Published on: 24/06/2022 – 10:11 Survivors of the deadliest earthquake in more than two decades in Afghanistan continued on Friday to wait in their devastated villages, without shelter, food, or water, for emergency aid reaches them, with heavy rains further aggravating the situation. The 5.9-magnitude earthquake that hit a poor and isolated region in southeast Afghanistan on the border with Pakistan on Wednesday (June 22) killed more than 1,000 people, 3,000 injured and thousands homeless. The fragile houses with mud brick walls did not resist the earthquakes and the survivors found themselves completely destitute. They need shelter, to protect themselves from the rain and the cold, unusual in this season, but also food, water and first aid products. “There are no blankets, no tents, no “shelter (…). We need food and water. Our whole water system is destroyed. Everything is devastated, the houses are destroyed. People can only take out the dead (from the rubble) and bury them,” Zaitullah Ghurziwal, a resident of Bermal district in the hardest-hit province of Paktika, told AFP. Rescue operations are complicated by the region’s isolation and the weather. The rains caused landslides that slowed the delivery of aid, and damaged telephone and power lines. This earthquake represents a major challenge for the Taliban, who took power in mid-August 2021 after 20 years of insurrection and have alienated the international community with their ultra-rigorous conception of Islam. International aid, which had carried the country at arm’s length for two decades, was cut off after their accession to power, and has since been coming back only in dribs and drabs. And the country has since been mired in a deep financial and humanitarian crisis. The UN “fully mobilized” The Taliban government said it was doing its best to help the victims and called on the international community for help. The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, assured that the UN was “fully mobilized” to help Afghanistan. According to its services, the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) distributed tents, blankets and plastic sheeting; the World Food Program (WFP) delivered food for about 14,000 people in Paktika; and the World Health Organization (WHO) provided 10 tonnes of medical equipment, enough for 5,400 surgeries. The European Union has estimated that 270,000 people living in quake-affected areas will need assistance and released initial emergency aid of one million euros. Pakistan, Iran and Qatar have also sent disaster relief. And the United States, which withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of August after 20 years of war, has said it is working with its humanitarian partners to send medical teams. Some countries are reluctant to provide direct aid to the Taliban, from fear that it will be hijacked. “Aid distribution will be transparent,” deputy government spokesman Bilal Karimi told AFP. “Several countries have supported us and have been by our side”. The urgency is great for the most fragile: the elderly and children. The NGO Save the Children estimated on Thursday that more than 118,000 children were affected by the disaster. “A lot of children most likely now have no access to clean water, food and a safe place to sleep,” she said. Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies at the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. The deadliest earthquake in its recent history (5,000 dead) took place in May 1998 in the provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan in the northeast of the country. With AFP
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