A devastating earthquake rocks Afghanistan as the Taliban struggle to respond

After the collapse of the previous government and heavy international sanctions, the country's humanitarian crisis has only worsened.

USA About: Earthquake Publish: Last Thursday at 8:18 PM Edit: Last Thursday at 8:18 PM Author: Gardener


Afghanistan(Photo by Sardar Shafaq/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) An elder in Khost, Afghanistan, responds to the devastation after an earthquake struck the country on June 22, 2022. An elder in Khost, Afghanistan, reacts to the devastation after an earthquake struck the country June 22, 2022. The district chief, Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi, said the quake destroyed about 500 houses in the area. (Photo by Sardar Shafaq/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Hundreds were killed in an earthquake in Afghanistan's south-eastern region early Wednesday, adding to the country's already severe economic and humanitarian crisis. The magnitude 5.9 earthquake caused the most damage in the mountainous areas of Khost and Paktika provinces, located in south-eastern Afghanistan and bordering Pakistan. In the hours after the quake, Afghan media showed images of collapsed buildings and victims lying on the ground wrapped in blankets. Accurate information from the remote mountain villages affected by the quake was limited. Around 770 people are estimated to have been killed, at least 1,455 injured and nearly 1,500 homes have now been confirmed destroyed and damaged, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. The Taliban have estimated the death toll at more than 1,000 people. On Wednesday evening, the Taliban Defense Ministry confirmed that 90% of earthquake-related search and rescue operations had been completed. Taliban Supreme Leader Haibatullah Akhundzada - who rarely appears in public - asked the international community and humanitarian agencies "to spare no effort and help the Afghan people affected by this great tragedy". UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the global organization was "fully mobilized" to help, with the UN confirming it had deployed health teams and stocks of medicines, food, trauma kits and emergency shelters to the earthquake zone . A man gathers his belongings from the rubble of his home, which was destroyed in an earthquake that struck part of Khost province, Afghanistan, on June 22, 2022. A man collects his belongings from the rubble of his home, which was destroyed in an earthquake that struck part of Khost province, Afghanistan, on June 22, 2022. (Photo: via Associated Press) President Joe Biden is monitoring developments in Afghanistan and has directed the U.S. Agency for International Development and other federal government partners to assess how to help those most affected, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake said Sullivan, in a statement on Thursday Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that the Turkish Red Crescent, which operates in Afghanistan, had sent humanitarian aid to the victims. On Thursday, a Taliban spokesman said aid had also arrived from Qatar, Iran and Pakistan, with flights and trucks carrying items including medicines, tents and tarpaulins. Humanitarian partners continue to support affected families in Paktika and Khost provinces in coordination with de facto authorities, OCHA reported. According to OCHA, Taliban officials have dispatched five helicopters and more than 45 ambulances to Paktika province to facilitate medical evacuation. The Taliban leadership has provided 100 million Afghans (about 1.1 million US dollars) for relief efforts. Reuters reported that poor telecommunications networks and a lack of proper roads are hampering relief efforts. "We can't reach the area, the networks are too weak, we're [trying] to get updates," Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the top Taliban military commander in Paktika province, told Reuters IFRC. We face risks far more serious than war. Mobile teams have already reached all earthquake-affected locations, reported Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, Deputy UN Special Representative in Afghanistan. “Of course, as the UN, we don't have … specific equipment for extracting people from under the rubble. This must mainly rely on the efforts of the de facto authorities, which also have certain limitations in this regard," he said. "We're not just about non-food items and getting people into shelters and providing medical care, but also about preventing waterborne diseases," Alakbarov said, adding, "and that could be a very, It can be a very undesirable scenario.” An estimated $15 million in aid is needed to respond to the disaster, Alakbarov said — a number likely to rise further as information about the situation on the ground comes in. "Disaster response is complex and challenging," said former Afghan Minister of State for Disaster Management Najib Aqa Fahim, who expressed doubts about the Taliban's ability to respond in an interview with HuffPost. “The Taliban government lacks experience in responding to disasters. (Photo by Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Search and rescue operations continue on June 22, 2022 in Paktika, Afghanistan. Search and rescue operations resume June 22, 2022 in Paktika, Afghanistan. Many buildings were damaged in the Gyan District of Paktika Province, which was hardest hit by the earthquake. Many buildings were damaged in Gyan district of Paktika province, which was hardest hit by the quake. (Photo by Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Fahim said Afghanistan's disaster preparedness infrastructure was damaged when the Taliban took power. Unskilled Taliban members have replaced disaster management experts at ministerial and provincial levels. The High Commissioner for Disaster Management, which used to coordinate government agencies and international humanitarian organizations, is currently ineffective. There are no longer provincial or district disaster management committees or municipal councils to help coordinate and disseminate information. "There is no proper coordination, division of responsibilities and clear procedures to respond to such incidents in a timely manner," Fahim said. This earthquake has only added to the many problems affecting Afghanistan. The economy was already suffering from armed conflict and severe drought, and the US and its allies had frozen about $7 billion in foreign exchange reserves and halted international funding when the Taliban took power. "The country is suffering the effects of decades of conflict, protracted severe drought, the impact of other intense climate-related disasters, extreme economic hardship, an ailing health system and system-wide gaps," the IFRC said on Wednesday, calling for more global support. "Therefore, even if the disaster is localized, the scale of the humanitarian needs will be enormous." (Photo: National Disaster Management Authority via AP) A convoy of trucks carrying relief supplies such as tents prepares in this photo released by Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority , blankets and emergency medicine for Afghanistan's earthquake-hit areas preparing for departure for Afghanistan on June 23, 2022. A convoy of trucks carrying supplies including tents, blankets and emergency medicine for the earthquake areas of Afghanistan for departure to Afghanistan on June 23, 2022. (Photo: National Disaster Management Agency via AP) "Camps and camps are empty. The funds available are meager,” said Fahim. Fahim says that while some funds have been allocated for relief efforts, it is taking a long time to be used due to a lack of coordination within the Taliban leadership. "My guess is that unless international aid agencies step in immediately to fill this gap, greater harm and suffering will result from this weakness," Fahim said. Afghanistan is a country at high risk of being hit by a natural disaster as it has already been hit by droughts and floods. "We face risks far more serious than war," Fahim said. “We now face the added difficulty of dealing with natural disasters.


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