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Earthquakes in Afghanistan: HI has helped over 900 people, and the needs are still great

Emergency
Afghanistan

More than 74,000 people were affected by the powerful earthquakes that struck the province of Herat in early October. HI and its partners have been providing assistance to the victims.

A HI physiotherapist stands next to a child in a wheelchair near the shelters.

Herat region, October 2023. A member of the HI rehabilitation team stands next to a child in a wheelchair. | © HI

Present in Afghanistan since 1987, HI is doing its utmost to support the victims of the violent earthquakes and aftershocks that struck the north-west of the country on 7, 11 and 15 October. In addition to the rehabilitation care and psychological support provided to almost 900 people, HI is ensuring that resources are properly deployed to cope with the plummeting temperatures and wintry conditions. 
Taibullah Taib, emergency specialist with HI's Afghanistan programme, describes the situation near Herat. 

Needs assessment: 400 villages affected

We began by working with our partners on the ground to use satellites to identify the areas affected by the earthquakes and their aftershocks, and through a joint need assessment led by UN-OCHA, HI was part of the joint assessment team. Humanitarian aid was then coordinated according to which organisations could respond to the needs identified. Today, we know that almost 400 villages were affected by the earthquakes and 12,000 homes partially or totally destroyed. At this time of the year, with temperatures in the region rapidly, particularly at night, the communities living outdoors are in desperate need of assistance. Tents have been distributed, but a sandstorm around 12 October destroyed some of the shelters, so many people are still waiting for tents that can withstand winter conditions. 

Priorities: rehabilitation, psychological support and distribution of essential goods

HI’s mobile teams have so far provided rehabilitation care for more than 800 people in Herat hospital and in the villages. This includes post-operative care for injuries directly linked to the earthquakes to limit the risk of permanent disabilities, but also the supply of mobility aids (crutches, wheelchairs, etc.). As follow-up is crucial, HI is training people to provide care to injured family members.

Our teams have also provided psychosocial support to more than 730 people. Through individual or group sessions, they are helping survivors cope with the many traumas they have suffered: loss of loved ones, injuries, loss of property, deteriorated living conditions, etc.

Distribution of equipment and shelter

Finally, HI is providing logistical support through its Atlas Logistique division. At our warehouse in the Herat region, we are storing and protecting the resources of HI and the other humanitarian organisations responding to this emergency. This means aid can be distributed to communities on a daily basis, including hygiene kits and winter preparation kits. As the needs are huge, HI will be renting a second warehouse to increase storage capacity. 
In the next few days, winter-proof tents and stoves will be distributed, as children and people with disabilities or injuries are particularly vulnerable to the cold. 

60 members of the HI team mobilised

Since 8 October, more than 60 members of the HI team have been helping people affected by the earthquakes: 

  • 22 physiotherapists are on hand to provide rehabilitation care, 
  • 20 experts in psychosocial support are working with people traumatised by the events,
  • 8 people specialising in risk education are running awareness-raising sessions on the risks of explosive devices, 
  • and 13 social workers are working alongside victims to provide support and assess their situation. 

 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 19 October 2023. 

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