A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck a remote and mountainous region of southeastern Afghanistan early Wednesday. Preliminary media reports suggest that at least 1,000 people were killed and more than 600 others injured. These numbers are expected to increase as responders reach the hardest-hit areas and some people remain trapped in rubble.
The Afghan Red Crescent, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has mobilized staff and volunteers to respond to the unfolding crisis and address the urgent needs on the ground.
The Afghan Red Crescent has more than 30,000 volunteers and a branch in each of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, including Khost and Paktika — the two provinces most heavily impacted. Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are directing food and relief supplies to areas hardest hit by the quake. Trucks with relief items and ambulances have already been dispatched to the affected areas.
An emergency response team—comprised of humanitarian crews from the Danish Red Cross, Norwegian Red Cross, Qatar Red Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent—has left Kabul and is on its way to the affected areas. Additionally, IFRC-supported mobile health teams already in the country have been diverted to respond to the crisis. Medical supplies are being mobilized from Kabul and will be sent to help those in need.
“The people of Afghanistan have already been through so much. Today’s quake is another tragedy,” said Susan Malandrino of the American Red Cross. Conflict and disaster-induced displacement, the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, serious drought, acute food shortages, a fractured health system, poor access to services, high unemployment, and the collapse of banking and financial institutions have converged on the people of Afghanistan.
“Before the quake struck, the country was already struggling with repeated crisis and more than half of the population was in need of humanitarian assistance,” Malandrino said.
The country’s drought crisis has fueled an economic crisis in a country where agriculture is critical for people’s livelihoods and the mainstay of the economy. More than 70% of the population lives in rural areas and around 80 percent of livelihoods depend on agriculture. Without food or income and facing increased uncertainty, tens of thousands of drought-affected families have left their homes, seeking food and shelter in relief camps. This internal displacement has dramatically compounded in recent months, with nearly 700,000 people internally displaced this year and in urgent need of assistance, of which some 80% are women and children.
Increased global support to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan is crucial. Based on preliminary information, the scale of humanitarian needs following the earthquake will be massive though the disaster is localized.