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Since the first earthquake struck The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) have been responding in the worst-affected areas in the Herat province. New earthquakes and aftershocks hamper response efforts and DRC staff fears for families living in tents over the winter.
Three large earthquakes and several aftershocks have shaken the western part of Afghanistan in the past week, killing thousands and levelling villages. More than 27,155 people have been directly impacted by the earthquakes, with women and children overrepresented in those killed. The continued impact has left people scared, panicked and traumatized. Thousands are still living near the ruins of their former homes, where they are either staying out in the open or have sought shelter in tents due to the fear of aftershocks.
“The impact of the aftershock was so strong, it felt like we were being kicked from underneath. Women came out of the tents running, crying, and calling out for family members. People were yelling urging anyone still in the buildings that hadn’t yet collapsed, to get out. Afterwards people tried to calm down and comfort each other. These communities had already survived the first earthquake, only to be haunted by more earthquakes and aftershocks each day,” says Sultan Rahim, Shelter and Infrastructure Coordinator, who was assisting one of the affected communities, when an aftershock hit.
/ Sultan Rahim, Shelter and Infrastructure Coordinator
Given DRC’s extensive experience in leading emergency responses in Afghanistan, DRC was appointed by OCHA to lead assessments across the most affected villages in Zindajan, Kushk and Gulran districts of the Herat province. Response efforts are being hampered by limited access due to landslides, dislodged debris on roads, and the continued aftershocks. A sandstorm has destroyed tents where families impacted by the earthquake were sheltering, forcing them to again find alternate shelter.
“We continue to try to reach families and communities to provide support. But each day we are faced with new challenges, blocked roads, new quakes and dust storms. We told our local team in Herat province that they could take time off to be with their families, but they all chose to stay and continue supporting DRC’s response. Their commitment is inspiring,” says Mohammad Shakib Herayzad, Area Manager.
The need for reconstruction of homes is immense, as many families have completely lost their house or repairments is impossible due to the severe damage. Furthermore, with winter approaching the time span for providing shelter is limited, which poses a serious concern that families will be forced to live in tents over the winter.
/ Giulia Canali, Head of Programme
“The Afghan population is already suffering from one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, now further worsened by the three earthquakes. DRC will be working tirelessly to aid the thousands affected people with emergency aid but also longer-term help. As we move into winter, we need to assure that funding is forthcoming so we can meet the needs of communities and not let attention dwindle. We will be with the Afghan people all the way, but we can’t do it without additional funding from donors,” says Head of Programme Giulia Canali.
As of the end of July 2023 the Humanitarian Response Plan in Afghanistan was only 27 percent funded. With Afghanistan being increasingly deprioritised and underfunded, DRC fears that the necessary funding for rebuilding efforts will not reach the people in need in time.
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