UN working to get shelter, trauma care to Afghan quake scene

Thursday, Jun 23, 2022

GENEVA: The United Nations’ humanitarian agency said on Wednesday it was scrambling to get emergency shelter, trauma care and food aid to the scene of a deadly earthquake in Afghanistan.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said humanitarian partners were preparing to assist affected families in Paktika and Khost provinces, in concert with the Taliban authorities.

"Immediate needs identified include emergency trauma care, emergency shelter and non-food items, food assistance and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) support," the OCHA said. "Given the unseasonable, heavy rains and cold, emergency shelter is an immediate priority."

The 5.9-magnitude quake struck hardest in the rugged east, where people already lead difficult lives in a country in the grip of a humanitarian disaster made worse by the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

The OCHA said the Taliban’s disaster management and humanitarian affairs office had delivered food and emergency tents to some families living in the open but further help was needed.

The agency said the Afghan defence ministry had dispatched five helicopters to Paktika province to facilitate medical evacuations. "Although search and rescue efforts are ongoing, heavy rain and wind is hampering efforts with helicopters reportedly unable to land," said the OCHA.

"The number of casualties is expected to rise as search and rescue operations are ongoing. "Humanitarian search and rescue teams... are on standby to deploy as needed." Up to 1,800 homes have reportedly been destroyed and damaged in Gayan, representing 70 percent of the district’s housing stock, said the OCHA.

Umicef, the UN children’s agency, has deployed a dozen teams of health workers to Gayan, and several mobile health and nutrition teams to Barmal district in Paktika province and Spera district in Khost province.

"Unicef is also distributing critical aid, including kitchen equipment, hygiene supplies including soap, detergent, towels, sanitary pads and water buckets, warm clothes, shoes and blankets, as well as tents and tarpaulins," said Unicef’s Afghanistan representative Mohamed Ayoya.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation has also delivered 100 cartons of emergency medicine to Gayan and Barmal. The WHO’s Afghanistan office said that within hours of the quake, their teams were supporting local health workers in saving lives and taking care of those affected. Emergency kits have reached Paktika Provincial Hospital "for the immediate needs of those injured", it said.