The Taliban’s most recent takeover in summer of last year has left Afghanistan’s population living in adverse socio-economic conditions, as food shortages plague families while women defend their ever-dwindling human rights. Only to exacerbate these matters, an earthquake has just rattled the nation, leaving thousands of already famished Afghans, living with no shelter, and losing loved ones.
The 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck on June 21st and is the deadliest to shake Afghanistan for twenty years, with its epicentre situated in the region of Paktika, which lies along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. The death toll has surpassed the thousand mark and is expected to continue to grow, while those injured are about 1,500 persons.
In the aftermath of the quake, the de facto leadership of the Taliban is under pressure. They regained power in 2021 and have since ruled the nation under a harsh interpretation of Sharia law. Their new policies and punishments have violated countless human rights, particularly those of women and girls, which has greatly diminished the volume of aid the nation receives from Western democracies and humanitarian organisations like the UN.
Taliban spokesperson Bilal Karimi has asked these humanitarian organisations to provide more aid to support the co-ordination of relief efforts following the earthquake, and “to prevent further catastrophe.”
Afghanistan is now almost entirely reliant on humanitarian aid to reach the rural, mountainous villages that house the victims of the earthquake. Paktika has few transport links and no paved roads, making reaching victims a challenge for healthcare workers and the provision of necessary supplies, most of which must be deployed by helicopter. To make matters worse, the region is currently suffering in adverse weather conditions of rain, snow and falling temperatures, which makes the provision of emergency shelter evermore dire.
Sources of aid come predominantly from the UN and UNICEF, who have deployed troops within hours of the earthquake, bringing emergency medical assistance and supplies, food, and shelter. The UN also continue their peacekeeping mission ‘UNAMA’, which aims to maintain neutrality while protecting the citizens of Afghanistan during its ongoing conflict. Prevention of the outbreak of disease in the region remains a forefront initiative, as the risk of water-borne diseases in particular pose a vicious threat to these already torn communities.
Neighbouring Pakistan have also provided aid by transporting tents and makeshift shelter across the border to Afghanistan. Dwellings in the Paktika region are typically poorly constructed mud houses and it has been reported that entire villages have been wiped out. The EU also “stands ready to co-ordinate and provide EU emergency assistance,” according to Tomas Niklasson, EU special envoy.
Afghanistan’s economy was already dependant on international aid previous to the earthquake. Decades of war, violence, and corruption cost both money and lives, and have left the state reliant on international funding to afford basic provisions for its starving population, as 93% of Afghan households are suffering from food insecurity. Economic issues aggravated following the Taliban’s takeover last year when UN sanctions were issued as part of the global effort to combat Afghanistan’s growing hub for international terrorism.
Humanitarian aid is now vital to manage the earthquake’s impacts on the people of Afghanistan, impacts on their security, livelihoods, and homes. Tremors of this earthquake will continue to be felt by the Afghan people long after the departure of media interest and inadequate international aid for the reconstruction of industry, infrastructure, and their livelihoods.
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