Afghan groups step up as foreign earthquake relief faces delays

Afghan groups step up as foreign earthquake relief faces delays

As international aid agencies struggle to provide rapid relief aid to earthquake-hit Afghanistan, civil society groups in the country are mobilising to step in and support the survivors.

More than 24 hours after being hit by a magnitude 5.9 earthquake on Wednesday, residents in remote areas of Paktika and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan continued to dig out bodies from the debris. More than 1,000 people have been killed and about 2,000 wounded, with officials warning that the casualty toll is likely to rise.

Aid is beginning to trickle in to the affected areas, but relief efforts have been hampered by poor communications and basic roads and impoverished Afghanistan has been struggling with a dire humanitarian crisis since the Taliban took over last August.

The Taliban government has called for international help as it struggles to help the survivors, many of whom lack essentials such as food, water and shelter.

Several international agencies have dispatched aid to the locations and are attempting to secure further support. The World Food Programme said it has deployed 18 trucks to the earthquake-affected areas carrying emergency supplies, including High Energy Biscuits and mobile storage units, with plans to send emergency food to an initial 3,000 households.

The World Health Organization said it will provide 10 tonnes of medical supplies sufficient for 5,400 surgeries and medical treatments covering 36,000 people for three months. The UNHCR also dispatched core relief items consisting of tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, and kitchen sets among other items for 600 families, according to a statement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is providing “unrestricted and unconditional multipurpose cash assistance” in a one-off payment of 28,000 afghanis ($314) to affected families, among other supplies.

“NRC will also start to provide cash to identified households to support with shelter repairs where possible,” Becky Roby, NRC advocacy manager in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera.

However, the provision of international relief has been slow as international agencies are struggling to operate in the challenging terrain, Roby said. While the affected areas are remote and mountainous, poor weather conditions over the last few days have also hampered the emergency response.

“The lack of phone signal has made it incredibly difficult to maintain contact with the field teams … even our satellite phones aren’t working in the area,” she said, adding there are also concerns over the underlying risk from landmines laid during four decades of war.

Read full report on Al Jazeera