Earthquake in Afghanistan: nearly a thousand dead in the Southeast, the UN mobilized to provide aid

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“UN agencies are assessing needs and responding to the aftermath of last night’s earthquake which claimed hundreds of lives,” tweeted Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, UN Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan. According to the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in that country, search and rescue operations are ongoing and are being led by the de facto authorities.

The UN and humanitarian partners were asked to support the de facto disaster management authority in the assessment. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), inter-agency assessment teams have already been deployed to several areas affected by the earthquake.

The death toll is expected to climb over the hours with the rescue operations

Two earthquakes, with a magnitude of 5.9 and 4.5, occurred at almost the same place and at the same time in the province of Khost and Paktika, a mountainous and difficult-to-reach region near Pakistan. According to OCHA, the earthquake – which was recorded at a depth of 10 km – was felt in neighboring provinces, including Kabul, as well as in Islamabad, Pakistan and India.

The toll of the powerful earthquake that struck southeastern Afghanistan overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday June 22 continues to climb over the hours. Initially assessed at several dozen and then several hundred, the number of dead has now exceeded one thousand according to information communicated by the official authorities at midday.

“Initial reports indicate that the number of people killed and injured is in the hundreds,” said OCHA, noting that the number of victims is expected to increase as search and rescue operations are underway.

Thousands of children are ‘at risk’, says UNICEF

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), thousands of children are “at risk after this devastating earthquake in the east of the country”.

“We do not yet know the full extent of the devastation, but we believe that hundreds of people have been killed, including many women and children,” said in a statement, Dr. Mohamed Ayoya, Representative of UNICEF in Afghanistan, noting that many more have been injured. According to UNICEF, these numbers are expected to increase as reports continue to come in.

The injured are transferred by the de facto authorities to Sharana, Paktika hospital and Urgun hospital. The road between Shahidano Chawk and Sharana hospital is closed to all civilian traffic to facilitate transport of the injured, according to the UN. To date, at least 130 injured have been transferred and admitted to hospitals in Sharana (50), Paktika (40) and Urgun (37).

On the ground, the Afghan Ministry of Defense has already sent five helicopters to Paktika province to facilitate medical evacuations, and a medical team to Gayan district.

© UNICEF Afghanistan

Damage in Spera district in Afghanistan’s Khost province after an earthquake struck the area on June 22, 2022.

The districts of Barmala, Ziruk, Naka (Khost province) and Gayan (Paktika) among the most affected

The most affected areas are in Spera district in Khost province, and Barmala, Ziruk, Naka and Gayan districts in Paktika province. Gayan district in Paktika province is believed to be the worst affected, with up to 200 people killed and 100 people injured, many seriously.

In addition, nearly 1,800 houses were destroyed or damaged in Gayan, or 70% of the district’s housing stock. In Spera district, Khost province, 25 people were reportedly killed and 20 injured.

Faced with the humanitarian emergency, the World Health Organization (WHO) and international NGOs such as CARE have also deployed 14 mobile health teams in Paktika province and Khost province. Four mobile health teams have been sent to other affected areas.

UNICEF has also deployed at least 12 teams of health workers in Gayan district, and several mobile health and nutrition teams in Barmal district, Paktika province, and Spera district, the province of Khost. “UNICEF sent several mobile health and nutrition teams to provide first aid to the injured,” said Dr. Mohamed Ayoya.

Health teams deployed by WHO and UNICEF

For their part, the Federation of the International Red Cross (IFRC) has redirected three mobile health teams to Paktika to respond to immediate needs and is mobilizing additional medical supplies to be deployed from Kabul.

Humanitarian search and rescue teams, including those from OCHA, are ready to be deployed if needed. “Although search and rescue operations are underway, heavy rain and wind are hampering efforts and helicopters could not have landed on Wednesday afternoon,” the UN agency said.

Immediate needs identified include emergency trauma care, emergency shelter and non-food items, food aid and water-sanitation support. In general, humanitarian partners are preparing to help affected families in the provinces of Paktika and Khost in coordination with the de facto authorities.

More broadly, humanitarian actors are mobilizing and also providing emergency aid. The UN World Health Agency delivered 100 boxes of emergency drugs to Giyan and Barmal.

Another earthquake as Afghanistan faces a serious humanitarian crisis

UNICEF also distributed essential aid. These include cooking equipment, hygiene supplies (soap, detergent, towels, sanitary napkins and buckets of water), warm clothes, shoes and blankets, as well as tents and tarps. And from the early hours of the morning, international NGOs deployed ambulances, medicines and medical equipment.

Joint needs assessments involving UNICEF, WFP, IOM, and UN partners are planned for Gayan and Bermal districts in Paktika province. According to OCHA, the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund has identified partners already active in the region and has mobilized additional resources that can potentially be deployed immediately based on assessed needs.

Note that last January, western Afghanistan was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.3: twenty-six people were killed. Afghanistan is facing a serious humanitarian crisis as the country, which was largely living on an infusion of international aid, saw that aid cut off after the Taliban seized power last August.

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