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Afghanistan’s Worst Earthquake in 20 Years

By: Eric Zeng

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake occurred in Afghanistan last Wednesday, and so far, the United Nations humanitarian office has given a conservative estimate of 770 people dead and 1,440 injured.

In Geyan, a district in the Paktika province and one of the hardest-hit areas, the U.N. has said that 1,500 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Although the earthquake was only a magnitude of 5.9, it was enough to level the straw, clay, and mud-brick homes of thousands. Many cities were completely destroyed, and residents must now rely on makeshift tents for shelter.

For many families, the earthquake has also been economically devastating. Some residents only make around 5,000 afghanis a month, or around $55. This leaves families without much money of their own to rebuild their homes and buy new essentials. Padshah Gul, a laborer, says that even though he is happy to be alive, all his family’s belongings have been buried under the rubble. Hospital patient Abdul Haman had rushed home after the earthquake to find his home destroyed, and 17 out of 21 of his family members dead.

With many families left with nothing, international humanitarian assistance is needed to rebuild and revitalize the community. However, there is considerable hostility towards international organizations since the Taliban government assembled last year. Before, foreign aid funded 75 percent of the government’s budget. The Taliban’s policies have caused that foreign aid to be cut off, and the Biden administration is no exception.

Nevertheless, health organizations and foreign governments are making exceptions. The U.N. is providing support to affected Afghans, by distributing blankets, pillows, tents, and more. The World Health Organization said that they have shipped 10 tons of medical supplies. Antonio Gutierres, secretary general of the U.N., says that, “Now is the time for solidarity.”

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