Credit: Neday Balouch

An earthquake in Afghanistan has killed over 2000 people, estimates are that over 90 per cent of casualties are women and children

A powerful earthquake has struck western Afghanistan as the nation reels from another disaster at a time of deep economic crisis. Roya Musawi reports.

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake has struck in different districts of Herat - the third largest city of Afghanistan. Based on a OCHA report published on October 13, 2500 homes have been totally destroyed, and over 19,000 are directly affected. Over two thousand people lost their lives, with thousands now homeless.

Economically, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and has experienced many years of military conflicts and fragile political regimes. After the Taliban took over in 2021, the economic situation worsened and the recent earthquake is a new crisis for Afghani citizens to work through.  

Unfortunately, the United Nations has stated that 90 per cent of the earthquake casualties are women and children. 

Many districts outside of Herat have been affected by the earthquake including Zenda Jan, Gulran, Rabat Sangi and some other areas. Homes in these areas are generally basic with many built out of mud with hatched roofs. Unfortunately, due to resource constraints, these homes have not been built to protect against earthquakes. 

Another old man named Karimullah, from the Zenda Jan district, who is the only survivor of his family, was working on his farm beside his home when the earthquake hit. He said that the tremor of the earth was very strong, and as a result, he fell. He could hear the voice of his son shouting for help from his house, but he could not walk towards him because he had broken bones.  

“After 20 minutes my son got silent and still, I have his voice in my mind and would never forget it in my life that I couldnot save my son.,” Karimullah said.

“We are poor people, we run our lives with small farms, and the livestock we had. I don’t know why we suffer from everything either conflict or natural disaster,” he added.

Khodaydad is another survivor who lost 18 members of his family. He and his brother are the only survivors. 

“There are tens of people in my village under the debris and rubbles, many are terrified from the aftershocks. On the first day, the Taliban military helicopters arrived, and neighbourhood village volunteers’ men and women are working there. They took out dead bodies of my family; and helped to bury them,” Khodaydad said. 

A Herat local confirmed to Missing Perspectives that while there are many organizations and people who raise funds, there is significant corruption in the distribution of aid and a lack of coordination with the organization and prioritizing the needs of survivors. 

In one case, they bought a pair of shoes in 150 Afghan equal to 2.5USD but they reported over 300USD or in a village they gave only 14 tents for 70 persons. 

He said that in the case of the earthquake, there is no specific mechanism for the distribution of aid, and the distribution management is super weak. In some villages, even the aid workers been have not reached yet. 

“When the earthquake struck before arrival of the aid organizations, people from our neighbour villages arrived to help and rescue but the death toll are quite high We are the luckiest to breathe again and it’s a miracle.” Added Shafiqa one of the survivors.

Neighbouring countries like Iran, China and Kazakhstan have sent aids to Afghanistan. Afghan Red Crescent team and volunteers are on the ground and could provide shelters for over tens of affected people. 

“We were the first aid workers arrived in the area and we have 32 rescuer teams which are included volunteers and our staff. It’s difficult to say the exact number of the people we took out from under the rubbles because our teams are still working on the ground,” said Erfanullah Sherzoi, an Afghan Red Crescent spokesperson.

“The needs are still high, and the situation is dire. Thousands of families have been affected. The affected people need shelter for upcoming winter and health services.”