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Humanitarian partners seek US$110 million to help 362,000 Afghans affected by earthquake

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Overview

The multi-sectoral Emergency Earthquake Appeal targets approximately 362,000 earthquake affected people across provinces in south eastern Afghanistan. A total of $110.3 million is urgently required to frontload life-saving response activities over the course of three months (July-September).

All earthquake affected areas had been previously identified as having acute humanitarian needs in the 2022 HNO. As such, all activities and population groups within the appeal are already encapsulated in the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) projections – which projected needs and response for some 500,000 new conflict and disaster driven IDPs. Financial requirements to respond to this caseload are also already included in the 2022 HRP.

This appeal therefore articulates the activities which are urgently required to be frontloaded over the course of the next three months in earthquake affected areas. It must be noted that due to the overarching operating environment in Afghanistan, earthquake response is not being delivered utilising existing development programme footprint or robust infrastructure networks. Therefore the activities outlined represent some of the costliest activities within the HRP, driving the per capita costs higher.

Context and Needs Overview

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck on 22 June, 2022 has affected Paktika and Khost provinces. Preliminary analysis indicates Barmal, Ziruk, Nika and Gayan districts in Paktika Province as well as Spera and Shamal districts in Khost province are the most impacted, though further assessment data is incoming. As of 24 June – less than 72 hours after the incident – some 770 people are estimated to have been killed, while an additional 1,500 people wounded.

At least 1,500 homes are reported to have been damaged in one district alone. It is estimated that at least 70% of the houses in the high impact areas (MMI V+) have been damaged or destroyed, leaving many without shelter and sleeping in the open and prone to weather, health, protection and other hazards.

Even prior to the earthquake, affected provinces were characterized by intense needs. A rapid spread of Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD) had already been reported across most of the earthquake affected districts. As cholera outbreaks in the aftermath of earthquakes are of particular and serious concern, immediate investment in preparedness activities to prevent a cholera outbreak and curtail the spread and worsening AWD outbreak will be critical. Additionally, with large parts of the country being contaminated with explosives (particularly after the surge of conflict experienced in mid-2021), earthquake shocks bring a concerning degree of exposure to explosive remnants of war.

Earthquake impacted provinces were already “hotspots” for crisis levels of food insecurity and acute malnutrition. Additionally, the earthquake comes right before an Afghanistan’s imminent harsh winter and an early-onset lean season, when households’ food resources are most constrained or depleted.

In response to the earthquake, de facto authorities have deployed defence assets (military helicopters) and ambulances to support search and rescue operations. While authorities have notified partners about a near-completion of the search and rescue operations, more assessments are needed to cross-check additional efforts are not needed. Both regional governments and UN resources (UNDAC and INSARAG) are on standby. After-shocks have also been reported and will require close, ongoing monitoring.

While the situation remains dynamic, less than 24 hours after the initial impact, UN and NGO partners have started mobilising relief items to affected areas. Joint multi-sectoral assessment teams have already been deployed comprising in excess of 10 humanitarian partners. Initial response – premised on a no regrets approach – has also been deployed or dispatched. This includes mobile health teams, medicines and other supplies; emergency shelter and basic household items; water treatment kits, soaps and other hygiene packages; replenishment of stocks of therapeutic and supplementary feeding for those acutely malnourished; as well as food commodities and cash packages.

Despite challenges in setting up a physical base at the heart of the impacted areas, humanitarian partners are assessing logistics, air, road and other capacity to expand footprint as close to affected areas as possible. A joint high-level mission comprising senior leadership among humanitarian partners was also deployed on 25 June 2022.

Methodology

The ICCT utilised best available information to identify the number of people likely affected by the earthquake. To do this, an analysis of people living in high-intensity zones (using the Modified Mercalli Intensity (MMI) estimates) and people living in shelters of non-robust materials was conducted. The MMI measures the shaking intensity from an earthquake at a specific location by considering its effects on people, objects, and buildings. Based on this analysis, it is estimated that a total of 361,634 people are in need of humanitarian assistance across 17 districts in Paktika, Khost and Paktya provinces.

Response targeting

Initial reports indicated that the majority of the population living in affected areas have been impacted, with many people sleeping outdoors due to damage to houses and fear of aftershocks. However, availability of humanitarian assistance is limited and will need to be targeted to the most vulnerable, particularly after the first 72 hours.
Highly vulnerable groups to be prioritised for assistance, include:

  • People living in poor shelter conditions
  • People with limited or no access to services
  • Female-headed HHs
  • Children
  • Persons with Disabilities (PWD)
  • Newly displaced and prolonged/protracted IDPs, including those residing in informal settlements (ISETs)
  • People working in vulnerable employment (day wages/casual labour), with limited savings, high debt, and/or no or limited support (in terms of living with family or host communities)

Response Phasing

For planning purposes, the response has been divided into three Phases: Phase 1 (0 days – 2 weeks), Phase 2 (2 – 4 weeks) and Phase 3 (1 – 3 months).

Response Objectives

  1. Alleviate human suffering by providing immediate life-saving and protection assistance to communities affected by the disaster
  2. Facilitate early recovery of the most vulnerable through emergency livelihood support and the provision of basic services
  3. Minimise the impact on other humanitarian responses to conflict, natural disaster and displacement through rapid restoration of logistics and operational capacity

Phase 1 (0 days – 2 weeks)

  • Period of confusion and lack of access to affected people
  • Access to services and markets severely disrupted. and people’s ability to source daily food intake needs is reduced
  • Markets are effectively closed or extremely limited, in part due to curfews and other government-imposed restrictions. Limited capacity of markets resulting on high reliance on in-kind pre- positioned or airlifted support
  • High levels of displacement, with large numbers of people without adequate shelter

Phase 2 (2-4 weeks)

  • In-country assistance from different parts of the country is able to reach affected areas
  • International assistance and programmes will have begun to scale up and to reach more isolated and vulnerable communities
  • Risk of secondary crisis from disease or other impacts will grow
  • Markets will begin to recover, particularly for locally produced items, but supply lines remain disrupted and prices for key commodities may spike

Phase 3 (1-3 months)

  • Access is largely restored to pre-earthquake levels, but while many people return to damaged homes and areas to initiate repairs, some areas of mass displacement will remain and require scale-up of services and work towards viable transitional shelter options
  • Pre-existing needs in other parts of the country have become more acute due to diversion of resources to the earthquake affected areas, particularly to Kabul
  • Basic services are restored but serious gaps remain among vulnerable people and areas
  • Recovery planning begins but resources for large-scale reconstruction are not yet mobilised
  • Markets are largely functioning at pre-crisis levels, except for disruptions to high-demand commodities such as building materials

Planning Assumptions

Staff and capacity

Taliban authorities have deployed several military assets and resources (including personnel) to support search and rescue and initial emergency transport operations. However, longer-term assistance capacity of the de facto authorities is limited.

Within the humanitarian system, capacity is also limited as impacted areas had little to no previous humanitarian footprint. While staff may be able to surge in for limited periods, adequate shelter and logistics for longer-term/sustained support is a limiting factor. Staffing of female humanitarians is particularly difficult given pre-existing limited numbers of women staff and restrictions on women’s movements without a Mahram. Staff are further stretched with pre-existing emergency response priorities in the east, central and south eastern regions, including due to AWD outbreak, measles outbreak, and pervasive acute food insecurity.

Logistics and access

Telecommunications networks in the area (both landline and mobile) are and had previously been limited but can be supported through emergency telecom support.

Landing zones for emergency air support (including helicopters) have be identified and additional weekly flights initiated by UNHAS.

Initial response (both assessments and distributions of assistance) remain heavily reliant on-air operations to reach remote, earthquake affected areas.

However, main roads are largely passable, enabling quick transport of relief items from warehouses in central and provincial capitals. Access to Pakistan’s markets may potentially allow for a scale-up of stocks of emergency aid and staple goods, though this must be assessed further.

Relationship Between this Plan and HRP 2022

All activities and population groups in this plan are already articulated within the HRP. It is important to note that this plan is only for the initial three months of the response. The evolution of the situation will determine whether a separate appeal is issued or targets are modified.

Donors able to provide new funding are encouraged to be in touch with OCHA and the Inter-Cluster Coordination Team for the latest updates on sector-specific gaps and priorities and consider channelling urgent funds through the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF) or bilaterally. Donors are also encouraged to immediately mobilise global stocks of food and non-food items (especially more durable shelter options), along with new funding.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.