Climate Change at the Cost of My Life - MHI




Climate Change at the 
Cost of My Life

Does ANYONE care?

Ahmad Nisar


Sabba Khan


illustrator’s bio

Amreeta Banerjee

Alice A. Barwa completed her MA in Education from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Univerity, Delhi (AUD), in 2022, and is from the Oraon Adivasi community, a native of Chhotanagpur Plateau, Chhattisgarh. She has been an advocate for Adivasi rights and voices as a member of an Adivasi youth collective @TheAdivasiPost, and has been an Adivasi youth representative at UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. Her research interests include education, culture, sociology, and linguistics.

Afghanistan, home to 40 million people, faces enormous challenges of terrorism, political instability, and illiteracy. On top of these, Afghans are set to welcome another challenge – climate change! Over the last 3 decades, temperatures rose significantly (by 1.2 Celsius), droughts doubled, and over 14 percent of the total area of glaciers was lost. In the absence of preventative measures, future projections show that snowfall would diminish in the central highlands, potentially leading to reduced summer flows in the Helmand and Northern River basins, while spring rainfall would decrease across most of the country. Additionally, it’s predicted that in small pockets of the south and west, there might be a 5 percent increase in “heavy precipitation events” that can lead to flash floods.

The continuation of excessive garbage, industrial activities, and lack of awareness is confronting residents with previously non-existent diseases. Gaining deeper insight into the roots of climate change makes us comprehend that its reinforcing notion is poverty merged with a lack of policies and investment. As the government is laser-focussed on solving political dilemmas, they wouldn’t bother paying attention to the catastrophes climate change entails.

Our mental health?

During my research for a documentary film on climatic exacerbations in Afghanistan, a thought-provoking finding was revealed. Anyone who was impacted by climate burdens was mentioning emotional mismanagement, periods of depression, and lethargy to mention a few. The roots that climate change plants to making us mentally unwell form a complex paradigm circulating around multiple factors which, if left unattended, can take us to the brink of our death. In this essence, our lived experiences effortlessly reflect that climatic complexities reinforce our mental stresses, while also allowing us to sense the realities endured by many.

The plight of Ershad Naqshbandi, a climate activist residing in Mazar, corroborates the distasteful extremity of climate and mental ill-health burden. Ershad’s pre-existing anxiety was deepened by the damaging “rural” lifestyle of residents plus the communal inattention towards his aspirations to catalyse change. “I was sick of the government’s remiss towards the issue and spent most of my earnings on turning my dreams into reality. We had no sources of funding as entities supported organisations that were closely tied with them. The consequences, however, meagerly met my expectations as no one listened to me. With this failure in mind, I took a suicide pill but regrettably, it didn’t amount to anything,” explains Ershad. Joined with the complications of climate exigency, his mental ill-health will cause him additional financial loss.

Don’t bother us, draw a line under it!

Unsurprisingly, the real destructors like industries rebuff our request to be held accountable. A reasonable alibi is the autonomy they possess from the government which allows them to pollute the environment beyond measure.

Needless to say, the authorities are vanquished by the costs of integrating accountable systems and policies, leaving its undesirable rot on the residents. Decades of war, corruption, and lack of knowledge and capability have prevented the war-torn country from mainstreaming preventative measures for climate change. When I asked a climate specialist from the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) about their strategies to mitigate climate-related harms, he responded, “How can we ban the usage of plastics and wood when we have no alternatives like stable electricity to meet their needs?”

Why me, when I had no role in it?

Not all residents are impacted proportionately within the cross sections of wealth and gender. Women, especially with a low income, bear the consequences of their farmer husbands’ poor mental health via increased domestic violence, housework, and labour on the farms, which in turn raises the anxiety levels they have to deal with.

Shima, a farmer, lives in a rural village with her family and works in the fields as it’s the only source of their income. On top of being a survivor of child marriage due to climatic catastrophes, she now bears the responsibilities of her children’s welfare as well. “A horse might not work as sorely as I do. Fetching water, doing housework, and cultivating crops take all my power away. My daughter lives with asthma and can barely breathe during the winter as smoke hovers in every corner, but I’m impoverished by the costs of treatment. I assume either my husband will kill me one day, or I’ll die from sorrow,” narrates Shima.

Their misery doesn’t end here as Shima’s fate might accompany her daughter as well. In order to migrate from the disaster-stricken area, she borrowed money from a relative which she either had to pay back in cash or sell her 14-year-old daughter as a bride instead. As per the system of patriarchy in Afghanistan, males in the house exercise full control to make decisions about a female’s life; in this case, Shima’s husband was the one to give her hand to a wealthy stranger.

With the ever-lasting drought, Shima and her daughter are both working intensely to earn a living, at the cost of her daughter’s education. “Life seems purposeless. Periodically, I wish to end my life, because anyway I’ll tie the knot with somebody twice my age.

When every one sleeps, I cry and ask Lord Almighty for happiness like other people,” narrates Rahima, Shima’s daughter, who lives with a depressive disorder.

Empowered by perennial cultural norms, divisions made upon class and gender heightened with the addition of climatic exasperations to a point that migrant children are branded as “peasants” in the classroom. The cycle extends to workplaces, where they’re regarded as “less competent” to hold higher positions. Combined with the lack of services, the implications on their mental health may be beyond despair.

The need for change

Anticipating for a second, how can we ignore an inevitable need which affects all aspects of our life? Mental well-being is exclusively emphasised in clinical settings while its impact varies to a myriad of levels, which often might not lead to seeking  professional help. Apart from this, humanitarian aid aimed at combating climate change hardly ever invests in building allyships that could function as a hotbed of mutual learning and prevention of disasters to reap benefits.

Quite often, low and middle income countries lack the financial resources and workforce to incorporate preventative programs for climatic catastrophes and the heavy reliance on external aid hinders them from innovating solutions themselves. On the other hand, their lack of ownership in the design and allocation of these investments obliterates the preserved cultural heredity and indigenous knowledge of communities; the provision of a one-time donation further extends the cycle of food insecurity and stress. If the billion-dollar aid was subsidised for developing preventative measures, it could’ve created sustainable jobs, and reversed the effects of climate change on mental health in turn.

Henceforth, entities must emphasise the effects of climatic and mental distress using an intersectional lens and respectively invest in people’s demands. This compels the integration of mental support for activists and people impacted by climate change through sensitisation of support providers (clinicians, etc.), decision-makers, and their allies. Similarly, a ban on the importation and usage of poor vehicles must be ratified to prevent pollution and bring ease to families who spend thousands to cure their dependents in the winter. An integrative approach will also encompass the sensitisation of school atmospheres, including the staff, to be welcoming of migrant children to prevent further harm. The key is to directly involve those affected mentally and morally by climate change in all stages of the decision-making process so as to give them ownership and to best fulfill their needs.

“Our voices have long been turned a deaf ear to, making us mentally and physically distressed. But the more we tolerate, the more powerful it will get, so let’s stand up against the cycle of injustice that’s disproportionately plotting against us.”- Ahmad Nisar

Decades of war, corruption, and lack of knowledge and capability have prevented the war-torn country from mainstreaming preventative measures for climate change.

Decades of war, corruption, and lack of knowledge and capability have prevented the war-torn country from mainstreaming preventative measures for climate change.

Cite this Article View all References


  • Afghanistan Population (Live).” Worldometer, .
  • “Add Climate to Afghanistan’s Challenges.”, 18 May 2022,  Accessed 21 Aug, 2022
  • “The Climate Change Crisis in Afghanistan: The Catastrophe Worsens – What Hope for Action?” Afghanistan Analysts Network – English, 28 June 2022,



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