3 Months After Afghanistan Earthquakes, UNICEF Aids Families Facing a Bitter Winter – UNICEF USA

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Over 1,000 people, most of them women and children, lost their lives when a series of devastating earthquakes struck Herat province in western Afghanistan in October 2023. Countless families lost livelihoods, livestock and crops; 31,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged. 

Three months later, the impact of Herat’s earthquakes lingers, with many families still living in tents or sleeping in the open, despite the deepening winter cold.  

On Jan. 14, 2024, in Zinda Jan district, Afghanistan, a family sits in the tent where they have lived since their home was destroyed by an Oct. 2023 earthquake.
On Jan. 14, 2024, in Zinda Jan district, Herat province, Afghanistan, 8-year-old Adina sits with her mother and other family members in the tent where they have lived since their home was destroyed by an earthquake in October 2023 that took the lives of Adina’s three sisters. Her family later received cash assistance from UNICEF, which they used to buy food, temporary shelter and wood for cooking and heating. © UNICEF/UNI502645/Karimi

“The atmosphere in these villages is thick with suffering even 100 days after the earthquakes in western Afghanistan when families lost absolutely everything,” said Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. “Children are still trying to cope with the loss and trauma. Schools and health centers, which children depend upon, are damaged beyond repair or destroyed completely.

“As if this was not enough,” Equiza continued, “winter has taken hold and temperatures hover below freezing. Children and families without homes live in life-threatening conditions at night, with no way to heat their temporary shelters.”

Adina, 8, shows Daniel Timme, UNICEF Afghanistan's Chief of Communications, all that remains of her family home, destroyed by an earthquake in Oct. 2023.
Adina, 8, shows Daniel Timme, UNICEF Afghanistan’s Chief of Communications, all that remains of her family’s home, destroyed by an earthquake in October 2023. © UNICEF/UNI502646/Karimi

Within days of the earthquakes, UNICEF responded by trucking clean, safe water to affected communities and establishing temporary health facilities to treat the injured. Health workers were deployed and emergency supplies distributed, including blankets, tarpaulins, family kits with cooking equipment, and warm clothing.  

On Dec. 3, 2023, Naysán Sahba, Director of the UNICEF Division of Global Communication and Advocacy, interacts with a child while visiting a UNICEF-supported WASH facility in the earthquake-affected district of Zinda Jan in Herat province, Afghanistan.
On Dec. 3, 2023, Naysán Sahba, Director of the UNICEF Division of Global Communication and Advocacy, talks with a child while visiting a UNICEF-supported WASH facility in the earthquake-affected district of Zinda Jan in Herat province, Afghanistan. © UNICEF/UNI485378/Karimi

Since the initial response, UNICEF has converted tented health posts into more permanent facilities in shipping containers. Almost 90,000 medical cases have been treated by health and nutrition teams; nearly three-quarters of those treated are women and children.

Adina, 8, receives a check-up for her respiratory infection inside a UNICEF-supported clinic in Karnil village, Zinda Jan district, Afghanistan on Jan. 14, 2024.
Adina, 8, receives a check-up for her respiratory infection inside a UNICEF-supported clinic in Karnil village, Zinda Jan district, Afghanistan on Jan. 14, 2024. © UNICEF/UNI502638/Karimi

To give children a safe place to play and learn, UNICEF set up 61 temporary learning spaces and 61 Child-Friendly Spaces, where almost 3,400 children, more than half of them girls, have been able to continue basic education. Rehabilitation work on destroyed classrooms will begin shortly.

UNICEF continues to truck safe water to nearly 19,000 people. To help families survive the winter, 5,400 will receive cash assistance to help cover their basic needs.

But much more help is needed as winter’s freezing temperatures exacerbate existing hardships. 

“We are grateful to our donor partners who mobilized resources quickly, enabling UNICEF to respond within days to the urgent needs of children and their families in Herat — but thousands still need our help,” Equiza said.

Children affected by October 2023 earthquakes have a place to play and learn at a UNICEF tempororary learning space in Zinda Jan district, Herat province, Afghanistan.
Children have a safe place to play and learn and just be kids for a while at a UNICEF-supported education facility in Zinda Jan district, Afghanistan. © UNICEF/UNI485375/Karimi 

Many families have been unable to rebuild their homes. They urgently need health care, safe water and proper sanitation to ward off disease outbreaks and prevent further suffering. Families who have lost livelihoods and crops are at risk from hunger and malnutrition.

Nazook holds her 10-month-old baby girl, Fatima, in Ahmad Abad village in Herat province, western Afghanistan.
Nazook holds her 10-month-old baby girl, Fatima, in Ahmad Abad village in Herat province, western Afghanistan on Nov. 13, 2023. After the earthquakes, she received cash assistance from UNICEF to help her rebuild her home. Married at age 12, she has 10 children. © UNICEF/UNI481439/Khayyam

“UNICEF is concerned about the survival of 96,000 children affected by the earthquakes if we are not able to provide the services they need to recover,” added Equiza. “We count on continued support to ensure that children not only survive the winter but have a chance to thrive in the months and years to come.”

Wherever and whenever children are in need, UNICEF is there to help. Your contribution can make a difference. Please donate.

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