The UN: Afghan quake adds to emergencies in country

For more information, please see: In the village of Gayan, in Paktika province, Afghanistan, Thursday, June 23, 2022, Afghans gather around the bodies of relatives who were killed in an earthquake. Eastern Afghanistan was rocked by the country’s deadliest earthquake in more than two decades early Wednesday, according to the country’s state-run news agency. Ebrahim Nooroozi for AP Photographs

The Associated Press reports that In addition to the worst drought in 30 years and massive poverty, Afghanistan is currently dealing with a devastating earthquake. According to senior U.N. officials on Thursday, Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers are increasing abuses of human rights and the country has the highest number of people at risk of starvation in the world.

Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief, and Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan, painted a bleak picture of Afghanistan’s 38 million people’s hardships and perils.

Security Council members discussed the situation in Afghanistan during a pre-scheduled meeting, which took place before Wednesday’s powerful quake killed at least 1,000 people in the eastern provinces. As many as 770 people were killed in Paktika and Khost provinces, according to UN estimates.

Copyright Associated Press All rights reserved. On June 23, 2022, an earthquake struck the village of Gayan in Paktika province, Afghanistan. Eastern Afghanistan was rocked by the country’s deadliest earthquake in more than two decades early Wednesday, according to the country’s state-run news agency. It was taken by the AP’s Ebrahim Nooroozi.

Many more people were injured and the death toll is expected to rise as Afghans continue digging through the rubble in an effort to find more bodies.

When U.S. and NATO forces began their chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war, Griffiths said “dramatic shifts in Afghanistan’s political and economic landscape” had brought “unrelenting human suffering to the country’s people.”

Copyright Associated Press All rights reserved. On Thursday, June 23, 2022, in Gayan village, Paktika province, Afghanistan, men gather around the bodies of those killed in an earthquake. Eastern Afghanistan was rocked by the country’s deadliest earthquake in more than two decades early Wednesday, according to the country’s state-run news agency. It was taken by the AP’s Ebrahim Nooroozi.

“Crop production is expected to be below average this harvest,” he said, citing the country’s worst drought in nearly 30 years, which has affected three-quarters of its provinces.

More than half of the population (25 million) is living in poverty, with 6.6 million of those in “emergency” situations, according to Griffiths. There are more people in this country at risk of starvation than anywhere else, he said.

It was “yet another tragic reminder of the myriad dangers facing the Afghan people,” Alakbarov, the country’s current top official, said in a video briefing from Kabul.

Security has become “more unpredictable,” he said, due in part to the rise of armed opposition to the Taliban, which he attributed in part to “political exclusion.” This has led to conflicts, particularly in Panjshir and Baghlan Provinces. When comparing April and May, “armed opposition attacks on de facto authorities doubled,” the official said.

Copyright Associated Press All rights reserved. At a warehouse in Islamabad, Pakistan, on June 23, 2022, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) released a photo of a convoy of trucks carrying relief goods for Afghanistan’s earthquake-hit areas. (National Disaster Management Authority via the AP))

He also cited “credible allegations of killings and ill-treatment and other violations targeting individuals associated with the former Afghan government,” as well as the Taliban’s “chief rivals,” ISIS, as examples of the “precarious” human rights situation in the country.

Copyright Associated Press All rights reserved. On June 22, 2022, a woman sits in a makeshift shelter in Ryan, Paktika province, Afghanistan. Eastern Afghanistan was rocked by the country’s deadliest earthquake in more than two decades early Wednesday, according to the country’s state-run news agency. It was taken by the AP’s Ebrahim Nooroozi.

He also brought up the Taliban’s tightening restrictions on women and girls, as well as the right to peaceful assembly and the freedom of expression, as well as the ongoing economic crisis. He estimated that Afghanistan’s economy has shrunk by 30 to 40 percent since the Taliban’s takeover.

A 40% unemployment rate this year would be an increase over 2021’s rate of 13%, while the poverty rate could reach 97% by year’s end, according to Alakbarov’s projections. While the economy continues to deteriorate, 82 percent of households are now in debt, which is even more worrisome.

Copyright Associated Press All rights reserved. In Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 16, 2021, hundreds of people gathered near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane at the international airport’s perimeter. The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been accused by an independent watchdog for U.S. aid to Afghanistan of illegally withholding information about the American withdrawal from the country last year. Image copyright Shekib Rahmani

Afghan families he met while traveling the country expressed gratitude for humanitarian aid, but also expressed the desire for jobs, a future, and security that included freedom of movement for both men and women.

To put it another way, 80 percent of aid organizations are experiencing delays in receiving funds because the formal banking system continues to stymie their efforts.

Another “impediment,” according to him, is that the Taliban are increasingly trying “to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries and the channeling of assistance to people on their own priority lists” across the entire country. “There are more instances of interference today than in previous months,” he said, adding that aid organizations struggle to hire women.

It’s estimated that by the end of 2022 the United Nations will have “a staggering nearly $3 billion funding shortfall,” according to Griffiths. He emphasized the importance of “early funding and early action” in order to avert “a catastrophe this winter.”