On Monday 26 October at 13:39 Kabul local time, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck Badakhshan Province in northern Afghanistan. The earthquake has had a significant impact across the mountainous northern areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. This area is known as the Hindu Kush mountain range and it stretches 500 miles from central Afghanistan into northern Pakistan, separating Central Asia from South Asia. Initial information indicates that the provinces most affected by the earthquake in Pakistan are Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP, formerly the North-Western Frontier Province, NWFP), the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), and Azad and Jammu Kashmir (AJK). In Afghanistan, the main affected provinces are Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan, Nuristan, Laghman, Kunar, Nangarhar, and Kabul provinces. These areas of Afghanistan are effectively Taliban controlled, making an international aid response problematic.
The remoteness, vastness, and inaccessibility of these mountainous northern regions means that it is difficult to get accurate information regarding the situation on the ground, and it is even harder for the government and aid agencies to mount and sustain an emergency response. Current official figures put the death toll at more than 350 with more than 2000 injured; however, this is likely to rise. Another critical factor in these areas is the weather. With snow already on the ground, there is a real need to get shelter and supplies to those displaced by the disaster.
Direct Relief is working with the following organizations to mobilize medical resources to help earthquake survivors:
The Marafie Foundation: Their staff report their program area has been badly affected due to the earthquake. They are assessing the damage and will be arranging relief for the people who will now be exposed to harsh cold weather. Direct Relief has prepared a medical aid shipment to depart for the Marafie Foundation. The medicines and supplies will be used to treat earthquake victims.
American Medical Overseas Relief (AMOR): Direct Relief is in the process of preparing a shipment for AMOR, which is located in Kabul, Afghanistan. While AMOR reports only minor damage in Kabul, there is the possibility for the supplies to be consigned to groups responding in the north of the country.
Direct Relief is also in communications with the Pakistan Institute of Prosthetics and Orthotics (PIPOS), and organization Direct Relief has supported since the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.
Through this network of organizations and facilities in the region that receive support from Direct Relief on an ongoing basis, Direct Relief has connected with officials in Pakistan involved in the response. The Pakistani military has assumed management of a hospital in Mingora in the Swat valley north of Peshawar, where it is assisting with the treatment of patients. Direct Relief is now working with the proper authorities in Pakistan to clear medicines and supplies through customs and deliver them to where they are required. Direct Relief has also connected with officials in Chitral, an area north of Mingora in KP and within 100kms of the Earthquake’s epicenter.