UN says its agencies rushing to help Afghanistan following deadly quake

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 (APP): The United Nations and its humanitarian partners have rushed to support Afghanistan following a devastating earthquake that hit two provinces in the east of the country early Wednesday morning.

At least 1,000 people have been killed, according to media reports, and numbers are expected to rise.

UN humanitarian agency OCHA said the 5.9 magnitude quake struck the central region of Afghanistan around 1.30 a.m. local time.

Four districts in Paktika province – Gayan, Barmala, Naka and Ziruk – as well as Spera district in Khost province, have been affected.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the earthquake registered at a depth of 10 km, which was reportedly also felt in neighbouring provinces including Kabul, as well as in Pakistan and India.

Immediate needs included emergency trauma care, emergency shelter and non-food items, food assistance and support for water and sanitation, the UN said in a statement.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defence was leading response efforts, OCHA said, and had dispatched five helicopters to Paktika province to facilitate medical evacuations. A medical team was also sent to Gayan district.

OCHA is coordinating the emergency response on behalf of the UN agencies and humanitarian partners and teams have deployed to the two provinces.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has dispatched several mobile health and nutrition teams to provide first aid to the injured.

Dr Mohamed Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, reported that staff were also distributing critical aid, including kitchen equipment; hygiene supplies such as soap, detergent, towels and sanitary pads, as well as warm clothes, shoes, blankets, tents and tarpaulins.

“The de facto authorities have requested the support of UNICEF and other UN agency teams, who are joining efforts to assess the situation and respond to the needs of the affected communities,” he said.

“We stand in solidarity with the children and families affected during this difficult time.”