Afghanistan earthquake: “What do we do when another disaster strikes?” Afghans are facing crises on all fronts

The slow response, exacerbated by international sanctions and decades of mismanagement, concerns humanitarians, such as Obaidullah Bahir, a lecturer in transitional justice at the American University of Afghanistan. “This is a very patchy solution to a problem that we need to start thinking (about) in the medium to long term…what do we do when (another disaster) occurs?” He told CNN by phone.

The 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck during the early hours of Wednesday near the city of Khost on the Pakistani border and the death toll is expected to rise as many homes in the area were made flimsy of wood, mud and other vulnerable materials. .

Humanitarian agencies are converging in the area, but days may pass before aid reaches the affected areas, which are among the most remote in the country.

Sam Mort, UNICEF Afghanistan’s chief of communications, told CNN that the vital aid it has sent to help affected families is expected to reach villages by Saturday only. The teams deployed by the International Committee of the Red Cross have not yet arrived, according to Anita Dollard, the ICRC’s spokeswoman for Asia and the Pacific.

“The challenges we face, first of all, are geographic and logistical challenges because the area is very remote, rural and mountainous. Already yesterday we had a lot of rain here and the combination of rain and earthquake caused landslides in Kabul,” UNICEF correspondent Mort told CNN from Kabul. some areas, making road traffic difficult.”

The quake coincided with heavy monsoon rains and winds between June 20 and 22, hampering search efforts and helicopter travel.

With paramedics and emergency staff from across the country trying to reach the site, assistance is expected to be limited as a number of organizations pulled out of the aid-dependent country when the Taliban took power in August last year.

Men stand around the bodies of those killed in an earthquake that struck Jayan village in Afghanistan's Paktika province on June 23.

Those that remain thin elongated. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization said it had mobilized “all resources” from across the country, with teams on the ground providing emergency medicines and support. But, in the words of one WHO official, “Resources are exhausted here, not just for this region.”

The international community’s reluctance to deal with the Taliban and “a very chaotic bureaucracy where it is difficult to get information from a single source” has led to a communication gap in the rescue effort, Baher – who is also the founder of the relief group Save. Afghans are hungry – he said.

“The crux of it all is how the policy has translated into this communication gap, not only between countries and the Taliban, but international aid organizations and the Taliban as well,” he added.

Baher gives an example of how he works as an information conduit with the World Food Program and other aid organizations, telling them that the Afghan Ministry of Defense is offering to airlift aid from humanitarian organizations to hard-hit areas.

Meanwhile, some people have spent the night sleeping in makeshift outdoor shelters, as rescuers search for survivors with a flashlight. The United Nations says 2,000 homes are believed to have been destroyed. Pictures from hard-hit Paktika state, where most deaths were reported, show homes reduced to dust and rubble.

Officials say aid is reaching the affected areas.

The government has so far distributed food, tents, clothes and other supplies to the quake-hit provinces, according to the official Afghan Defense Ministry Twitter account. She added that the medical and relief teams deployed by the Afghan government are already present in the quake-hit areas and are trying to transport the wounded to medical facilities and health centers by land and air.

The carpet of an entire country and a whole people

Although the economic crisis in Afghanistan has loomed for years as a result of conflict and drought, it has slipped to new depths after the Taliban took control, which prompted the United States and its allies to freeze about $7 billion in the country’s foreign reserves and cut international funds. financing.

The United States no longer has a presence in Afghanistan after the hasty withdrawal of its forces and the collapse of the former US-backed Afghan government. Like almost all other countries, it does not have formal relations with the Taliban government.

The move has paralyzed Afghanistan’s economy and plunged many of its 20 million people into a severe hunger crisis. Millions of Afghans are out of work, government employees are not being paid, and food prices have soared.

A child stands next to a house destroyed by an earthquake in Bernal district of Paktika province on June 23.

Baher says the sanctions “are hurting us so much” that Afghans are struggling to send money to earthquake-affected families.

“The fact that we hardly have a banking system, and the fact that no new currency has been printed or introduced into the country in the past nine to 10 months, our assets are frozen… These sanctions are not working,” he said.

He added: “The only sanctions that have a moral meaning are the sanctions directed at specific individuals, not the imposition of sanctions on an entire country and an entire people.”

While “sanctions have affected a lot of the country, there is an exception for humanitarian aid, so we’re bringing it in to support those who need it most,” Mort, of UNICEF, told CNN.

She added that the Taliban “does not prevent us from distributing anything like that, on the contrary, it empowers us.”

Experts and officials say the most urgent urgent needs include medical care, transportation for the wounded, shelter, supplies for the displaced, food, water and clothing.

An Afghan man searches for his belongings in the rubble of a house destroyed by an earthquake.

The United Nations distributed medical supplies and sent mobile health teams to Afghanistan – but warned that it did not have search-and-rescue capabilities.

Baher told CNN Wednesday That the Taliban were only able to send six rescue helicopters “because when the United States was leaving, they disabled most of the planes whether they were owned or by Afghan forces.”

Pakistan has offered to help open border crossings in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkwa and allow wounded Afghans to enter the country without a visa for treatment, according to Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for the provincial government.

Saif told CNN that “400 wounded Afghans moved to Pakistan this morning for treatment and the torrent of people is still going on, and these numbers are expected to rise by the end of the day.

Pakistan has imposed tight restrictions on entry of Afghans into the country through the land border crossing since the Taliban took power.

Robert Shackleford, Young Cheung, Jesse Young, Sophia Saifi, Muhammed Shafi Kakkar and Eliza Kassem contributed to this report.

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