Afghanistan Global Immigration

Afghan Earthquake Survivors Struggle to Make it Through Winter

On October 7th, multiple earthquakes hit Afghanistan. Thousands of people were killed and injured and the survivors continue to grapple with hardships.

Since then, survivors spend their days digging through rubble looking for the bodies of family members and digging mass graves for the thousands of victims. People are reeling from losing their entire families who were crushed to death in their homes. Zaher, a 56 year old father, told CNN how he lost 13 family members. Fatima, a 35 year old mother, lost all 7 of her children. Families are left with no homes and completely upended lives.

UNICEF reported that 90% of the people killed by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake were women and children. This is entirely due to the Taliban’s strict edicts forcing women and girls to stay home and away from public life. As a result, these women and girls died in their homes during the earthquakes, some even fearing leaving their homes without hijabs. Hundreds of people, mostly women, remain missing in Zenda Jan, the epicenter of the deadly earthquakes. 

Meanwhile, relief agencies are working with the de facto authorities to provide aid for survivors, plan for reconstruction, and carry out welfare checks on residents – all without any female aid workers because of the Taliban’s restrictions. Women victims of the earthquake are struggling to access resources. 

“For example, one of the basic needs we identified among women survivors was for hygiene products, and [we] procured sanitary napkins for them. But some of the Taliban members prevented distribution, saying that it will encourage heresy and lack of faith among the women,” said a female aid worker. The Taliban has determined that feminine hygiene products are un-Islamic.

With the winter, the new disaster is making it even harder for people to meet basic needs, such as shelter, food, and medicine. Survivors have been given rice, oil, and flour however the World Food Programme expressed concerns that they have no equipment with which to cook. Reconstruction efforts are also in jeopardy with lower temperatures and it will become impossible to build with cement once winter sets in. With average lows in Herat below freezing during winter, families without shelter and resources are in danger.

Sources report that the Taliban is ill prepared to manage this disaster and “efforts were lagging due to lack of equipment such as life detectors, vibration or seismic alarms and even search-and-rescue dogs.” The Taliban’s interference is also hampering efforts of aid workers as they requisitions to have aid allocated to them before survivors for distribution.

The UNHCR made urgent pleas for $14.4 million of aid to respond for protection, emergency shelters, and basic needs. The UNHCR all noted that $79.7 million was already lacking from existing programs in Afghanistan. The UN World Food Programme reports that they need at least $400 million to help 7 million survive the winter. 

USAID pledged $12 million for immediate humanitarian assistance. Other countries have pledged to send in food, blankets, medicines, tents and funds, and different UN groups are pulling from their emergency reserves to allocate resources to Afghan survivors. 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies spokesperson Tommaso Della Longa said in the statement “Afghanistan needs you — now, more than ever. Please, let’s not add ‘forgotten’ to the long list of tragedies that this resilient nation has already endured.”

Sources: UNICEF, UNHCR, UNWFP, CNN, AP News, NPR and The National

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