Earthquake relief efforts gather pace in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Published: 30 October 2015 4:17 CET

By Naveed Siddiqi, Afghan Red Crescent Society and Patrick Fuller, IFRC

As rescue efforts continue following Monday’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Northeast Afghanistan, the government now estimates that over 53,000 people have been directly affected by the disaster which has left more than 3,000 homes damaged or destroyed.

Within hours of the quake, Afghan Red Crescent Society emergency response teams had deployed to affected areas in the provinces of Jalalabad, Kunar, Badakhshan and Takhar.

One of the main challenges for relief efforts is delivering relief to some of Afghanistan’s more remote regions. The district of Sawkai in Konar province is one area where the earthquake caused huge damage. It is surrounded by high mountains and deep valleys. Access by road is poor and most local people rely on traditional transport such as mules or donkeys. Travelling from villages to the centre of the district takes hours.

Sher Afzal, is a Red Crescent volunteer active in Posairay, a village in the ‘Dew Gal’ valley of Sawkai.

“The earthquake caused a landslide and huge mountain rocks were carried down by which destroyed almost the whole village,” he said.

Jaan Daad, a local man, lost nine members of his family, all women and children, when his home collapsed. “When I entered his house, I found him buried under the rubble,” explained Sher Afzal. “With the help of other villagers, we rescued five of his sons who were seriously injured. After providing first aid, we decided to take them to the district hospital which is 30 kilometres away from the village.  It took us four hours, and when we arrived the hospital was not able to help as the injuries were so serious and needed more professional treatment.”

The Red Crescent team had no option but to take the injured another 24 kilometres to the provincial hospital in Asadabad, the centre of Konar province where they were finally admitted at 10pm.

“Our village is one of the remote areas in the province. People don’t know how to provide basic first aid in such situations. I’m thankful for the training I received from the Red Crescent and I’m proud that I was able to help many injured villagers,” Sher Afzal said.

Across the border, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society has deployed 14 disaster response teams comprising 100 staff and volunteers, who are operating in the most affected districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Gilgit-Baltistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is providing funds from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help the Red Crescent meet immediate health and shelter needs of 28,000 people in the three provinces. Mobile health units will be deployed, and shelter tool kits together with roofing materials and essential household items will be distributed.

“The severely affected districts are located high up in the northern areas of Pakistan,” said Gorkhmaz Huseynov, Head of the IFRC in Pakistan. “Some areas have recently experienced a sudden drop in temperature and heavy snowfall. The aid effort needs to move fast. It is critical that people have a roof over their head, warm blankets and other relief items and services to meet their immediate needs.”