The Taliban have instructed domestic and international aid agencies not to assist earthquake victims without coordination with their group. They have also prohibited non-governmental organizations from providing statistics and figures. Nevertheless, some citizens describe the rescue and search operations of the Taliban regime in Herat following the earthquake as unsuccessful. They claim that, due to the mismanagement of the group, there is still no information available about the fate of some residents in the earthquake-affected areas five days after the earthquake. These citizens criticize the Taliban’s ineffectiveness in the rescue operations, further exacerbating the tragedy in Herat. Meanwhile, local sources have reported that even in their media coverage of the disaster, the Taliban have been unsuccessful. These citizens remain concerned about the mismanagement of collected aid and its misappropriations. They demand the establishment of a public committee to oversee the distribution of aid. Nevertheless, international organizations have called on the Taliban to focus on the situation of earthquake victims instead of imposing restrictions on aid agencies.
The Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority under Taliban control issued a directive in a meeting with foreign and domestic organizations, ordering them not to assist Herat earthquake victims without coordinating with this Authority. The directive further emphasizes that aid agencies should not distribute assistance independently and without coordination with this Authority.
The Taliban now have called relief agencies to distribute aid, provided they coordinate with the group. However, it’s worth noting that these organizations were initially forbidden from sharing statistics. Sources reveal that the Taliban have directed domestic and international organizations to withhold victim and earthquake-affected individuals’ statistics in Herat unless they coordinate with them.
Following this move by the Taliban, Amnesty International has demanded the removal of restrictions on aid agencies. Amnesty International has stressed that the Taliban must allow relief organizations to go to earthquake-affected areas “without limitations.” The organization has also urged the Taliban to attend to the urgent needs of the affected individuals.
Amnesty International has emphasized that relief and rescue operations must be carried out “without discrimination and per human rights standards.” They specify that aid should be distributed based on the needs of the affected population, especially women, children, and the elderly. Amnesty International, with an eye on the approaching winter, calls on the global community to take immediate action to provide shelter and meet the basic needs of the earthquake victims.
Nevertheless, some residents of Herat province, citing “indifference” and the Taliban’s mismanagement, claim that the extent of the Saturday earthquake disaster is more extensive than what has been portrayed in the media. According to them, no real statistics and figures of the earthquake victims and the affected individuals in Herat have been disclosed so far. A local source says that many victims in remote villages are still trapped under the rubble, and the situation of those in these areas has not been addressed.
Meanwhile, over the past few days, social media users have shared a list of requirements for Herat Regional Hospital. This list highlights a critical need for medical equipment and medications, particularly serum. However, official sources have refuted the widely circulated list, asserting that affordable serum is readily available in the city’s markets.
According to a source at Herat Regional Hospital, the price of Turkish serum has dropped from 120 Afghanis to 83 Afghanis. The source notes that the number of patients at the hospital has risen compared to the previous day, with over 1,300 individuals currently under treatment, predominantly women and children. The source highlights that certain private clinics are offering complimentary services to earthquake victims, and the public is increasingly seeking their assistance.
A source at the Otorhinolaryngology Department of Herat Regional Hospital complains that despite the abundance of medication, they face significant difficulties in providing drugs to patients. The source adds, “Each patient must visit the doctor ten times to obtain a free prescription, even though the drugs have been distributed for free by companies.”
Meanwhile, numerous social media users have embraced and disseminated reports of donations from citizens, traders, investors, singers, athletes, and charitable organizations. Nevertheless, local sources reveal that the earthquake-displaced individuals continue to face significant challenges and lack adequate shelter. According to these sources, many are residing amidst debris and homes reduced to rubble.
A local source, who prefers to remain anonymous due to security concerns, reports, “There are problems among the displaced. Some children are on their own, while others have been in the rubble. Thanks to community coordination, a few of them have been moved to safer locations.”
This source claims that Herat’s local Taliban administration has not effectively collaborated in managing public resources and government institutions. He further states, “The local Taliban administration hasn’t taken any steps towards such cooperation. They haven’t shown any interest, not even on social media, in the aftermath of the earthquake disaster.”
Tariq Fazl, a resident of Herat province, identifies mismanagement, lack of coordination, and the mishandling of aid as primary concerns for the province’s citizens. He explains, “The most notable problem we’re experiencing is the handling of financial aid and human resources, which the Herat elders and the local Taliban administration have failed to establish.”
This Herat resident emphasizes that despite a substantial amount of aid being delivered, there is widespread concern about its mismanagement. He explains, “People are unsure where to entrust their aid. It remains unclear which department is responsible for distributing these aids. There hasn’t been a proper needs assessment, and no credible team has been formed to guarantee the contributions of the people.”
During this time, efforts to collect aid for those impacted by the Herat earthquake persist, with various initiatives underway both locally and internationally. Authorities engaged in these aid collection endeavors have stated that they’ve successfully collected a portion of the financial and non-financial assistance intended for the Herat earthquake victims.
On the other hand, countries such as Iran, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and China have pledged to cooperate. Among these, aid shipments from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkey arrived in Herat yesterday.
Nevertheless, certain users on social media have urged donors to direct their assistance toward the reconstruction of shelters for those impacted, the development of infrastructure in the devastated villages, the provision of healthcare and education, the addressing of mental and psychological issues among the victims, the promotion of knowledge in the realm of natural disasters, as well as services, monitoring, and disaster reporting.
Notably, citizens in the country have expressed grievances regarding the essential cooperation and the mismanagement by the Taliban. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs of the Taliban, who recently visited Herat province, has announced plans to construct “standard houses” for the earthquake victims in Herat. It’s worth mentioning that this Taliban official is discussing the reconstruction of residential houses, while survivors of the earthquake victims continue to endure a lack of shelter, with some remaining trapped under rubble even five days after the disaster.
Nonetheless, Hamid Mobariz, a crisis management expert at Georgetown University in the United States, asserts that if the aid is not aligned with crisis management principles, it not only falls short of addressing the issue but also triggers confusion, conflicts, and disagreements between the victims and the aid providers.
Mr. Mobariz adds that the current management must allocate emergency assistance in proportion to the needs of affected families. According to him, the focus for aiding Herat’s earthquake victims should be on rebuilding residential houses, and responsible organizations should arrange “Typical plans” for house construction according to housing standards.
The exact number of casualties and injuries from the deadly earthquake in Herat has not been provided yet, and some individuals are still trapped under the rubble. In its latest report, the Coordination Office for Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations (OCHA) has announced the death toll as 1,294 people and 1,700 people injured. Findings from this organization indicate that over 12,000 people have been affected by the earthquake in five districts of Herat province.
However, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) reports the death toll of this incident as 2,445 people and 2,440 people injured. According to this organization, the casualty figures for this earthquake remain challenging and are subject to change.
Recently, officials and organizations under Taliban management have simultaneously provided several different figures. Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs of the Taliban, who released the latest figures of the Taliban on earthquake victims, has stated that the casualties of this incident are 3,000 people.
Two days ago, the Taliban announced that search and rescue operations in the Zinda Jan district of Herat had ended. However, the United Nations organization had reported that operations were ongoing. In the latest development, sources from the Zinda Jan district of Herat have reported that at least three bodies, including that of a woman, were recovered from under the rubble yesterday evening.
It’s important to mention that aftershocks of the earthquake have persisted in Herat since Saturday, damaging around 30 villages in the Gulran district of Herat. The fear of potential aftershocks still lingers, leading people to spend their nights outdoors and in open areas. Residents of Farah and Badghis provinces, who also experienced the earthquake on Saturday, express feeling neglected amidst the magnitude of the Herat disaster.