WHO warns Afghanistan earthquake casualties expected to rise as aid urgently needed

The head of the World Health Organization’s emergency response team in Afghanistan has warned that casualties from a devastating earthquake that struck northwest Afghanistan’s city of Herat are expected to rise as rescue operations continue.

The Taliban administration reported on Monday that the death toll had reached at least 2,400 people, with over 2,000 others injured in the earthquakes that occurred on Saturday (October 7). These quakes rank among the deadliest worldwide this year, alongside tremors in Turkey and Syria, which claimed an estimated 50,000 lives.

Quoted by Reuters, Alaa Abou-Zeid, representing WHO and recently visiting Herat, revealed that two-thirds of the severely injured victims he encountered were women and children.

“The quake happened around 11 o’clock (0630 GMT) in the morning when men were out of their houses, so the majority of those injured and deceased are women and children who were inside their homes at that time, unfortunately,” he said as quoted by Reuters.

Abou-Zeid expressed concerns about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, emphasizing the need for immediate foreign aid. He warned of further deterioration if adequate assistance is not provided, especially as global attention shifts away from the country.

Afghanistan’s healthcare system, heavily reliant on foreign aid, has faced severe cuts since the Taliban assumed control two years ago. Much of the international assistance that underpinned the economy has been halted.

While the United Nations’ humanitarian office has pledged $5 million in assistance for earthquake relief, direct material support from countries beyond neighboring Pakistan has been absent. Pakistan and Iran have offered to send rescue teams and humanitarian aid, with China’s Red Cross Society extending cash relief aid.