The UK-based international development agency Christian Aid has handed over more than ¬£600,000 for emergency projects to help people devastated by drought in Afghanistan, as part of a global relief effort.
Nearly two million people face difficulties because of the drought throughout the north, west and central regions, which began when the rains failed in April and May 2006.
A Christian Aid assessment of the drought in five northern and western provinces showed that farmers lost between 80 and 100 percent of their crops in the worst affected areas and water sources in many villages had dried up.
In the village of Sya Kamarak, in western Afghanistan, three children died on the same day last month.
There were no medical reports to confirm the cause of death ‚Äì the parents were too poor to take them to the clinic which is a day‚Äôs walk away. But it is highly likely they died of malnutrition.
Jan Bibi, aged 40, said she had been feeding her three-month-old daughter Nazia with just boiled water and sugar because she had nothing else.
She said: "My baby died because of inadequate food. I wanted to breastfeed her but I was not producing enough milk."
Jan Bibi‚Äôs surviving twin daughter Merzia is the size of a newborn baby rather than a three month old and cries continually for food.
‚ÄòShe added: "I am worried about my baby,‚Äô she said. ‚ÄòThe future is dark because we don‚Äôt have food or water or fuel for heating. We have to walk for four hours to get to the nearest fresh water. We don‚Äôt know how we will survive."
Those most at risk live in areas that are largely dependant on rain-fed agriculture and the rearing of livestock. Livestock, which are often the only source of income for their owners, are either dying of thirst or being sold in desperation.
People are surviving on limited rations of flour left over from last year and as winter approaches many villages in more remote areas will get cut off by snow and aid will not be able to get through.
Not only is food scarce, but each day children as young as six are sent to collect water from taps or wells up to three hours away.
Christian Aid projects include distributing food and animal fodder, digging wells, training women in carpet weaving so they can earn money and counselling.
A partner organisation, ADHAA (Agency for Humanitarian and Development Assistance for Afghanistan) is working in Sya Kamarak and nearby villages to provide fresh water through wells or laying pipes.
ADHAA is trying to work on long term irrigation projects as the droughts in Afghanistan seem to strike more and more frequently. Village elders say that droughts used to occur every 15 to 20 years, but the last drought finished just two years ago. They also say that winters are not as cold as they used to be and summers are hotter. Some experts attribute these changing weather patterns to climate change.
The international aid agency network Action by Churches Together (ACT) has launched an appeal in Afghanistan for those worst affected by the drought and more information can be accessed from the ACT website: www.act-intl.org