Afghans have described scenes of “destruction” following a deadly earthquake that killed 1,000 people in a war-torn country.
- A magnitude 6.1 earthquake has devastated the Afghan diaspora
- Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia says death toll could reach 2,500
- Australians crowdfund to help victims in Taliban-controlled country
Rescuers are digging into the rubble with their own hands and the magnitude of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake can be felt in the Australian community.
“It’s a disaster scenario in hospitals,” Abdul Bari, head of the community group Khaberial Welfare Foundation, told ABC.
In Australia, Ezatullah Alam was spending his day at his Melbourne office when he heard the news of the quake near his hometown of Khost – one of the worst-hit areas.
“I was very upset and I was thinking about the people who were hit by the earthquake all day,” he said.
He said the entire Afghan diaspora in Australia was in a state of grief over the gloomy scale of the losses.
The southeastern provinces of Paktika and Khost are located on uneven mountainous terrain in the Mediterranean country.
The area is more than 200 km from the most well-equipped healthcare facilities in the capital Kabul.
Rescue and relief operations were hampered by heavy rains, uneven ground and poor communication.
Sayid Mossavi is the vice president of the Australian Afghan Hassanian Youth Association, an NGO with few volunteers in the country who have arrived in Paktika since the disaster.
“The country has already suffered. And now it is even worse. There are many people who have been displaced – they have nowhere to go, they have no shelter.”
He said the news was “catastrophic” for the Afghan community and asylum seekers in Australia, many of whom have been stranded in Australia for a decade and who still have families in the area.
“Some people here do not even know if their family is well there. They can not get in touch with them, they do not know if their children are alive,” he said.
Mr Barry said the quake affected the poorest people in a community that relied heavily on remittances from Gulf countries for survival.
“There are literally no jobs around, men from these communities go and do labor-intensive jobs in different parts of the world to support families in their homeland and now their homes have been uprooted,” he said.
Ambassador seeks funding amid estimates that deaths could reach 2,500
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canberra has said the Taliban should not stop the federal government or the Australians from donating generously to help his country recover from the devastating earthquake.
The Taliban, which ousted the Afghan government last year, have urged the international community to help the country, which is already battling multiple humanitarian crises.
Aid to Afghanistan may be complicated by the fact that Australia – along with many other countries – does not recognize the Taliban as the country’s legitimate rulers.
Ambassador Wahidullah Waissi was appointed before the Taliban came to power and does not represent the militant group, saying he is leading an “embassy in exile”.
However, he said he was convinced that Australia could still send money to help Afghans struggling in the aftermath of the crisis without raising funds for the Taliban, mainly by making donations to third parties, including the United Nations and international aid organizations.
“Australia has already solved this problem by channeling funds to the United Nations. The UN is doing its work through credible NGOs, so this channel already exists,” he told ABC.
He said it was partly due to the help of the local Afghan community that the Afghan embassy was able to sustain its life financially.
Secretary of State Penny Wong called the quake “heartbreaking” and vowed to “work with partners to respond to this crisis.”
Mr Waissi said the quake was exacerbated by other natural disasters caused by climate change, including floods and heavy rains last month.
He said reliable sources in Afghanistan estimated that the death toll could now have risen to 2,500 and that there was a desperate need for more help.
“There is some relief and help in these villages.” [but] food and medicine are missing. “The ground is very difficult and it is very difficult to reach,” he told ABC.
“There are [many people] trapped under the ruins of houses “.
Diana B Sayed, head of the Australian Muslim Women’s Human Rights Center, said it was wonderful to see diaspora groups wanting to create crowdfunding relief sites, but it was important to strengthen the voices of those who support and coordinate advocacy efforts. on the ground.
“Turkey has pledged 50 million euros ($ 76 million) and we would like to see Australia pledge support and go through some of these aid services to bypass the Taliban,” he said.
“They must be given very real sanctions, given the fact that it is an illegal terrorist organization that terrorizes the people on a daily basis.”
The Community is mobilizing to raise funds
Mr Alam said the community had taken action to raise money for the victims of the disaster, which he said would be distributed through local community groups in Paktika and Khost.
“Our seniors here in Australia immediately set up social media groups and started raising funds and spreading calls for help beyond our means,” he said.
“We have almost 200 members on our appeal team and we raised more than $ 5,000 in the first hours of the quake. [for the] “They hit people in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that they would raise money for three days before sending the money to Afghanistan.
He said special calls would be made to mosques during Friday prayers for earthquake victims in Afghanistan.
At least $ 15 million (over $ 21 million) was urgently needed for the rescue effort, according to initial UN estimates.
Sending funds to Afghanistan, which faces international sanctions after the Taliban came to power in August 2021, is another major setback.
The country’s fragile banking system is under pressure and many locals said the only quick way to send money to affected families in this remote corner of the country was the traditional havala transfer, which is banned in many countries.
Hawala is an informal money transfer system that includes basic identity documents of the recipient and the sender, but is banned in many parts of the world on suspicion of money laundering.
Mr Mossavi said he would also like to see Australians help the victims.
“The Australian government has always played an active role in helping Afghanistan. It would be nice to see if they could help with humanitarian aid, to provide aid directly to Afghanistan,” he said.
“I’m absolutely sorry for these Afghans there.”