Tragedy In Afghanistan
The powerful earthquake which struck the remote border region of Afghanistan has reportedly claimed the lives of at least 1,000 people while injuring hundreds more. As is often the case with such disasters, casualty numbers are expected to climb over the coming days as rescue teams try to dig through collapsed dwellings.
Reports reveal that the earthquake struck impoverished hilly areas with weak buildings, ill-equipped to handle the shock. Hundreds of houses have been destroyed and there have been landslides. The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre put the earthquake’s magnitude at 6.1, though the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said it was 5.9. The situation is extremely dire as Afghanistan lacks the resources and capacity to deal with a disaster of this magnitude. The health sector is severely short on supplies and staff, and international aid agencies left the country following the Taliban takeover.
Adding to the challenge for the Afghan authorities is the recent flooding that has taken place in many regions, which has reportedly claimed 11 lives, injured many more, and blocked stretches of highway. It is important to remember that these disasters come while the country has been enduring a severe economic crisis since last August when sanctions were imposed on the banking sector and billions of dollars worth of aid were cut.
While some humanitarian agencies continue to operate on the ground, dealing with community organisations instead of the government, there is a lot more that needs to be done urgently. It is encouraging to see Pakistan respond promptly by announcing that it would be dispatching medical teams and other relief goods to Afghanistan’s Paktika province. Other key regional and international actors must step up relief efforts. This is not the time to debate optics or obsess over the technicalities of legitimacy and recognition. In times like these, the world must stand with the people of Afghanistan who have suffered immeasurably over the last two decades and now find themselves in dire need of relief and assistance.