In a devastating earthquake that rocked western Afghanistan, thousands of lives are feared lost. Development agencies are now joining forces with the United Nations to save lives in villages that have been flattened by this natural disaster.
The aftermath of the catastrophe continues to unfold, with hundreds of people believed to be trapped under debris. The Taliban reports that more than 2,400 people have tragically lost their lives in this disaster.
The catastrophic earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, struck at 11 am local time on a Saturday, accompanied by a series of strong aftershocks. These quakes rank among the deadliest in the world this year, following the tragic tremors in Turkey and Syria that claimed an estimated 50,000 lives in February.
The impact of the earthquake has been particularly felt in Herat, where it triggered widespread panic. According to one resident, Naseema, “People left their houses, we all are on the streets.” She added that the city was still experiencing aftershocks.
The immediate needs for rescue and relief efforts include food, drinking water, medicine, clothes, and tents. Suhail Shaheen, the head of the Taliban political office in Qatar, emphasized the urgency of these supplies in a message to the media.
As the disaster unfolds, more than 200 deceased individuals have been brought to various Afghan hospitals. Dr. Danish, an official from the Herat health department, reported that the majority of the victims are women and children. The deceased have been transported to various locations, including military bases and hospitals. The main hospital in Herat is grappling with over 500 casualties, and photos on social media show that beds have been set up outside the hospital to accommodate the influx of injured people.
Afghanistan’s healthcare system, heavily reliant on foreign aid, has faced significant cuts since the Taliban assumed power two years ago. This reduction in international assistance, which had previously underpinned the economy, has had a profound impact on the nation.
Diplomats and aid officials have voiced concerns about the Taliban’s restrictions on women and other humanitarian crises around the world. These concerns are leading to a reduction in financial support from donors. The Taliban government has ordered most Afghan female aid staff not to work, though some exceptions have been made in health and education sectors.
In addition to the challenges facing the healthcare system, communication networks have been disrupted, many roads are blocked, and housing in the hardest-hit communities primarily consists of collapsed mud structures.
Ray Hasan, Head of Global at Christian Aid, emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, “This dreadful disaster comes on top of a country already reeling from acute hunger and a struggling economy. The number of those affected is increasing by the hour.” He urged donors to prioritize this emergency and allocate resources for essentials such as clean water, food, and shelter.
The situation on the ground remains chaotic, with exact numbers of casualties yet to be confirmed as the search and rescue operation continues. Development agencies and the United Nations are working tirelessly to provide immediate assistance to the affected areas, but numerous challenges lie ahead as they strive to help the devastated communities in western Afghanistan.