As mobile health teams reach the epicentre of the Afghanistan earthquake, which claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced many more, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls for urgent international action to address the underlying causes of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. 

Estimates that between 700 - 800 families are sleeping in the open air in the worst-affected areas, having lost their homes or too fearful of further tremors to go back inside, have led to concerns that many people are vulnerable to risks such as family separation, abuse or violence. Many families are attempting to travel to the nearby Paktia region in an effort to access medical treatment, with local medical services - already under enormous strain from the ongoing economic crisis - unable to cope. 

The IRC deployed an emergency response team to Khost and Paktika provinces, including a mobile health team to provide emergency first aid and medical care to those injured in the earthquake. Our teams are also providing cash assistance for those with severe injuries who require transport to the regional hospitals, as well as assessing the protection needs of those who are sleeping without shelter, and installing water and sanitation equipment to replace those that were destroyed.

David Miliband, CEO & President of the International Rescue Committee, said,

“Humanitarian teams led by Afghan responders, surged to the regions worst affected by Wednesday’s devastating earthquake, delivering emergency assistance within twenty-four hours of the disaster. The pace of the response demonstrates again the critical role of an Afghan led, and well funded humanitarian response.

“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community. While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unravelling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect. 

“Many families across the country have lost their jobs and now have no income to meet their needs. As a result nearly all businesses report a decline in demand, forcing them to cut jobs at a time when people need employment. Critical health and education services have also been hobbled.

“The nearly $800 million committed by the World Bank to Afghanistan this month is a vital step, but the slow pace of investment has proved fatal for families in Paktika who were left searching for life saving health care in times of need. Meanwhile, the humanitarian response is merely 33% funded. The international community should act with urgency to commit further funding to urgently scale up support to basic public services, while driving forward efforts to resuscitate Afghanistan’s economy through the provision of technical assistance to the Central Bank, and the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.

"Without efforts to address the drivers of the crisis in Afghanistan, the experience of families in Paktika will be repeated when emergencies strike across the country, with devastating consequences.”

The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across ten provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community-based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.