Tragedy Strikes Western Afghanistan
Massive Earthquake Ravages Villages, UN Agencies Coordinate Response
The death toll from a catastrophic earthquake that shook western Afghanistan surged to over 1,000 overnight, sending shockwaves through affected villages. UN agencies, working in tandem, announced the grim news on Sunday, as rescue operations raced against the clock.
UN’s Swift Response
Coordination with Afghan Authorities and Relief Operations Underway
UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric underscored the United Nations’ commitment, stating,
“The United Nations and our partners in Afghanistan are coordinating with the de facto authorities to swiftly assess needs and provide emergency assistance.”
In this critical moment, UN agencies, partners, and local authorities sprang into action. Initial assessments painted a dire picture, with the 6.3 magnitude quake, striking 40 kilometers west of Herat on Saturday, claiming lives across eight villages, as reported by the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA).
The Rising Toll
Over 1,000 Lives Lost, Thousands Injured and Missing
As the sun set on Sunday evening, the agency delivered an updated, heartbreaking count—1,023 people reported killed, and another 1,663 injured across 11 villages in the Zindajan district of Herat province.
The quake left a trail of devastation, with estimates suggesting that 100 percent of homes in the area have been utterly destroyed. Additionally, 516 people, comprising 203 men and 213 women, remained unaccounted for, adding to the anguish, OCHA reported.
Immediate Relief Efforts
UN Mobilizes Emergency Funds and Aid Operations
To bolster the ongoing response, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator swiftly approved a $5 million emergency reserve allocation from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund. OCHA is set to launch and process these funds within 24 hours, enabling eligible partners to access grants effectively starting from October 9.
Humanitarian partners are also in the process of formulating an emergency appeal, further underlining the urgency of the situation.
UNICEF’s Rapid Deployment
Hygiene Kits, Winter Clothes, and More Rushed to the Scene
On the ground, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) swiftly deployed additional teams to reinforce ongoing humanitarian efforts. Their response included the dispatch of 10,000 hygiene kits, 5,000 family kits, 1,500 sets of winter clothes, blankets, 1,000 tarpaulins, and basic household items.
These provisions complement the support provided by other UN agencies and partners. Fran Equiza, the UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, pledged,
“Together with our partners, we will make every effort to bring quick relief to those affected.”
Care for the Afghanistan Earthquake Injured
Health Facilities and Emergency Drugs
Injured survivors are receiving vital care in nearby health facilities, with essential emergency drugs supplied by UNICEF and partners. The agency also provided emergency tents to ease the burden on overwhelmed health clinics.
Multifaceted International Response
IOM, WFP, UNHCR, WHO Join Relief Efforts
Collaborating with local authorities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Food Programme (WFP), and partners dispatched emergency assessment teams as part of the initial response. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the World Health Organization (WHO) continued their efforts to provide assistance.
UN Urges Global Solidarity
Secretary-General Calls for Support Amidst Crisis
UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, extending heartfelt condolences to the victims’ families and wishing a swift recovery for the injured. The UN Spokesperson conveyed Guterres’s call to action, stating,
“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.”
In this moment of adversity, the world must unite to aid those in dire need.