EARTHQUAKE DESTROYS HOMES IN AFGHANISTAN, 770 PEOPLE DEAD
By: Chloe Huang
Last Wednesday, an earthquake of magnitude 5.9 hit the southeastern part of Afghanistan. This was the deadliest earthquake in two decades, and residents are now scrambling to recover family members and belongings alike. According to the United Nations Humanitarian Office, 770 people have died, though that number is expected to rise.
Despite having a moderate magnitude, the earthquake was extremely devastating for the region. It was at night, so most people were asleep and could not flee the area quickly. They were also in their homes, made of mud and stone, instead of more sturdy commercial buildings, like they would be in if they were at work.
Geyan, a remote region in southeast Afghanistan, was one of the hardest hit regions. More than 24 hours away from Kabul, the Afghan capital, Geyan is extremely hard for aid to reach. Trucks with heavy loads encounter mountainous terrain and steep slopes, making getting aid there a challenge. Still, volunteers and workers brave it all to distribute food and blankets to the villagers.
Most of the inhabitants of Geyan are poor, making only around $55 a month. Their houses are made from masonry and mud, two materials particularly susceptible to earthquakes. The U.N. estimates that 1,500 houses were damaged or destroyed. Many families lost everything they owned, and now must find money to rebuild their houses.
As the focus shifts from rescue to recovery, the Afghan government is asking for aid. With rising temperatures and a lack of access to clean water in many areas, disease could spread and worsen this crisis. The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development set up a makeshift aid distribution site in the area, and Iranian, Pakistani, and Qatari governments have already given various supplies to Afghanistan. It is not enough.
“Relief agencies’ assistance included health assistance, food, tents, and blankets, but the crisis is widespread in the area and is not enough,” said Sanaullah Masoum, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Paktika Province, where the worst damage appeared to be. “We call on the aid agencies to provide more food, health, and humanitarian assistance.”
While other governments have already sent aid, the United States is reluctant to do so. After the Taliban took over the Afghan government last year, it severely restricted the rights of women in Afghanistan, preventing them from attending secondary school and going to public places without an escort. The United States has repeatedly condemned the Taliban for doing so, and that has soured US-Afghanistan relations. We can only wait and see if America will break its stance in light of this new tragedy.