Over 95,000 children are in desperate need of aid three months after devastating back-to-back earthquakes struck western Afghanistan. Frigid winter weather has compounded their misery, putting nearly 100,000 quake survivors at risk.
Ongoing Crisis Since June Earthquakes
On June 22, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck the western province of Badghis, damaging hundreds of mud-brick homes. Just two weeks later, on July 6, a deadlier quake registering 6.1 magnitude hit southeastern Paktika province, killing over 1,000 people.
Over 155,000 houses were destroyed across the provinces of Paktika and Khost, leaving hundreds of thousands without shelter. Aftershocks continue to rattle the region, causing landslides and collapsing poorly constructed homes.
Situation Especially Dire for Children
Children make up an estimated 40% of earthquake survivors in urgent need across the affected provinces of Paktika, Khost and Paktya. Frigid winter weather with temperatures dipping below freezing has compounded their misery.
Many families lost everything in the disaster and were forced into makeshift camps or are still living in partly collapsed houses. Thin tents and inadequate clothing leaves them exposed to the harsh mountain winters.
At least 26,850 children need immediate access to health services. Another 96,000 children need some form of humanitarian assistance over the next three months.
Without additional funding and aid, thousands of children are at risk of dying from malnutrition or freezing weather.
Health Threats to Children in Earthquake Zone
Lack of proper shelter, nutrition and health care threatens children’s lives in the earthquake-hit region. Harsh winter weather raises the risk of respiratory infections and frostbite.
Displacement from homes damaged in the quakes has disrupted vital vaccination programs. This raises the risk of disease outbreaks, like measles and acute watery diarrhea among children.
|Over 28,500 children under 5 suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition.
|Sub-zero temperatures put children lacking warm shelter and clothing at risk of frostbite or hypothermia.
|Limited access to safe drinking water and sanitation raises risk of diseases like acute watery diarrhea.
|Disrupted routine vaccination programs raise risk of disease outbreaks like measles. Over 60% of affected people lack access to health care.
Without additional aid and services, child casualties threaten to climb even higher in the coming months.
International Aid Efforts Underfunded
The United Nations and humanitarian organizations launched appeals to assist Afghanistan after thequakes. But funding remains well short of the estimated $110 million needed to provide adequate relief.
As of mid-January, only around 30% of the $147 million appeal had been funded. Agencies warn they will be forced to suspend or reduce relief efforts without urgently needed resources.
Harsh winter weather has strained already scant resources for shelter, heating, food, and health services. Relief workers warn thousands of families are barely surviving without adequate aid.
Uncertain Future Even With Aid
Even if urgently needed aid reaches survivors, uncertain land rights threaten to leave many earthquake victims homeless indefinitely.
Most survivors in rural areas lack formal land ownership papers. This blocks access to government compensation and resettlement schemes.
Without legal land rights, families displaced by damaged homes struggle to find long-term housing solutions. Some return to partly-collapsed dwellings, risking injury in aftershocks. Others cluster in makeshift camps lacking infrastructure for the harsh winters.
In the best case with well-funded aid, relief workers aim to provide temporary housing to see families through the winter. But permanent resettlement solutions remain unclear given legal barriers and funding shortfalls. For now the future remains uncertain for thousands of displaced earthquake victims.
Call for Aid and Advocacy
Relief organizations continue calls for increased funding to provide desperately needed food, health care, shelter and other relief. But aid alone cannot solve the longer-term housing needs without policy changes.
Advocacy is urgently required to find solutions so earthquake victims can legally rebuild stable homes. Streamlining compensation programs and expanding land rights are critical to empowering families to recover after disaster. Otherwise, the June earthquakes threaten to lead to a lost generation of Afghan children lacking adequate housing, health care and futures.
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