Strife in the Middle East: Earthquake in Afghanistan hurts residents of Afghan region

On Monday, October 26th, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The quake devastated a region that has already had their share of strife: the Taliban holds the majority of the power in the Afghan region and towns were struggling to make ends meet.

With winter coming and homes destroyed, President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan said in a video message that the people have enough food–their primary need is tents, blankets and warm clothes. However, people are struggling to find food, and it has become difficult for NGOs to send food aid to those in need because of their government status. The head of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, Wais Ahmad Barmak said that the Taliban is active in some of the affected areas, making the already difficult-to-reach mountain and valley areas even more complicated to get aid to.

According to Pakistan’s disaster management authority, the quake damaged 10,586 houses in the country’s northwest. These numbers are expected to climb. ement Authority has been delivering tents, blankets, and food, and will be reaching the more remote areas once roadways are cleared of the rubble the earthquake brought.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the city of Peshawar on Wednesday the 28th to attend a briefing on quake damages. He pledged his government would provide “maximum compensation” to the victims.

“We are going to start the provision of compensation to those whose homes were damaged,” he said, adding that 200,000 rupees (about $2,000) would be given to each person to rebuild their homes.

International aid agencies in Afghanistan are working on assessing damage and helping with recovery. Doctors Without Borders evacuated its patients and personnel from the affected regions, and is sending teams to assess need in the region. Plan International said it was working with organizations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, to monitor the situation, but noted that cell phone access in both Afghanistan and Pakistan had been cut off, making it difficult to know the full damage of the quake. Scott Anderson, the deputy head of office for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kabul, Afghanistan, told Reuters Monday that they “just don’t know” the full extent of the earthquake’s damage because phone lines were destroyed.

The Taliban told their fighters on the 27th to help aid organizations distribute materials and expressed their sympathies for the victims. NPR’s Philip Reeves brought up on his coverage of the event on Morning Edition that the Taliban’s actions mirror that of 2005.

“This recalls what happened in 2005,” Reeves says, “where one militant group in particular … played a leading role in supplying aid and assistance to earthquake victims in that earthquake, which killed more than 75,000 people. And that organization won quite a lot of public approval for doing so.”

As Afghanistan works to asses the damage of the quake and the number of people affected, the world will watch to see what will become of this already devastated region in the coming months.