When the ground erupted from last week’s earthquake in Afghanistan, the stone and mud house of Naim Gul on top of it collapsed.
He cracked the rubble in the darkness of dawn, suffocating in the dust as he searched for his father and two sisters. He does not know how many hours of digging passed before he glimpsed their bodies in the rubble. they died.
Now, days after the 6.0-magnitude earthquake devastated a remote region of southeastern Afghanistan, killing at least 1,150 people and injuring hundreds more, Gul sees devastation everywhere and aid in short supply. His niece and nephew were also killed in the earthquake, after they were crushed by the walls of their home.
“I don’t know what will happen to us or how we should start our lives,” Gul told The Associated Press on Sunday. “We don’t have any money to rebuild.”
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Read more: Calgary residents and their families in Afghanistan struggle to help earthquake survivors
It’s a fear shared by thousands in poor villages where anger over the earthquake has been intense – in the provinces of Paktika and Khost, along the jagged mountains that straddle the country’s border with Pakistan.
Those who were hardly striving lost everything. Many aid groups and authorities, who struggle to reach the stricken area on dilapidated roads – some made impassable by landslides and damage, still have to be visited.
Aware of its limitations, the cash-strapped Taliban called for foreign help and on Saturday appealed to Washington to unfreeze billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s currency reserves. The United Nations and a host of international aid groups and countries have mobilized to send assistance.
1:54 At least 1,000 dead after devastating earthquake in Afghanistan At least 1,000 dead after devastating earthquake in Afghanistan
China on Saturday pledged nearly $7.5 million in emergency humanitarian aid, joining countries including Iran, Pakistan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in sending a load of tents, towels, beds and other much-needed supplies to the stricken region.
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Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations, Ramiz Alakbarov, toured the affected Paktika province on Saturday to assess the damage and distribute food, medicine and tents. Helicopters and UN trucks carrying bread, flour, rice and blankets rolled into the affected areas.
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But relief efforts remain incomplete due to funding and access constraints. The Taliban, which seized power last August from a government set up by a US-led military coalition for 20 years, appears mired in the logistical complexities of issues such as clearing rubble in what is shaping up to be a major test of their ability to govern.
READ MORE: Aftershocks hit Afghanistan as earthquake death toll reaches 1,150
Villagers took out their dead loved ones with their own hands, buried them in mass graves, and slept in the forest despite the rain. Nearly 800 families live in the open, according to the UN’s Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Gul received a tent and blankets from a local charity in the Jayan region, but he and his surviving relatives had to fend for themselves. Terrified that the earth is still rolling in aftershocks like the one on Friday that killed five others, he said his children in Gayan are refusing to go home.
The earthquake was the latest disaster to shake Afghanistan, which has been in severe economic crisis since the Taliban took control of the country while the United States and its NATO allies were withdrawing their forces. Foreign aid – a mainstay of Afghanistan’s economy for decades – ceased practically overnight.
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The world’s governments have increased sanctions, halted bank transfers, paralyzed commerce, and refused to recognize the Taliban government. The Biden administration cut off Taliban access to $7 billion in foreign currency reserves held in the United States.
While touring the disaster site, Afghan Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mottaki urged the White House to release the money “at a time when Afghanistan is in the grip of earthquakes and floods” and lift banking restrictions so charities can provide assistance more easily.
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Western donors have withheld long-term aid because they are demanding the Taliban allow for more inclusive governance and respect for human rights. Former insurgents resisted pressure, placing restrictions on the freedoms of women and girls that are remembered for their first time in power in the late 1990s.
Now, about half of the country’s 39 million people face life-threatening levels of food insecurity due to poverty. Most civil servants, including doctors, nurses and teachers, have not been paid in months.
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The United Nations and other remaining organizations scrambled to keep Afghanistan on the brink of famine with a humanitarian program that has fed millions and kept the medical system in place. But with international donors lagging behind, UN agencies face a funding shortfall of $3 billion this year.
The remote areas that were hit by last Wednesday’s earthquake are war-torn and impoverished long before the Taliban took over, and they are not particularly equipped to deal with it.
Some local businessmen have switched to business. The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Investment said on Sunday that it has raised more than $1.5 million for Pakitka and Khost provinces.
However, for those whose homes have been destroyed, help may not be enough.
“We have nothing left,” Gul said.
© 2022 Canadian Press
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