Afghans have described “doomsday scenes” in the wake of a deadly earthquake that killed 1,000 people in the war-torn country.
- The 6.1 magnitude earthquake has destroyed the Afghan diaspora
- Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia says the death toll could reach 2,500
- Australian crowdfunders to help victims in Taliban-controlled country
Rescuers are digging through rubble with their hands, and the ripple effects of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake can be felt in Australian society.
“It’s a doomsday scenario in hospitals,” Abdul Bari, leader of the Khaberial Welfare Foundation, told ABC.
In Australia, Ezatullah Alam spent his day in his Melbourne office hearing the news that an earthquake had struck near his hometown of Khost – one of the worst-hit areas.
“I was very upset and kept thinking about the people who were trapped in the earthquake all day,” he said.
He said the entire Afghan diaspora in Australia has been in a state of mourning due to the losses.
The southeastern Paktika and Khost provinces are in rugged mountainous terrain in the landlocked country.
The area is more than 200 kilometers from more well-equipped health facilities in the capital Kabul.
Rescue and relief operations have been hampered by untimely rain, uneven terrain and poor communications.
Sayid Mossavi is the vice president of the Australian Afghan Hassanian Youth Association, an NGO that has a handful of volunteers in the country who have come to Paktika in the wake of the disaster.
“The country is already suffering. And now it’s even worse. There are a lot of people who have been displaced – they have nowhere to go, they have no shelter.”
He said the news was “devastating” to Afghan society and asylum seekers in Australia, many of whom have been in limbo in Australia for a decade and who still have family in the region.
“Some people here, they 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.
Sir. Bari said the quake affected the poorest people in a society that relied heavily on money transfers from the Gulf countries to survive.
“There are literally no jobs nearby, the men from these communities go and do labor-intensive jobs in different countries of the world to support families at home, and now their homes were uprooted,” he said.
Ambassador calls for funds in the midst of estimated deaths can reach 2,500
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canberra said the Taliban’s grip on power should not prevent the federal government or Australians from donating generously to help their country recover from the catastrophic earthquake.
The Taliban, which overthrew the Afghan government last year, has called on the international community to help the country, which is already struggling with several humanitarian crises.
Providing aid to Afghanistan can be complicated by the fact that Australia – along with several other countries – does not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of the country.
Ambassador Wahidullah Waissi, was appointed before the Taliban took power, and does not represent the militant group, saying he is leading an “embassy in exile”.
But he said he was convinced Australia could still send money to help Afghans struggling in the wake of the crisis without sending funds to the Taliban, mainly by ensuring donations were given to third parties, including the UN and international relief organizations.
“Australia has already solved this problem by channeling funds to the UN. The UN is carrying out its activities through reputable 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 had been able to stay afloat financially.
Secretary of State Penny Wong has called the quake “heartbreaking” and promised to “work with partners to respond to this crisis”.
Sir. Waissi said the suffering during the quake had been exacerbated by other natural disasters left behind by climate change, including floods and heavy rains last month.
He said reputable sources in Afghanistan estimated that the death toll could now have reached more than 2,500 people and that there was a desperate need for more help.
“There will be some relief and assistance to these villages … [but] there is a lack of food and medicine. The terrain is very difficult and it is very difficult to reach, he tells ABC.
“There is [many people] stranded under the rubble of houses. “
Diana B Sayed, head of the Australian Muslim Women’s Center for Human Rights, said it was great to see well-wisher diaspora groups set up crowdfunding help sites, but it was important to strengthen the voice of those organizing support and coordinating relief and rescue efforts. on earth.
“Turkey has pledged 50 million euros ($ 76 million) and we would love to see Australia pledge support and go through some of these aid organizations to bypass the Taliban,” she said.
“Very real sanctions must be imposed, given that they are an illegitimate terrorist organization that terrorizes the people in everyday life.”
The community is mobilizing to raise funds
Alam said the community had set out to raise money for the victims of the disaster, which he said would be distributed through local groups in Paktika and Khost.
“Our elders here in Australia immediately set up social media groups and started raising funds and spreading appeals around aid that is outside our financial capacity,” he said.
“We have close to 200 members joining our appeal group, and we raised more than $ 5,000 during the first few hours of the earthquake. [for the] affected people in Afghanistan, “he said, adding that they would raise money for three days before sending the money to Afghanistan.
He said special appeals would also be made in mosques during Friday prayers for the victims of the earthquake in Afghanistan.
At least $ 15 million (more than $ 21 million) was an urgent need for rescue efforts, according to initial UN estimates.
Sending funds to Afghanistan, which is facing international sanctions in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, is another major inconvenience.
The country’s fragile banking system is under pressure, and many locals said the only quick way to send money to the affected families in this remote corner of the country was the traditional hawala transfer, which is banned in many countries.
Hawala is an informal money transfer system that involves basic identity documents for the recipient and the sender, but is banned in many parts of the world on suspicion of money laundering.
Sir. Mossavi said he would like to see the Australians help the victims as well.
“The Australian government has always played an active role in helping Afghanistan. It would be nice to see if they could help with the humanitarian aid, to provide aid directly to Afghanistan,” he said.
“I’m completely sorry for the Afghans there.”