Afghanistan: “Now is the time for solidarity”, says Guterres after the earthquake

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The Secretary-General of the United Nations expressed his sadness on Wednesday at the “tragic loss of life” caused by the 5.9-magnitude earthquake that shook the central region of Afghanistan this morning.

António Guterres put the number of dead and injured in the hundreds and stressed that the figure could grow in the coming hours.

“My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan, who are already reeling from the effects of years of conflict, economic hardship and hunger. I express my deep condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.

The UN head stressed that the United Nations teams in Afghanistan are already mobilized on the ground “assessing the needs and providing initial assistance.”

“We are counting on the international community to help the hundreds of families affected by this latest disaster. Now is the time for solidarity,” he said.

Lack of equipment to remove bodies trapped in the rubble

At a press conference in Kabul, the country’s capital, the UN resident coordinator in the country announced this Wednesday at a press conference that they will need about 15 million dollars for immediate aid and that he does not know the figure that will be needed as of tomorrow.

Ramiz Alakbarov stressed that the current weather conditions in Afghanistan are unfavorable since there has been a drop in temperature in the center of the country, it rained today and it snowed yesterday, all of which are circumstances that make rescue efforts difficult.

Although the mobile teams of the various UN agencies have already reached all the affected points, he explained that at this time they do not have the necessary equipment to remove the bodies from under the rubble produced by the earthquake.

He indicated that ten tons of emergency medical equipment and medicines, teams of surgeons and doctors have already been sent and expressed his concern not only for the basic necessities and the distribution of people in temporary shelters, but also for the risk of spread of waterborne diseases.

Gayan is the most affected district

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the earthquake shook the central region of Afghanistan, affecting the provinces of Paktika and Khost. The tremor occurred at a depth of 10 km and was felt in neighboring provinces, including Kabul, as well as Islamabad, Pakistan, and India.

The most affected districts so far are Barmal, Ziruk, Nika and Giyan in Paktika province and Spera district in Khost province.

Gayan district is apparently the most affected, with up to 200 dead and 100 injured, many of them seriously, although a specific number of dead or injured has not yet been confirmed.

The number of homes destroyed or damaged in Gayan would reach 1,800, a figure that represents 70% of the district’s residential stock. From the district of Spera, in the province of Khost, information arrived about 25 people dead and 20 wounded.

The Ministry of Defense has already dispatched five helicopters to Paktika province to facilitate medical evacuations, and a medical team to Gayan district.

UNICEF has 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, Khost province. Humanitarian search and rescue teams are ready to deploy when needed.

Immediate needs include urgent trauma care, emergency shelter and essential items, food assistance, and water, sanitation and hygiene support.

Preliminary humanitarian needs and response

Humanitarian partners are preparing to help affected families in Paktika and Khost provinces in coordination with de facto authorities, including the Office of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs.

The Ministry of Defense is leading the response, including search and rescue, and has dispatched 45 ambulances to Paktika province, while the Paktika Provincial Health Department has dispatched eight ambulances and a team of doctors. Although search and rescue efforts are underway, heavy rain and wind are hampering efforts and helicopters are reportedly unable to land this afternoon.

The de facto authorities are transferring the wounded to hospitals in Sharan, Paktika and Urgun, and the road between Shahidano Chawk and Sharan hospital is closed to civilian traffic to facilitate the transport of the wounded. So far, at least 130 injured have been transferred and admitted to hospitals in Sharan (50), Paktika (40) and Urgun (37).

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