Kabul: Emergency lifesaving aid relief continued to flow into quake-hit eastern Afghanistan on Friday, as UN humanitarians and partners rushed to help the most vulnerable communities.
Afghanistan's interim authorities report that most search and rescue operations had been completed already by Wednesday evening, but due to the remoteness of the affected areas and with additional assessments taking place, the number of casualties and damage estimates could rise. Heavy rains have swept the region in recent days, compounding the misery, according to UNHCR.
One of the UN teams on the ground transported tons of relief items into the provinces of Khost and Paktika, where several thousand houses were destroyed or damaged by the 5.9 magnitude quake that struck early on Wednesday.
The latest tally from Thursday evening indicated that at least 1,036 people have been killed and more than 1,643 injured, in the worst earthquake to hit the country in two decades.
"At least 121 of these deaths were children and 67 of those injured were also children," said Mohamed Ayoya, Representative for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Afghanistan. "The total number of people killed or injured is not yet confirmed. Verification is ongoing and we expect these numbers [to be] going up in the hours and days to come."
Critically needed items arriving from the capital, Kabul, include hundreds of tents, thousands of blankets, jerry cans, buckets, plastic sheets, kitchen sets and solar lamps - enough to help 4,200 survivors in Giyan, Bermal, Zerok, and Nika districts in Paktika province, and Spera district in Khost province.
To ensure distribution to the most needy, UNHCR has set up three supply hubs in Giyan, Bermal and Spera districts so that humanitarian support can be shifted to communities affected by the earthquake. Heavy rains have also swept across the region in recent days, compounding the misery, UNHCR warned.
UNICEF has also dispatched life-saving supplies, including 500 first aid kits, along with treatment for acute watery diarrhoea to help prevent the spread of waterborne diseases.
"Much more support is urgently needed to avert a humanitarian disaster in the affected areas," said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo, who noted that millions of people in the country face hunger and starvation, after four decades of conflict and instability.
"Already some 24 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the hunger and economic crisis, lack of development aid, and the impact of the changeover in government authorities 10 months ago," Ms. Mantoo told journalists in Geneva.
Across Afghanistan, some 3.5 million people have been displaced by conflict and violence, and another 1.57 million have had to leave their homes because of climate shocks.