96,000 children affected by earthquakes in western Afghanistan in dire need of support this winter – UNICEF

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HERAT, Afghanistan, 15 January 2024 – 100 days after earthquakes struck western Afghanistan, UNICEF is calling for greater support for over 96,000 children affected in the aftermath, as a crippling winter grips the country.

Over 1,000 people, most of whom were women and children, lost their lives in Afghanistan’s earthquakes last October. In addition, 31,000 homes were destroyed, or severely damaged, and countless families lost livelihoods, livestock and crops. Three months on, the impact of Herat’s earthquakes lingers, with many families still living in tents or sleeping in the open despite the biting cold. To make matters worse, Herat province is now gripped by a harsh winter, threatening lives and slowing efforts to rebuild.

“The atmosphere in these villages is thick with suffering even 100 days after the earthquakes in western Afghanistan when families lost absolutely everything. Children are still trying to cope with the loss and trauma. Schools and health centres, which children depend upon, are damaged beyond repair or destroyed completely,” says Fran Equiza, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. “As if this was not enough, 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.”

Within days of the earthquakes, UNICEF responded by trucking clean, safe water to affected communities, establishing temporary health facilities and deploying health workers, and distributing blankets, family kits with cooking equipment, and winter clothing.

In the 100 days since the initial response, UNICEF has converted tented health facilities into more permanent facilities in shipping containers. Almost 90,000 medical cases were treated by health and nutrition teams, nearly three-quarters of whom are women and children.

UNICEF set up 61 temporary learning spaces and 61 child friendly spaces, where almost 3,400 children, more than half of them girls, were able to continue basic education. The rehabilitation work on destroyed classrooms will begin shortly.

UNICEF continues to truck clean 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 is needed as winter’s freezing temperatures exacerbate hardships. Many families have been unable to rebuild their homes. They urgently need healthcare, clean water and proper sanitation to prevent diseases spreading and halt further suffering. In addition, families who have lost livelihoods and crops are at risk from hunger and malnutrition.

“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,” added Equiza. “But thousands still need our help. 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. 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.”

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