Photos by Meer Abdullah, Afghan Red Crescent Society

Afghan Red Crescent Society disaster management officer, Meer Abdullah, has seen first-hand how severe floods are affecting communities in Afghanistan.

In March, heavy rains and snow across 16 provinces brought flash floods that killed 63 people and affected at least 281,000 people across nine provinces. Many people were forced to leave their homes as the floods destroyed their houses, leaving them struggling with food, water and healthcare. Among the sea of displaced people are vulnerable groups – women, the young, the old, and people with disabilities.

For Meer, it was a bittersweet experience.  He met thousands of families as he traveled across the country with the Red Crescent emergency relief teams and ran into children who are now left with nothing. This recent disaster came after years of drought that reduced pasture land, caused water shortages and led to the mass deaths of livestock. About 6.3 million people were already in need of humanitarian aid even before the floods.

“I was sent to document the devastation and photograph the relief distribution activities by Afghan Red Crescent staff and volunteers,” says Meer. “I also had the opportunity to speak with communities and tell them that they are not forgotten. That there are people who can assist them.”

Many of the affected people, like brothers Najmudin (left) and Nizamudin (right), had to travel for miles through rough terrain to reach the distribution centre where the Red Crescent was giving out relief items such as food parcels and blankets. The boys used to attend school, but the ongoing conflict in the region destroyed their village. They have been working to earn an income and help their families ever since.

“If you ask me what my highlight was from this mission, it was the images I took, especially of the smiles on people’s faces right after they received much-needed help,” says Meer.  “As a photographer, these photos mean so much to me and as part of the Red Crescent, these are the smiles we like to see.”

On 13 March 2019, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an emergency appeal seeking 7 million Swiss Francs to support the Afghan Red Crescent Society to help up to 650,000 people affected by flood and drought for 12 months, with activities in shelter, health and care; water, sanitation and hygiene, livelihoods and basic needs; disaster risk reduction and strengthening the capacity of the National Society. A longer-term resilience-oriented approach will address some of the underlying causes of people’s vulnerability. Examples are water, sanitation and healthcare, agricultural support such as in climate-smart practices and cash-based intervention.