Deadly earthquake in Afghanistan hits country already reeling from economic crisis and hunger

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The massive earthquake that officials say killed more than 1,000 people in southeastern Afghanistan early Wednesday rocked a country already struggling to cope with a deepening economic crisis, hunger and other crises.

Driving the news: The withdrawal of US troops and the Taliban’s takeover last August helped plunge the country into a “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis worsened by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the collapse of the economy and a prolonged drought.

State of play: Nearly 20 million people, nearly half of the country’s population, faced acute hunger at the start of last month, according to a UN-backed report.

  • Tens of thousands of people have faced catastrophic levels of hunger, according to the UN.
  • According to another recent UN report, at least 1.1 million Afghan children are expected to suffer from the most severe form of malnutrition this year.

At a timeAbout 18.1 million Afghans, including nearly 3.2 million children under the age of 5, need health services, the UN high commissioner for human rights said last week. , Michelle Bachelet.

  • She warned that “the Afghan people are living through some of the darkest times of a generation”, including serious human rights abuses.
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The big picture: The asset freeze and sanctions imposed after the Taliban takeover last year have cut off international development aid and much of the other financial aid the country has depended on.

  • The Biden administration has taken steps, including granting sanctions waivers and other measures, to allow humanitarian aid to be sent to Afghanistan. But UN human rights experts have warned that the waivers have not made significant progress in financial or trade aid to the country.
  • While some of the aid has continued, particularly from international organizations and UN agencies, the crises have only worsened in recent months, especially amid the renewed attacks by ISIS and other groups.
  • This was compounded by the shift in focus to the humanitarian situation in Ukraine where a war has been raging since the Russian invasion began on February 23. An appeal for aid for Afghanistan at the UN in March fell short of its target, raising about $2.4 billion of $4.4 billion in requested funds.
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What they say : Taliban officials have called on aid agencies and the international community to provide emergency assistance in rescue and recovery efforts after Wednesday’s earthquake.

  • “We urge all humanitarian agencies to immediately dispatch teams to the region to avert another catastrophe,” Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said. tweeted.
  • Another Taliban leader, Anas Haqqan, tweeted“We hope that the international community and aid agencies will also help our people in this dire situation.”
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It was a call back by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who expressed his condolences to Afghans “already reeling from years of conflict, economic hardship and hunger”.

  • “We are counting on the international community to help support the hundreds of families affected by this latest disaster,” António Guterres said in a statement. “It’s time for solidarity.”

What to watch: President Biden has asked USAID and other agencies to assess how it can help post-earthquake Afghanistan, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement Wednesday.

  • “We pledge to continue our support for the needs of the Afghan people as we stand with them during and after this terrible tragedy,” he added.
  • Other countries, including Iran and Pakistan as well as the EUhave already sent aid or pledged support.

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