Early morning on June 22, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck Afghanistan’s Paktika and Khost provinces. The earthquake—which was recorded at a depth of about 6 miles—was felt in neighboring provinces including Kabul, as well as in Islamabad, Pakistan and India. Gayan district in Paktika province, where International Medical Corps has been working since 2004, is the most affected.
Provincial officials initially reported that 1,000 people had been killed, while the United Nations has estimated that at least 770 people have been killed and more than 1,400 others have been injured. With widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure—including up 70% of homes in some villages—the number of casualties is expected to rise as search-and-rescue operations continue in rugged, remote terrain.4 Our teams have confirmed that many villages have sustained significant damage, with most residents either killed or injured.
Priority needs include trauma care, emergency shelter, non-food items (NFIs), food assistance, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support. Cholera outbreaks and an increase in COVID-19 cases following the widespread displacement and disruption in access to health and hygiene services is also of particular concern.
The earthquake will only compound an already complex and increasingly severe humanitarian crisis. All of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are struggling with persistent drought conditions, an ongoing economic crisis, conflict and COVID-19—all of which have led to the widespread loss of livelihoods, skyrocketing prices for food and other essential commodities and increased hunger. An estimated 22.8 million Afghan people, more than half the country’s population, are facing acute food insecurity. Children and pregnant and lactating women have been disproportionately impacted. As hunger spreads, health clinics continue to fill up with malnourished children, but the health system has struggled to address the growing need.
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS IN AFGHANISTAN
International Medical Corps was established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses to address the critical need for medical care in war-torn Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. More than 35 years later, International Medical Corps is still there, delivering services that improve the health, livelihoods and social standing of nearly 6 million people in 15 provinces: Baghlan, Balkh, Bamyan, Dikundi, Faryab, Jawzian, Kabul, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Sar-e-Pul and Samangan. True to our mission, our team is made up of some 1,000 Afghan staff, mostly from the communities in which they work. Over the years, International Medical Corps has developed a deep understanding of the local context in Afghanistan that has allowed us to operate a broad range of assistance programs for the country’s most vulnerable groups, including the internally displaced, refugees, returnees, host communities and women and children. It is this deep connection with the community that allowed International Medical Corps to quickly launch our response to the earthquake.
PARTNERING FOR A RESPONSE
International Medical Corps was the first to respond in Gayan district, within the first hours after the earthquake struck—mobilizing staff and ambulances and providing critical trauma care to impacted communities. Working hand-in-hand with local health authorities, we have already treated more than 610 patients via first-aid trauma posts (FATPs) and mobile health teams (MHTs) and are in the process of redeploying teams from other parts of the country to support the significant need for trauma care. Our team is also supporting the referral and transportation by ambulance and helicopter of those seriously injured to nearby hospitals. International Medical Corps is also providing:
lifesaving medicines and medical supplies to Urgon District Hospital;
emergency shelter via tent distributions, as well as aiding in repairs of damaged homes through cash support;
NFIs to affected communities—items include blankets, sweaters, shawls, winter shoes, gloves and more;
nutrition services that include infant and young child feeding interventions such as Mother-Baby friendly spaces and screening and responding to cases of malnutrition;
MHPSS services including counseling and Psychological First Aid (PFA); and,
WASH support including hygiene promotion, water trucking, preparing for potential cholera outbreaks and hygiene kit distributions.
As the situation remains highly fluid, International Medical Corps will maintain a high degree of flexibility and will work in collaboration with local health authorities and partners to address the most critical health needs as they arise.
Your contribution, at any level, is urgently needed and will help provide critically needed relief and recovery to the individuals and families affected by the devastating earthquake.
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL CORPS
Since our founding, International Medical Corps has delivered some $3.9 billion in relief and training services to tens of millions of people suffering from the devastating impact of humanitarian crises. Our disaster response teams deploy fast and begin their lifesaving work immediately, even in the most challenging environments. International Medical Corps' surge capacity includes volunteer physicians and nurses trained in emergency medicine, and specialists who provide an array of services ranging from primary healthcare and mental healthcare to technical support for needs related to nutrition, mental health, gender-based violence, and water, sanitation and hygiene. With a staff of more than 7,500 people worldwide—97% of whom are recruited locally in our field missions—our teams ensure that the knowledge required to prepare for and respond effectively to a disaster remains anchored within the community.