UN report estimates $402.9 million needed for recovery in earthquake-hit Herat

A post-disaster needs assessment released by the United Nations, in collaboration with the World Bank, the European Union, and the Asian Development Bank, reveals a staggering need for $402.9 million for recovery efforts in Afghanistan’s Herat province following devastating earthquakes in October 2023.

The report assesses direct physical damage at $217 million, with additional losses reaching $78.9 million.

Housing, the most affected sector, constitutes 41 percent ($164.4 million) of the total recovery needs, following the damage of 49,578 houses, with 13,516 completely destroyed. The education sector also faces significant disruption, affecting 180,000 students and 4,390 teachers. The agriculture sector, a primary source of income in the region, has experienced major setbacks.

The earthquake series on October 7, 11, and 15 resulted in over 1,500 deaths and more than 2,600 injuries. The UNDP-led assessment covered nine districts, affecting over 275,000 individuals, including vulnerable groups like pregnant women, infants, the elderly, and those with disabilities.

The report emphasizes the broader macro-economic and human impacts, including persistent poverty, slow economic recovery, job scarcity, and mental health challenges, adding to Afghanistan’s existing economic difficulties.

In Herat, already strained by hosting large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs), the earthquakes compounded the challenges of service access, land, and shelter, exacerbating pre-existing service delivery issues.

Women-owned businesses in Herat were particularly hard-hit, with 60-70% affected and only 10% resuming operations. The report underscores the necessity for gender-responsive initiatives and tailored support, especially given the disproportionate impact on women (58% casualties).

Looking ahead, the PDNA stresses the transition from immediate humanitarian aid to sustainable recovery. Strategies should focus on building community resilience, service restoration, earthquake-safe housing, livelihoods, social protection, and basic service access, particularly for the most affected families. The principles of building back better are highlighted, with an emphasis on women’s empowerment and climate resilience.

Indrika Ratwatte, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, affirmed the commitment to not only address immediate needs but also ensure a sustainable recovery. “This tragedy presents an opportunity to rebuild stronger, more inclusive, and more resilient communities,” Ratwatte stated.

This first-of-its-kind, multi-partner joint assessment since August 2021 demonstrates international commitment to supporting disaster-affected communities in Afghanistan. The assessment, launched in October 2023, utilized field data, public information, and remote sensing analytics.

The PDNA aims to inform key partners of the disaster’s needs and mobilize support for timely recovery, with continued commitment from the Asian Development Bank, the European Union, the UN, and the World Bank, especially for the most vulnerable, including women and girls.