FOR the hapless people of Afghanistan, the list of miseries just doesn’t seem to end. The latest catastrophe to hit the country has been the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that struck early on Wednesday morning. The worst hit has been the eastern province of Paktika, which borders Pakistan. The devastation is believed to be considerable. At the time of writing, the list of fatalities was at least 1,000, with several hundred injured. Unfortunately, the casualty numbers are bound to rise as more information comes in from remote, mountainous villages. Shocks were felt as far away as India. In Pakistan, the tremors were felt in many parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as Islamabad, while the KP Disaster Management Authority said a man was killed in Lakki Marwat in a roof collapse incident linked to the quake.
The immediate priority for Afghanistan’s neighbours as well as the international community should be to provide medical help to those who critically need it. Over four decades of war have resulted in little by way of a proper emergency management system in Afghanistan, while the present cash-strapped Taliban rulers are also not equipped to respond to a disaster of such magnitude. Speedy international efforts are therefore required to help ferry the injured in remote locations to hospitals where they can be provided emergency care as the Taliban have appealed to aid agencies to participate in the relief effort. Moreover, food, shelter and medicine need to be provided to survivors of the disaster. In particular, those states that have spent trillions of dollars on waging war in Afghanistan must now spend liberally to provide succour to the suffering Afghans in their time of need. And considering the frequency of earthquakes in Afghanistan and the high human toll they take — over 7,000 people have been killed in quakes over the last 10 years, as per the UN — international experts should come forward to help put in place mitigation measures that can save lives when disaster strikes.
Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2022