Humanitarian disaster

Deadly earthquake exposes more Afghan people to starvation

Humanitarian disaster


he international community and humanitarian organisations are supplying tents, food and to eastern Afghanistan following a deadly earthquake on June 22. Muhammad Ameen Huzaifa, the spokesperson of Paktika government, says the death toll has risen to 1,150. He says at least 1,600 people have been injured.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) says the magnitude of the earthquake was 5.9, revising an initial estimate of 6.1 on Richter scale. The epicentre of the tremor was about 46 kilometres from the city of Khost, near the border with Pakistan, the USGS says.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) says humanitarian response efforts to the affected areas have been ramped up after receiving the devastating news from Giyan and Barmal in Paktika province and Spera in Khost the worst affected districts. The OCHA says a rapid response window of $10 million has been submitted to Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

“At least 155 children were killed and nearly 250 children were injured by the earthquake with 86 percent lives lost in Giyan district, 134 in Paktika province alone. Additionally, 65 children have reportedly been orphaned or left unaccompanied as a result of the tremors,” The OCHA need assessment report revealed.

The report also says 1,900 homes across Giyan, 1,028 in Barmal, 450 in Paktika province and Spera, and 416 in Khost province have been destroyed. Across Khost and Paktika, seven schools have reportedly sustained damage to the boundary wall, windows, roofs or classrooms in Spera and Giyan districts. Combined, these schools have 5,135 students.

The OCHA assessments report says several logistical challenges remain, however, including limited communications channels as a result of downed mobile networks in parts of Paktika and Khost provinces, and poor road conditions in Spera district in Khost province. On average, the road journey from Urgun district to Spera district in Khost province takes at least five hours. The establishment of camp sites for humanitarian actors across the three most-affected districts is an immediate priority.

Yaseen Jan and his younger brother lost 11 family members in the quake. The brothers survive because they are studying and living in the town. The social media influencers in Paktika have launched a humanitarian campaign. They are sharing information about affected people. Rahim Khoshal, a journalist from Paktika, says the earthquake has damaged hundreds of houses and the homeless people need tents, food and medical assistance because there is no proper hospital in Giyan district.

At least 155 children were killed and nearly 250 children were injured by the earthquake with 86 percent of lives lost in Giyan district, 134 in Paktika province alone. Additionally, 65 children have reportedly been orphaned or left unaccompanied as a result of the tremors.

Due to the lack of road infrastructure in the affected area of Paktika the humanitarian organisations are facing difficulties in supplying aid. Tahir Khan, a Pakistani journalist covering the disaster in Paktika, says the decrepit roads are a major hurdle for aid agencies. The mountainous terrain and limited road connectivity in far-flung areas is a major challenge for aid workers but humanitarian organisations and the local administration are trying to reach the quake victims in remote villages.

Afghan Health Minister Dr Qalandar Abid has appealed to international aid organisations to supply food, shelter and other humanitarian assistance to the quake-affected people.

In a video message on Twitter, Sardar Ahmad Shakib, the Charge De Affair of the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad, said heavy human and financial losses have been reported in Paktika and Khost due to the earthquake. He appealed to the international community and organisations to help the Afghans.

After the earthquake, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government responded by sending 19 paramedics and doctors to Khost on June 23. The provincial government also sent three ambulances and a mobile hospital to treat the injured on the spot. The critically injured were referred to hospitals in Pakistan. The KP medical team was among the first ones to reach the affected areas.

Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, tweeted, “Relief efforts continue in the earthquake-affected areas of Afghanistan with contributions from government and non-government sectors. Afridi Medical Complex has also sent a team of 10 doctors along with medical supplies.”

The government of Pakistan has dispatched a military cargo plane carrying relief supplies to Khost province. The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also dispatched 16 trucks carrying relief items. These include five hundred tents, five hundred kitchen sets, five hundred hygiene sets, five hundred mattresses and two hundred tarpaulins. Kamran Bangash, the KP minister for higher education, archives, and libraries, has tweeted that the provincial government has supplied 1,000 food packages for the quake victims.

To help the affected people, several fundraising camps have been established in various parts of the KP. In Peshawar, the press and publication industry has set up a camp at the historic Qissa Khawani Bazaar. A similar camp has been established at Kashmir Chowk in Parachinar, the headquarters of Kurram district.

The writer is a  multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney

Humanitarian disaster