Taliban Officials Appeal for Help in Wake of Devastating Earthquake
At least 1,200 are reported dead and thousands homeless after last week’s 6.1 magnitude temblor shattered Afghanistan’s remote mountainous region near the border with Pakistan
[Islamabad] Afghanistan’s Taliban government has appealed for urgent global help to deal with the aftermath of a deadly earthquake and to boost relief efforts.
In an official statement, the Taliban-led Kabul government said on Friday that “devastation is too high and, due to limited resources, we are unable to reach every victim. It is the worst natural catastrophe that has been witnessed by the Afghan people during the last 20 years.”
“Scores of villages have been completely destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people are living under the open sky. International agencies and the neighboring countries are helping, but Afghanistan needs more help,” the statement also said.
On Wednesday night, a devastating 6.1 magnitude earthquake shattered Afghanistan’s remote mountainous region including the provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Khost, located near the border with Pakistan.
Muhammad Suhail Shaheen, head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Political Office in Doha and its Permanent Representative to the United Nations, told The Media Line that the earthquake “was heavily devastating, villages have been turned into rubble. The casualties are high and Afghanistan needs urgent relief and support.”
He added: “We have to start the rehabilitation work with a new commitment so [we] desperately need the help from the international community.”
Shaheen said that Afghanistan is “grateful to all the countries and donor agencies, including the United Nations, for helping the Afghan people in these difficult moments.”
According to the latest figures released by the Taliban’s Information and Culture Department in Paktika, at least 1,200 people have been killed and more than 2,000 are injured from the temblor and its aftershocks.
The United Nations’ children agency representative in Afghanistan, Mohamed Ayoya, stated that “at least 121 of these deaths were children and 67 of those injured were children. … We expect these numbers to climb as the search and rescue operations continue.”
The deadly quake affected the country’s rugged mountainous region, where the communication system collapsed. It destroyed dozens of mobile towers and severely damaged highways and roads linking cities and villages.
The earthquake severely affected the Zirok, Barmal, Nika, and Giyan districts of Paktika province, and the Spiri district of Khost province.
The temblor hit poverty-stricken hilly areas where mud houses could not withstand the tremors and collapsed. There have been landslides, affecting relief operations. Dead bodies and the injured were being airlifted to the hospitals from inaccessible areas. However, lack of facilities, heavy rains, and hailstorms in the country are hampering relief efforts in the difficult hilly terrain.
Afghan authorities say that the search and rescue operation for survivors is over in quake-affected areas, and relief and rehabilitation work for the affected people has begun, Mohammad Ismail Muawiyah, a spokesman for the Afghan Army, told the reporters in Kabul.
Neighboring countries continue to provide relief supplies for the quake victims.
The US and the international community have a moral obligation to provide assistance to the Afghan people after the devastating earthquake
On Saturday, a Pakistan Air Force AC-130 aircraft carrying relief goods landed at Khost airport. Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, handed over relief items to the Afghan officials.
Meanwhile, planes from Qatar, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and India carrying food, clothing, medicine, and other necessities also landed at Kabul airport on Saturday.
The Turkish Red Crescent Society has announced that it will begin its humanitarian assistance to the families and victims of the recent earthquake.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Saturday announced a total of 2.5 million British pounds (about $3 million) in assistance to provide lifesaving supplies to the quake victims in Afghanistan.
The United States, China, Germany, and several other countries in the region and around the world have said they will soon begin assisting earthquake-affected families in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is facing the devastation of an earthquake at a time when the international community has left the war-torn country isolated, following the Taliban takeover a year ago.
Afghanistan is already in the grip of a severe humanitarian and economic crisis, and the devastating earthquake has made matters worse.
There is an acute shortage of medical supplies to treat the quake injured; meanwhile, an aftershock on Friday killed at least five more and injured 11 people in Paktia.
Meanwhile, due to a severe shortage of female doctors and paramedics, women injured in the earthquake are not getting proper treatment.
Shahab Zadran, a local reporter based in Paktia, told The Media Line that “traditionally Afghan women do not get treatment from male doctors and there is a severe shortage of female staff. There is no food, no medicines and even there is no shelter. The situation on the ground is worse than stated in the media.”
“Dozens of villages have been wiped out by the worst quake. Most of the roads in the hilly areas have been blocked due to landslides. Relief work is underway in the affected areas but, due to insufficient resources, the task has become very difficult and many areas have not yet been reached,” Zadran added.
Hafiz Mohib Ullah, Afghanistan’s consul general in Peshawar, appealed to the neighboring countries to send more aid to the quake-hit areas, saying food, medicine, and tents are urgently needed in the affected areas.
Speaking at a news conference in Peshawar on Friday, Mohib Ullah said that “hundreds of people, including men, women, and children, have been killed and injured; people need medical treatment and most of the people in these areas are poor.”
Mohib Ullah also said that while complete figures for the damage have not yet been released, thousands of homes have been destroyed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq said in a tweet that “relief supplies, especially food and medicine, are being delivered to the quake-hit areas. Our helicopters, ambulances, and rescue teams are helping the Afghan officials to serve the victims.”
He also tweeted that two border crossings at Angor Ada and Ghulam Khan have been opened so that the injured can be moved to Pakistani hospitals.
Ghulam Ghous Nasiri, Afghanistan’s deputy minister of interior and deputy minister of state for disaster management, told The Media Line that, “more than 3.000 houses are completely destroyed, people have lost their lifetime earnings, there is nothing left.”
Nasiri also said that: “We are working day and night with the available resources to repair the damages caused by the earthquake; but, side by side, we need help from the international community as well.”
The United States and its European allies imposed economic and trade sanctions on Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. The US has also frozen Afghanistan’s assets.
In the context of Afghanistan’s catastrophic situation, The Media Line spoke with some analysts about the possibility of change in the US policy toward Taliban-led Afghanistan.
“The US and the international community have a moral obligation to provide assistance to the Afghan people after the devastating earthquake,” Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based human rights lawyer and a South Asian expert, told The Media Line.
She said that “the international community and the US can find a way to direct aid distribution to the people without having to cut deals with the ruling Taliban or outright outsourcing that places aid into the coffers of the terrorist organizations.”
Tsukerman also told The Media Line that: “With patience, creativity, and will much more can be done for the Afghan people; the Taliban gained power quickly, but now has no idea what to do with that given no real experience of managing the many problems it is now facing. This is a good opportunity to exploit these vulnerabilities and help the Afghans see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Unless there is some mechanism to monitor aid, then the Taliban will exploit it and that aid will not reach the people
Adrian Calamel, a New York-based Middle East and terrorism scholar, does not believe that the US should provide any assistance.
“I don’t think the United States should lend any assistance. My biggest concern is for the people of Afghanistan and unless there is some mechanism to monitor aid, then the Taliban will exploit it and that aid will not reach the people,” Calamel told The Media Line.
“When speaking of the international community, we should look at who was cozying up to the Taliban before the earthquake and cheered when America left. Where are Beijing, Moscow, Doha, and Tehran when the people of Afghanistan need them? If America hadn’t shamefully exited Afghanistan and could monitor aid, then this would be a different discussion,” Calamel said.
Kamal Alam, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, told The Media Line that, “the United States and the UN are already mobilizing despite being distracted by Ukraine. Even before the earthquake, there has been a slow but steady increase in aid and diplomatic delegations to Kabul.”
Alam further noted that “for all the apprehension and negative publicity around the Taliban, they have delivered key markers to aid and humanitarian organizations in terms of delivery and transparency.”
“Despite the quake tragedy, a key issue for Afghanistan and the Taliban is that the world has moved on from the region and there is a donor fatigue associated with the twenty-year corruption of development aid,” he added.