According to state media, an aftershock jolted a hard-hit district of eastern Afghanistan on Friday, two days after a quake shook the region, destroying hundreds of mud-brick homes and killing 1,150 people.
Pakistan's Meteorological Department reported a magnitude 4.2 earthquake in southern Afghanistan. According to the state-run Bakhtar News Agency, it resulted in five deaths and 11 injuries in the hard-hit Gayan District.
Over a million children were at risk of acute malnutrition in the 38-million-person nation, which was already in the middle of a spiraling economic catastrophe that had driven millions into poverty.
The magnitude six earthquake that occurred in the night on Wednesday, when people were sleeping, left thousands without shelter and highlighted the country's mounting needs. As nations refuse to engage directly with the Taliban, Afghanistan is cut off from the world monetary system, and humanitarian organizations lament having to pay local workers with cash handed by hand.
In Paktika province, the epicenter of the earthquake, and nearby Khost province, aid organizations such as the local Red Crescent and the World Food Program assist the most vulnerable households with food and other emergency needs such as tents and sleeping mats.
Despite this, it appeared that civilians mainly were on their own to deal with the aftermath, as the government-run by the Taliban and the international relief community struggled to assist. The deteriorating mountain roads leading to the impacted areas were exacerbated by rain and damage. Villagers have been manually searching through the wreckage for survivors while burying their dead.
Friday, the Taliban director of the Bakhtar agency reported that the death toll had risen to 1,150 from 1,000 previously reported. Abdul Wahid Rayan said that at least 1,600 individuals were hurt.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 770 people have died.
Given the difficulty of accessing and interacting with the affected villages, it is unclear how death toll estimates are being compiled. In either case, the earthquake would be the deadliest in Afghanistan in twenty years.
According to state-run media, up to 3,000 dwellings were destroyed or severely damaged. At least 1,000 houses were damaged by the earthquake in the Gayan district. Another 800 homes were killed in the Spera district of Khost province.
While contemporary structures can withstand earthquakes of magnitude six elsewhere, Afghanistan's mud-brick dwellings and mountains prone to landslides make such tremors more perilous.
Even though the distance between Kabul and Gayan District is only 175 kilometers, it takes an entire day to reach some of its villages due to the terrible condition of the roads in the area.
In communities throughout the region of Gayan, where journalists from the Associated Press spent hours touring on Thursday, families who had spent the previous night searching for lost loved ones in the open air carried pieces of timber from collapsed roofs and removed stones by hand. A small number of Taliban fighters were spotted helping to dig through the rubble as they roamed the area in cars.
One bulldozer was carried, which was the sole indication of heavy machinery. Ambulances circulated, but another assistance to the surviving was few. A 6-year-old boy in Gayan wept as he reported that his parents, two sisters, and a brother had all passed away. He fled the destruction of his residence and sought sanctuary with the neighbors.
In August last year, several international aid organizations departed from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power. Those who remain are frantically attempting to deliver medical supplies, food, and tents to the remote earthquake-ravaged region. This year, UN agencies face a $3 billion financing gap for Afghanistan.
Germany, Norway, and several other nations said they would send relief for the earthquake but emphasized that they would only cooperate through UN agencies and not with the Taliban. Any government has not yet recognized the latter. Nations have urged the Taliban to address human rights concerns, primarily the rights and freedoms of Afghan women and girls, before addressing any other issues.
The International Rescue Committee has emergency health teams in the two provinces to provide first aid. It has stated that it offers cash assistance to families whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by the earthquake. The organization, which has been active in Afghanistan since 1988, is requesting a road map to release Afghanistan's foreign exchange assets eventually.
In response to the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan last year, as the U.S. was preparing to remove its forces, the Biden administration froze approximately US$9.5 billion held by the Afghan central bank in U.S. banks, making it difficult for the new rulers to pay government servants and import commodities.
Food and other supplies arrived by truck from Pakistan, while planes carrying humanitarian relief landed from Iran and Qatar. India has dispatched a technical team to the Afghan capital, Kabul, to coordinate the distribution of humanitarian aid. India has stated that its assistance will be provided to a UN agency and the Afghan Red Crescent Society.
The earthquake hit a region of extreme poverty in Paktika province, where locals eke out a livelihood in the few fertile areas among the rugged mountains.
According to forecasts cited by the United Nations and others, poverty rates might reach 97% of the population, and unemployment could get 40% this year.