KABUL (Reuters) – Aid agencies launched fresh appeals for funds to deal with the fallout of deadly earthquakes in Afghanistan as local authorities called on Thursday for urgent help for thousands of people left homeless in the aftermath of the tremors.
Multiple earthquakes struck in the western province of Herat on Saturday and Wednesday, destroying entire villages in the war-torn country, which has long relied on foreign aid that has dried up since the Taliban took over in 2021.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in a statement called for immediate international support, saying that an existing appeal for 120 million Swiss Francs ($132.64 million) remained critically underfunded, with only 36 percent raised.
UNICEF also issued a new fundraising appeal, its media office said, calling for an initial $20 million to respond to the earthquakes, saying 90 percent of the death toll was made up of women and children.
Afghanistan’s Taliban-run government has put out conflicting numbers on the death toll, with the disaster management ministry saying over 2,400 had been killed but the health ministry confirming just over 1,000. The U.N.’s humanitarian office on Tuesday put the death toll at 1,294, but from just one district.
Death tolls often change when information comes in from more remote parts of a country where decades of war have left infrastructure in a shambles, and relief and rescue operations difficult to organise and coordinate.
The office of Herat Governor Noor Ahmad Islamjar said in a statement that he had met with U.N. agency officials to stress that urgent help was needed, particularly tents.
The disaster management ministry said that 20 villages – made up of over 1,900 houses of around 10,000 people – were destroyed. Many survivors remain under the open sky amidst falling autumn temperatures.
The Afghan Red Crescent’s spokesman Erfanullah Sharafzoi told Reuters that “98% percent” of the rescue operation had been completed, but its 32 medical and rescue teams will remain at the location of the quakes.
Officials of the Taliban administration did not confirm when the rescue operation would be called off officially.
($1 = 0.9047 Swiss franc)
(Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar in Kabul and Gibran Peshimam in Karachi, Pakistan; editing by Jonathan Oatis)