Afghan earthquake: Crisis-hit country fights for aid after quake that killed more than 1,000

The 5.9 magnitude quake struck during the early hours of Wednesday near the town of Khost on the Pakistani border. At least 1,500 people were injured, but officials warn the number is likely to rise as many families slept in rickety housing structures when the earthquake struck.

Many houses in the area are made of mud, wood and other materials vulnerable to weather damage – and the quake coincided with heavy monsoon rains, raising the danger of collapse.

Photos from the neighboring province of Paktika, a rural and mountainous region where most deaths have been reported, show houses reduced to rubble. An estimated 2,000 homes were destroyed, according to the United Nations. Some people spent the night sleeping in makeshift shelters outdoors, while rescue workers searched for survivors with flashlights.

Doctors and emergency teams from across the country are converging on the scene, with assistance from some international agencies such as the World Health Organization.

However, aid may be limited as many organizations withdrew from the aid-dependent country after the Taliban took power last August.

The Taliban government mobilized emergency resources, including several helicopters and dozens of ambulances, and offered compensation to the victims’ families.

It also called for outside help, asking for “the generous support of all countries, international organizations, individuals and foundations” on Wednesday.

limited international aid

The earthquake exacerbated the problems already plaguing Afghanistan.

While the economic crisis has been looming for years as a result of conflict and drought, it has plummeted to new depths after the Taliban takeover, which prompted the United States and its allies to freeze some $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cut international funding.

The move has crippled the Afghan economy and put many of its 20 million people into a severe famine. Millions of Afghans are unemployed, government workers have not been paid and the price of food has soared, with reports of some families so desperate to eat that they have resorted to selling their children.

Few aid agencies remain, and those that do exist are exhausted. On Wednesday, the WHO said it had mobilized “all resources” from across the country, with teams in the field providing medicine and emergency support. But, as one WHO official said, “resources are stretched here, not just for this region.”

Afghan Red Crescent Society volunteers in Giyan District, Paktika Province, Afghanistan, on June 22.

Experts and officials say the most urgent immediate needs include medical care and transport for the wounded, shelter and supplies for the displaced, food and water and clothing.

The UN has distributed medical supplies and deployed mobile health teams to Afghanistan – but has warned that it lacks search and rescue capabilities and that regional neighbors have little ability to intervene.

The US no longer has a presence in Afghanistan following the full withdrawal of its troops and the collapse of the previous US-backed Afghan government. Like almost all other nations, it has no official relations with the Taliban government.

Turkey is the country best able to provide assistance, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan. He said the Turkish Embassy in Afghanistan was “awaiting the formal request”.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the Turkish Red Crescent, which operates in Afghanistan, had sent humanitarian aid to the victims. On Thursday, a Taliban spokesman said humanitarian aid had also arrived from Qatar, Iran and Pakistan, with flights and trucks carrying items such as medicine, tents and tarpaulins.

More than 1,000 people die after 5.9 magnitude earthquake hits eastern Afghanistan

An estimated $15 million in aid is needed to respond to the disaster, Alakbarov said – a figure that will likely continue to rise as information about the situation on the ground comes in.

“Our teams don’t have specific equipment to get people out of the rubble,” Alakbarov said. “This mainly depends on the efforts of the de facto authorities, who also have certain limitations in this regard… .”

Information, including damage assessments, is limited for now, with telecommunications disrupted in remote areas and poor weather making transport difficult, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“The country is recovering from the effects of decades of conflict, prolonged and severe drought, the effects of other intense weather disasters, extreme economic hardship, an impaired health system and system-wide gaps,” the IFRC said on Wednesday. , calling for more global support.

“So even if the disaster is localized, the scale of humanitarian needs will be enormous.”

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