As the numbers of those who have lost their lives in a deadly earthquake in Afghanistan continues to rise, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has deployed emergency teams to the affected provinces to provide lifesaving assistance to the thousands of people left stranded amid a humanitarian catastrophe.

With upwards of 1,000 people killed and at least 1,800 homes destroyed by the earthquake, thousands more people are expected to be displaced. Amid severe weather conditions, including heavy rains and mudslides, the IRC has deployed two mobile health teams to deliver essential first aid to the affected regions. Meanwhile, IRC teams are also providing cash support to families who have lost their homes and livelihoods in the earthquake.

Adnan Junaid, IRC Vice President for Asia, said,

“The toll this disaster will have on the local communities the affected provinces is catastrophic, and the impact the earthquake will have on the already stretched humanitarian response in Afghanistan is a grave cause for concern.

“The areas most affected are some of the poorest and most remote areas in Afghanistan, which lack the infrastructure to withstand disasters like this. Meanwhile, the already-stretched health system, including the regional hospital that serves the provinces of Khost, Logar, Paktia and Paktika, will require significant additional support  to cope with the  needs caused by the earthquake. IRC staff have reported that local hospitals, which have been struggling to meet the needs of communities impacted by malnutrition and hunger, are filling up with the injured. 

“Afghanistan is already enduring a humanitarian crisis that is worsening as the collapse of the economy deepens poverty and hunger across the country. Organisations like the IRC have been on the ground for more than 30 years, delivering essential services to support the healthcare and education systems. However, humanitarian response cannot replace a functioning state or address the drivers of this crisis. Funding is needed now to save lives and support essential services, but the international community must go further and establish a roadmap that sets out strategies to resume development assistance, provide technical support to the central bank, and ultimately release Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves. Only a bold strategy that addresses the causes of this crisis will put an end to the spiral of misery being faced by its population.”

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.