslides, and avalanches. Over three decades of conflict, coupled with environmental degradation, and insufficient investment in disaster risk reduction strategies, have contributed to increasing vulnerability of the Afghan people to cope with the sudden shock of natural disasters. On average, such disasters affect 200,000 people every year.


Other Information Sources:

Man-Made Issues

Internally Displaced Persons


Cumulative figures of people displaced by conflict over the past 15 years amount to approximately 1.1 million people. Because of widespread and increased conflict, figures for 2015 suggest that the number of people who fled their homes to escape armed violence and seek refuge had increased by 64% compared to the same period in 2014; this amounts to almost 200,000 people in one year. The reporting and verification of the total numbers displaced is constrained due to the ability of humanitarian actors to access insecure and contested areas.

Refugees Present

Yes, internal returnees

In the second half of 2016, there was a sudden surge in the number of Afghan refugees returning from Pakistan. Some 370,000 Afghan refugees returned from Pakistan, compared to some 55,000 in 2015, marking a ten-year high. The massive increase of returns from Pakistan was due to a combination of complex factors. UNHCR post-return monitoring showed that returnees face many reintegration challenges, including lack of land, shelter and livelihood opportunities.

Landmines / UXO Present


Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Landmines pose an ever-present danger to civilians.


Afghanistan has been in protracted conflict for over four decades, which has seriously hampered poverty reduction and development, strained the fabric of society and depleted its coping mechanisms.  

Since 2001, international aid efforts have considerably scaled up and so has international military intervention. Human development indicators show some improvement in absolute terms particularly over the last ten years.  However, Afghanistan remains ranked in the bottom decile of countries in the global Human Development Index at 169 of 189.      

Afghanistan is prone to recurrent natural disasters.  Given this underlying fragility – at the economic, political and security levels – the country is not able to cope with the consequences of such disasters, which puts additional strain on humanitarian actors working on the ground.

Seasonal Effects on Logistics Capacities

Seasonal Effects on Transport

Transport Type

Time Frame

Comments / Details

Primary Road Transport

October - April

In general, transportation is hindered due to heavy winters. In some areas the landslide and flooding slowdown the transportation.

Secondary Road Transport

October - April

Secondary roads transportation is hampered due to rain, snow and floods. Heavy weight vehicles traffic associated with rain/snow, in mountain areas deteriorates the road condition. Due to mountainous topography of the country, the road network is poor with muddy, Low-lying areas are prone to blockage by landslides/avalanches and destruction by floods during the rainy periods.

Rail Transport


Afghanistan has three short distance railroad lines in the north of the country. The first is between Mazar-i-Sharif and the border town of Hairatan in Balkh province, which then connects with the rail network of neighbouring Uzbekistan. The second links Toraghundi in Herat province with Serhetabat in Turkmenistan. The third is between Aqina in Faryab province and neighbouring Turkmenistan.

The country currently lacks a passenger rail service.

The three lines operates nonstop throughout the year with no seasonal hindrance.

Air Transport


Flights are taking place throughout the year, however during the harsh winter season some small domestic airports are blocked whilst the international airports reopens shortly. Another point to take note of is the huge congestion of passengers in international airports during Haj season.

Waterway Transport


The only city connected to a navigable waterway is the Northern city of Hairaton.

Meteorological Conditions

Afghanistan has four seasons. In the mountains and a few of the valleys bordering Pakistan, a fringe effect of the Indian monsoon, coming usually from the southeast, brings moist maritime tropical air in summer. Summers are hot and winters can be bitterly cold. Summer temperatures as high as 49° C (120° F) have been recorded in the northern valleys. Midwinter temperatures as low as -9° C (15° F) are common around the 2000-m level in the Hindu Kush. The climate in the highlands varies with elevation. The coolest temperatures usually occur on the heights of the mountains. Temperatures often range greatly within a single day. Variations in temperature during the day may range from freezing conditions at dawn to the upper 30° C (upper 90° F) at noon. Most of the precipitation falls between the months of October and April. The deserts receive less than 100 mm rain a year, whereas the mountains receive more than 1000 mm of precipitation, mostly as snow. Winds sweeping in from the west may bring large sandstorms or dust storms while the strong solar heating of the ground raises large local whirlwinds. 

Western & South Western Region

Winter is usually severe with of up to two meter high snow in mountainous areas resulting in inaccessible roads. Summer period are extremely hot reaching temperatures in excess of 50° Celsius causing water shortages. The weather and rain during springtime is moderate. During autumn, all roads are still accessible.

Eastern Region

Winter is usually severe with high snow in mountainous areas of Nuristan Province, resulting in inaccessible roads. Summer period is an extremely hot reaching temperature in excess of 50 Degree Celsius causing water shortages. The weather and rain during springtime is moderate. During autumn, all roads are still accessible.

Northern Region

The climate is typical of an arid or semiarid savannah, with cold winters and dry summers. The climate of the Turkistan plains, which extend northward from the Northern Foothills, represents a transition between mountain and savannah climates. Aridity increases and temperatures rise with descending altitudes, becoming the highest along the lower Amu Darya and in the western parts of the plains. Every year the snowfall in Faryab, Sar I Pul and Samangan becomes hardly accessible whilst some remote districts of Faryab and Sar I Pul provinces become inaccessible.

Central/Central Highland

Central Highland is a cold and winter hit area with a long winter period. It has four seasons, which is dry in fall and very cold winter with heavy rains at the beginning of spring. The temperature gets hot during the summer time.

UN agencies in Afghanistan/UN Country Team

  • UNDP (United Nations Development Program)
  • OCHA (UN Office Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)
  • UN-HABITAT (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements)
  • UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme)
  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
  • UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund for Afghanistan)
  • UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees)
  • OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
  • UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund)
  • UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization)
  • UN WOMEN (United Nations Development Fund for Women)
  • UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)
  • UNOPS (UN Office for Project Services)
  • UNMAS (United Nations Mine Action Service)
  • WHO (World Health Organization)
  • WFP (World Food Programme)
  • ILO (International Labour Organization)
  • IOM (International Organization for Migration)
  • FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)
  • MACCA (Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan)
  • FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization)
  • UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan)

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