Earthquake in Afghanistan: Crisis-stricken country is fighting for help after earthquakes that killed more than 1,000

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook the city of Khost near the Pakistani border early Wednesday morning. At least 1,500 people have been reported injured – but officials warn that the number is likely to rise as many families slept in flimsy housing structures when the quake struck.

Many homes in the area are made of mud, wood and other materials that are vulnerable to weather damage – and the quake coincided with heavy monsoon rains, which increased the risk of collapse.

Pictures from the nearby Paktika province, a rural and mountainous region where most deaths have been reported, show houses reduced to gravel. Around 2,000 homes are believed to have been destroyed, according to the UN. Some people spent the night sleeping in makeshift outdoor shelters, while rescuers searched for survivors with a flashlight.

Medicines and emergency personnel from all over the country gather on site, 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 seized power in August last year.

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

It has also called for foreign aid, calling for “generous support from all countries, international organizations, individuals and foundations” on Wednesday.

Limited international assistance

The earthquake has exacerbated the problems that are already plaguing Afghanistan.

Although the economic crisis has been raging for years, a result of conflict and drought, it plunged to new depths after the Taliban takeover, which caused the United States and its allies to freeze around $ 7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cut international funding.

The move has paralyzed the Afghan economy and sent many of its 20 million people into a severe famine crisis. Millions of Afghans are out of work, government employees have not been paid, and food prices have risen, 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 are sparsely stretched. On Wednesday, the WHO said it had mobilized “all the resources” from across the country, with teams on the ground providing medicine and emergency assistance. But, as one WHO official put it, “Resources are overloaded here, not just for this region.”

Experts and officials say the most urgent immediate needs include medical treatment and transportation for the injured, shelter and supplies for the displaced, food and water and clothing.

The UN has distributed medical supplies and sent mobile health teams to Afghanistan – but warned that they do not have search and rescue capabilities, and that regional neighbors have little capacity to intervene.

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

Turkey is the country best placed to provide assistance, said Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. He said the Turkish embassy in Afghanistan was “waiting for the formal request”.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the Turkish Red Crescent, which operates in Afghanistan, has sent humanitarian aid to the victims. On Thursday, a Taliban spokesman said humanitarian aid had also come from Qatar, Iran and Pakistan, with planes and trucks carrying items, including medicine, tents and tarpaulins.

More than 1,000 people killed after 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan

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

“Our teams do not have specific equipment to take people from under the ruins,” said Alakbarov. “This has to rely mainly on the efforts of the de facto authorities, who also have certain limitations in this regard … I do not have the detailed reports on how well positioned they are to operate and distribute such machines to these mountain areas.”

Information including damage assessments is currently limited, with telecommunications disrupted in remote areas and poor weather conditions hindering transportation, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“The country is hesitant about the effects of decades of conflict, prolonged severe drought, the effects of other intense climate-related disasters, extreme economic difficulties, a vulnerable health system and systemic gaps,” the IFRC said on Wednesday. for more global support.

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