Afghanistan earthquakes: ‘Staggering’ health consequences
Families in western Afghanistan, who have lost everything to a series of devastating earthquakes, need urgent assistance to withstand the harsh winter, the UN relief wing reported on Friday.
Temperatures have already started to drop into single figures.
With about two-thirds of the affected areas assessed, more than 21,500 homes are confirmed destroyed and a further 17,000 severely damaged, according to the UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA). Over 154,000 people have been impacted.
Critical psychosocial support
That number includes about 7,500 pregnant women, many of whom lost family members.
The deaths of their loved ones has taken a devastating toll, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said.
The agency has deployed psychosocial counsellors to help them cope with overwhelming loss.
“They need someone to listen to them and help them cope with their trauma,” said counsellor Faiza Zarie, adding that the availability of psychosocial support is critical.
Women also face other challenges – heightened risks of preventable maternal death, gender-based violence and hunger.
UNFPA is working to address reproductive health needs. It issued a funding appeal for $11.6 million to continue delivering life-saving sexual and reproductive health supplies and services.
Health facilities, workers affected
Access to medical care has also been severely affected, with at least 40 facilities reported damaged, a region that was already largely deprived of essential health services before the disaster.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that services for about 580,000 people have been severely disrupted.
“Health workers are also affected by the disaster – either from loss of family members or from fear of collapsing health facilities, which makes it even harder for them to provide the health care their communities need,” Alaa AbouZeid, WHO team leader emergencies in Afghanistan, told reporters in Geneva, from Kabul.
“The health consequences are staggering,” she added
The UN agency has been one of the first responders on the ground, supporting hospitals with medicines and supplies and organizing mobile health and nutrition teams.
Sustaining health services will require extra resources, and WHO and partners have launched an appeal for $7.9 million to provide support for the next six months.