Kabul, Oct 13 (EFE).- The Taliban’s lack of experience has left Afghanistan facing one of its worst disasters in decades without a response plan. Almost a week after the earthquakes that struck western Afghanistan, the government still does not have a unified count of the death toll.
Afghanistan was already suffering from one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, which made last Saturday’s earthquakes a devastating blow to this nation in the hands of a fundamentalist group that, until two years ago, was hiding in the mountains planning attacks against the US invasion.
No rescue plan
“From what we have seen, the Taliban government does not have a proper short-, medium- or long-term plan to provide for the people on the ground,” Afghan emergency expert Mohammad Masood Dawlatshahi told EFE.
The Zindah Jan district of Herat province was the epicenter of last Saturday’s earthquakes, which registered up to 6.3 on the Richter scale. Nearly 90 percent of the villages that make up the district have disappeared, and what were once hundreds of mud houses have turned into mountains of dirt and dust.
For almost a week, survivors and relatives from areas far from the epicenter have had to travel to Herat to search in hospitals or dig up their families with their own hands.
Some residents interviewed by EFE said the only resources sent for rescue were “picks and shovels” for people to search themselves.
Without rescue experts, residents are scratching the ground, looking for traces of cloth, hair, or any indication of a body in the area.
No death tally
“The incident has entered its sixth day, but the Taliban have not yet announced the exact number of dead: Disaster Management says 2,400, while the Ministry of Health says more than 1,000, which shows their irresponsibility in the face of the human catastrophe in Herat,” social activist Nahid Noori told EFE.
In a preliminary count, the authorities estimated more than 2,400 dead and 2,000 wounded but later added the dead and wounded without differentiation. They spoke of 4,500 victims, claiming it was still “tough” to confirm the number of dead.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Health has stated that they have identified and confirmed only 1,000 deaths.
Meanwhile, relief camps have been overflowing with hundreds of victims who say they have lost entire families of over a dozen people.
Under sanctions and with several of its leaders blacklisted by international organizations, the Taliban government has no access to the country’s reserves or the global financial system.
Although they have insistently asked for help from the international community since the first days, a source consulted by EFE within the United Nations said that the response from donors could be much higher but that the UN has emergency funds available for situations like this.
Meanwhile, the government has appealed to its citizens, especially “wealthy people” and Afghan businessmen, to donate money for the emergency.
On the streets of major cities, residents are dropping a few coins into boxes for these funds, despite their limitations, as more than 90% of families in this war-torn country do not have enough to eat, according to the UN.
“The Taliban government and other organizations are only providing much-needed supplies such as tents, food, mineral water, and blankets, which will not help the people affected by the earthquake unless they start building the necessary facilities,” Dawlatshahi said.
One of the country’s major airlines and a wealthy Afghan expatriate businessman have made two of the most significant donations.
But that is not enough, “because of the constant earthquakes, money transfer companies are not working in Herat, MoneyGram and Western Union are suspended (…) Help is urgently needed for cash in Herat,” Fawad Noorzad, an employee of the Refa Charitable Foundation, told EFE.
Winter is coming
More than 2,000 homes were destroyed in the Zindah Jan district alone. Still, the Taliban government has not announced any reconstruction plans to provide shelter for the coming winter.
According to experts, responding to such a major natural disaster requires a plan and proposal to provide livelihoods, a source of drinking water, housing construction, and a health and education system, especially as the cold winter approaches.
“A long-term strategy is needed to deal with major natural disasters, not just emergency aid for a few days,” aid worker Wafiullah Rawan told EFE.
At the moment, “there is not enough capacity for disaster management, and the current strategy of the Taliban government is not working to cover the people on the ground,” he lamented. EFE