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New earthquake hits Herat amid shortage of funds

AT News

KABUL – Herat province in western Afghanistan has once again been shaken by an earthquake, compounding the suffering of its residents already grappling with a series of significant tremors in recent weeks. The latest event, with a magnitude of 4.4, occurred during the early hours of Monday.

This marks the fifth major earthquake to hit the region since October 7 when a devastating 6.3-magnitude quake claimed over 1,500 lives and left more than 2,100 people injured. Subsequent major aftershocks on October 11, 13, and 15 have caused additional destruction and displaced over 100,000 individuals.

The cumulative impact of these seismic events has been profound, with hundreds of homes reduced to rubble by the relentless quakes and aftershocks. As winter approaches, many people are left exposed to the elements, seeking shelter in makeshift accommodations or amidst the debris. Reports of landslides have further added to the mounting challenges.

It’s particularly worrisome that women in the region, who have already borne the brunt of these tremors, are facing difficulties accessing international aid. Aid agencies had previously raised concerns about the challenges faced by women in receiving support. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently reported that over 80 tons of medical supplies, including essential items for pregnant women and children, arrived in Kabul on October 22. These supplies are a lifeline for many in need of immediate, life-saving assistance in the aftermath of these devastating earthquakes, according to Fran Equiza, UNICEF representative in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is enduring some of the most severe seismic activity in more than a quarter of a century, compounding the humanitarian crises already brought on by drought and poverty. The situation is further exacerbated by the Taliban’s restrictive policies since their return to power in August 2021, affecting women’s access to education, employment, and public life.

A report by the UN on October 21 highlighted the struggles of women in obtaining humanitarian aid without male relatives or identity documents. The ban on Afghan women’s employment by aid groups has also hindered their access to essential resources needed to survive these disasters. Alison Davidian, the UN special representative for women in Afghanistan, emphasized the dire circumstances, stating, “The earthquakes, when combined with the ongoing humanitarian and women’s rights crisis, have made the situation not only difficult for women and girls but deadly.”

The UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has also sounded the alarm, appealing for $19 million to provide emergency food aid to 100,000 individuals in Herat. Ana Maria Salhuana, deputy country director of the WFP in Afghanistan, expressed the challenges they face, stating, “We are having to take this food from an already severely underfunded program.” This comes in the wake of the WFP’s earlier reduction of food aid to millions of Afghans due to massive funding shortfalls.

The situation in Herat and its impact on women and humanitarian aid remains a pressing concern as the region grapples with ongoing seismic activity and the broader challenges that confront Afghanistan.

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