Sunday, 08 October 2023 23:13

Afghanistan: Aid efforts rapidly expand as post-quake death toll rises

The death toll from the major earthquake that pummelled western Afghanistan soared to more than 1,000 overnight as rescue operations continued to fan out over affected villages, UN agencies said on Sunday.

“The United Nations and our partners in Afghanistan are coordinating with the de facto authorities to swiftly assess needs and provide emergency assistance,” UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said.

WFP_Afghanistan

UN agencies, partners, and the de facto authorities continued to mount emergency operations. Initial assessments indicated that the 6.3 magnitude quake that struck 40 kilometres west of Herat on Saturday caused deaths across eight villages, according to the UN humanitarian office (OCHA).

By Sunday evening, the agency released a new update showing 1,023 people were reported killed and another 1,663 injured across 11 villages of Zindajan district of Herat province, where 100 per cent of homes are estimated to have been completely destroyed.

A further 516 people (203 men and 213 women) were reported to be missing from the district, OCHA said.

To support the ongoing response, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator approved a $5 million emergency reserve allocation from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, which OCHA will launch and fully process within 24 hours with eligible partners able to utilize their grants effective 9 October.

Humanitarian partners will also develop an emergency appeal, the agency said.

More UN teams deployed

On the ground, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) deployed more teams to join ongoing humanitarian efforts. The agency dispatched 10,000 hygiene kits, 5,000 family kits, 1,500 sets of winter clothes, blankets, 1,000 tarpaulins, and basic household items, which will complement support provided by other UN agencies and partners.

“Together with our partners, we will make every effort to bring quick relief to those affected,” said Fran Equiza, the UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan.

The injured were being treated in nearby health facilities, with emergency drugs provided by UNICEF and partners, according to the agency, which also provided emergency tents for overburdened health clinics.

Working with the de-facto authorities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Food Programme (WFP), and partners sent emergency assessment teams as part of an initial response. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the World Health Organization (WHO) continued to provide assistance.

© UNICEF/Sharifa Khan
Relief aid is dispatched to earthquake-affected western Afghanistan.

International community must ‘come together’

UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, extended his sincere condolences to the families of the victims, and wished a swift recovery to those injured, the UN Spokesperson said.

“As winter approaches, the UN Secretary-General calls on the international community to come together and support people impacted by the earthquake, many of whom were already in need before this crisis,” he said.