Afghan people look for their belongings amid the ruins of a house damaged by an earthquake in Bernal district, Paktika province, on June 23, 2022. - Desperate rescuers battled against the clock and heavy rain on June 23 to reach cut-off areas in eastern Afghanistan after a powerful earthquake killed at least 1,000 people and left thousands more homeles Image Credit: AFP

Afghans, already reeling from the impact of years of conflict, economic hardship and the Covid-19 pandemic, have been struck with yet another tragedy — a powerful earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale. The quake that hit the Central Region of Afghanistan this week has left widespread death and devastation in its wake.

Four districts in Patika province — Gayan, Barmala, Naka and Ziruk — as well as Spera district in the Khost province, have been badly affected. Rescue operations and humanitarian support are being carried out in the mountainous area amid unfavourable weather conditions, following rain and falling temperatures.

As Afghanistan starts to bury its more than 1,000 dead, there is also an increased realisation that the authorities in Kabul may lack the full resources and medical supplies urgently required by those worst affected. Already the government has made an appeal to the international community for immediate aid.

With the country faced with US sanctions, following the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021, nations around the world are treading with caution but can still consider sending urgent relief aid, classified as humanitarian relief.

Already there has been a positive response. The United Nations is among those scrambling to provide emergency shelter and food aid in the worst-hit areas. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which has a presence in Afghanistan, said that it was deploying mobile health teams and working with authorities to provide support in areas around the quake zone.

In a post on Twitter, WHO stated that “within a few hours” its teams were supporting local health workers in saving lives and taking care of those affected by the disaster.

President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered the start of an aid air bridge to send emergency humanitarian relief, food stuffs and medical supplies to help Afghans affected by the earthquake.

The EU has offered to provide assistance to those in need while a spokesperson for the Japanese government has assured that his country is ready to send necessary aid — promptly — to Afghanistan after the earthquake. South Korea too plans to provide humanitarian assistance, per Seoul’s foreign ministry.

Closer home, Pakistan has rushed convoys of trucks carrying relief materials to help out its quake-struck neighbour but with the communications systems hit, a complete picture of how much assistance is reaching and what exactly are the needs of survivors is not fully clear at the moment.

With the general aid effort in Afghanistan severely underfunded, it is time the international community steps in and provides Afghanistan with the required assistance to avoid further human suffering.