Introduction to Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia and borders Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China. Its population of of approximately 40.1 million, as of 20211 is about 74 percent rural. Afghanistan’s land surface includes considerable mountain cover and the southwestern plateau consists of large expanses of arid steppe and a significant desert region found in the southwestern plateau. The combination of increased temperature and the expansion of arid land threatens to displace the large rural population and increase heat stress in the major cities. Despite the urgent need to address the impacts of the climate crisis in Afghanistan, decades of civil war and foreign intervention have stalled the proper infrastructure development needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Mapping Climate Events & Climate-Induced Displacement

Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts in the world with a ranking of 176 out of 181 countries. Vulnerable populations such as small land holders and internally displaced persons are particularly susceptible to the impacts of the climate crisis2 . For example, from 2018 to 2019 Afghanistan faced one of its worst droughts in history. It was estimated that the drought displaced 371,000 individuals,3 and by November of 2019, had left 13.9 million experiencing food insecurity4 . The climate crisis has only continued to take its toll on the population since then. As of December 2020, there are roughly 1.1 million internally displaced persons in Afghanistan due to natural disasters alone5 . It’s estimated that 98% of the population are receiving insufficient nutrition6 , and that there are currently 23 million individuals at risk of starvation due to drought and economic turmoil following the Taliban resurgence in August of 2021.7 Among the ongoing food insecurity, there are only an estimated 0.39 hospital beds per 1000 individuals, meaning limited healthcare for the malnourished.8 Following the Taliban’s takeover, international humanitarian aid declined, and the economy crashed severely, causing mass unemployment and poverty. This has led to difficulties in importing necessities to the country and compounded food insecurity in the country.9

Mapping the Costs of the Climate Crisis

The GDP of Afghanistan was $14.7 billion and GDP per capita was $368.8 in 2021.10 Afghanistan’s economy is hampered by regular military conflicts between foreign and domestic actors spanning decades which prevents investment in climate mitigation and adaptation technologies and practices. During the 2018 to 2019 drought alone, the UN requested around $547 million USD in aid to address the food crisis.11 Currently, the UN predicts the coming winter could see widespread food and water insecurity, which could be alleviated by 200 million USD in humanitarian assistance per month.12 To mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis Afghanistan will need $6.6 billion while adaptation efforts will cost $10.8 billion. Adaptation-centered goals include increasing resilience, increasing access to water in rural areas, and adjusting land and water management to meet the ongoing needs of the country.13 The adaptation efforts aim to reduce food insecurity in Afghanistan. Without such investment Afghanistan is likely to face extreme weather conditions that will contribute to extreme food insecurity.

Mapping Resilience and Mitigation Pathways

Afghanistan has committed to reduce its carbon emissions by implementing reforms in the agriculture sector through a series of measures proposed in its Nationally Determined Contributions. The country intends to switch to cleaner energy, improving the efficiency of carbon-emitting activities, and implementing cleaner resource extraction techniques. Ongoing conflict and economic uncertainty remain the biggest obstacles to these mitigation and adaptation pathways. With the recent regime change, acquiring the necessary funding for these changes has become even more difficult. Other major barriers include limited expertise, low public awareness, and lacking historical climate-related data.14

Necessary Changes

Afghanistan already has to contend with numerous political, ecological, and humanitarian disasters. Now it is necessary for the international community to couple immediate access to aid with long term strategic mitigation and adaptation strategies to address the climate crisis. Water resource management, economic stability, and the protection of vulnerable groups such as women, must be at the forefront of international efforts to assist Afghanistan with the climate crisis. Internationally-backed adaptation and mitigation efforts should support the work already being done on the ground to ensure that affected workers’ voices are amplified in the process of just transition, and also help bolster the participation of directly impacted local communities in decision-making. Through this collaborative approach of capacity building for climate action, Afghanistan’s efforts to enhance water security can also be sustained and expanded.



  • 1“World Bank Open Data,” World Bank Open Data, accessed May 22, 2023,
  • 2Asian Development Bank, Climate Risk Country Profile: Afghanistan (Asian Development Bank, 2020),,
  • 3“IDMC’s 2019 Global Report on Internal Displacement - Excerpt,” n.d.,, 36.
  • 4“Afghanistan Humanitarian Needs Overview 2021 (December 2020) - Afghanistan | ReliefWeb,” December 19, 2020,, 7.
  • 5“ Afghanistan | IDMC,” accessed May 22, 2023,
  • 6Ibid.
  • 7“Eight Global Humanitarian Crises to Watch in 2022 - Afghanistan | ReliefWeb,” December 28, 2021,, see under “Afghanistan subheader.
  • 8“World Bank Open Data,” World Bank Open Data, accessed May 22, 2023,
  • 9“GIEWS Country Brief: Afghanistan 23-December-2021 - Afghanistan | ReliefWeb,” December 23, 2021,, see under “Record levels of food insecurity prevail” subheader.
  • 10“GDP per capita (current US$) - Afghanistan,” World Bank Open Data, accessed May 22, 2023,
  • 11“Drought Grips Large Parts of Afghanistan,” OCHA, June 6, 2018,
  • 12“Afghanistan: Country Must Have Access to Funds to Avoid Humanitarian Disaster - Afghanistan | ReliefWeb,” November 24, 2021,, see in paragraph two.
  • 13“Nationally Determined Contributions Registry | UNFCCC,” accessed May 22, 2023,, see “Executive Summary.”
  • 14Ibid. See under Climate Change Adaptation.