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The Taliban promise not to interfere with earthquake relief efforts, but many are waiting for help

#Taliban #promise #interfere #earthquake #relief #efforts #waiting

Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers vowed on Saturday they would not interfere with international efforts to distribute aid to tens of thousands of people affected by this week’s deadly earthquake.

Even before Wednesday’s quake, the country was mired in a humanitarian crisis, with aid flows and financial support severely curtailed since the Taliban returned to power.

The 5.9 magnitude quake hit hardest in the harsh east along the border with Pakistan as people slept, killing over 1,000 and leaving thousands more homeless.

Aid agencies have complained in the past that Taliban authorities have tried to divert aid to areas and people who have supported their tough insurgency – or even confiscated goods to distribute themselves and collect the credit.

But Khan Mohammad Ahmad, a senior official in hard-hit Paktika province, said international organizations supporting relief efforts would not be affected.

“Whether it’s WFP, UNICEF or any other organization … the international community or the United Nations … they will do the distribution themselves,” Khan said.

“The leaders from the Islamic Emirate are here…our members will always be with them (to help),” he added, referring to the Taliban’s new name for Afghanistan.

– Big challenge –

The disaster poses an enormous logistical challenge for the government, which has isolated itself from much of the world by imposing harsh rule that subjugates women and girls.

But the international community has responded swiftly to the recent disaster that has struck the country, and aid is beginning to flow – though not always where it is most needed.

“What don’t we need? We need everything,” Wali told AFP in Serai, a small village near the quake’s epicenter, some 200 kilometers southeast of Kabul.

“We are alive, but nobody is listening to us and we have not received any help so far.”

Many of the buildings in the village – made of adobe like most in the Afghan countryside – had been leveled in the quake.

“Our beds and all our belongings are buried under our house. Our homes are destroyed…there is nothing left,” he said.

“Right now we need money so that we can buy the basic necessities – clothes, mattresses, equipment. We also need flour and rice.”

– ‘Courage and Resilience’ –

Ramiz Alakbarov, the United Nations’ senior official in Afghanistan, commended Afghans for their resilience and courage after touring the area on Saturday.

“What signs of determination in the face of adversity — I would say endless adversity,” he told AFP.

“Endless troubles, endless tragedies, and yet these people are so kind, so strong. And they are ready to overcome and they are coming together as a community and as a society.”

Delivering aid was made more difficult because the quake hit areas already suffering the effects of heavy rains, causing rockfalls and mudslides that destroyed villages perched precariously on mountainsides.

Communications were also hit by cell phone towers and downed power lines.

Officials say nearly 10,000 homes have been destroyed, an alarming number in an area where the average household size is more than 20 people.

Even before the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan’s emergency response teams were stretched to deal with the natural disasters that frequently plague the country.

But with only a handful of airworthy planes and helicopters left since returning to power, their response to the recent disaster remains limited.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountains near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Afghanistan’s deadliest earthquake in recent memory killed 5,000 people in 1998 in the northeastern provinces of Takhar and Badakhshan.

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