RAWA, July 5, 2022
RAWA’s Earthquake Relief in Paktika
The Taliban, as they planned on medical equipment and supplies, also collected all the relief food items.
On 22 June 2022, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck Argoon and Barmal districts of Paktika province and Sapera district of Khost province in east of Afghanistan. It left the districts in ruins and destroyed the lives of the poor and bereaved people. According to official statistics, around 1000 people have died and more than 1500 injured.
RAWA decided to send the mobile health teams immediately so that within our limited means, we can at least help the women and girls who are usually not supported during such tragedies in the male-dominated society. We made sure to address both the physical and mental trauma afflicted upon the victims.
As quoted by one of the members of our mobile health teams: After a night-long journey along the gravel roads, we finally arrived in the Barmal district. Seeing the large crowds and many tents at first, we thought many organizations and foundations may have at least provided food, water, and medicines. After a while, especially when we witnessed the patrolling of the Taliban forces, we realized we are living in hell and the whole situation looked like a scene from an Indian film called “Peepli Live” where the powerful are just there to flaunt their generosity for personal gains rather than helping the earthquake victims and survivors.
Taliban, the local authorities and representatives of ministries were all present, but everyone was thinking of filling their own pockets. We decided to start our work at 8:30 am but the Taliban health representative forbade us, stating that women will not be allowed to work. After a few minutes, they called all the health teams for a quick meeting to better organize the efforts and when our representative went for the meeting, the Taliban insulted and forcefully stopped her from attending. Unfortunately, one of our male supporters joined it. The whole purpose of this meeting was that for better outreach and organization, all supplies should be handed over to the Taliban so they can seize and control everything. None of organizations agreed and one of them said that he is not even ready to give one Paracetamol tablet to the Taliban and is willing to return without helping anyone if they decide to confiscate his supplies.
We decided to speak to the locals, and they all immediately agreed that handing over supplies to Taliban simply means filling their pockets and nothing will reach the needy people. They were ready to help us set our tent at a distance and inform the villagers nearby to bring their patients. We started our work and the everyone agreed to send all the females for treatment.Writing about the physical and mental trauma of these survivors and victims is tough. No words can articulate those sorrowed and traumatized faces and screams.
This earthquake took away the very little possessions they had collected with great hardship. The people of these areas are engaged in agriculture and livestock farming with little land, or the men go to Pakistan to work as a daily-wagers or laborers.
Although it was planned to only treat women, but many men there spoke about not having access to any doctor or medicine. All men and women, old and young, have suffered from severe trauma; For various reasons, especially children, were suffering from diarrhea; Because these villages are among the poorest regions of the country, all of the people, both adults and children, suffered from insufficient and unhealthy nutrition and food shortages and vitamins insufficiency; The referred women claimed that it is their first time ever seeing a doctor; As in other districts of the country, the people did not have access to enough water, let alone drinking water and healthy water. Some of them, although they did not have any particular health problems, but traveled long distances for hours and came to just meet us.
Unfortunately, we encountered patients that were most probably suffering from cancer and gynecological or psychological problems that our team was obviously not able to treat, but we did try to create facilities for them so that they could reach hospitals in Kabul.
We met with people who had lost all their family members and roamed the area like soulless creatures; We saw two 5- and 6-year-old children, who none of their family members survived; We met a newlywed who, including her husband, all her relatives died, and she was completely silent and did not even shed tears. When she saw us, she broke into tears and started crying. And was not letting us leave the area.
All injured people suffer from severe psychological problems, and words such as fear, poverty, homelessness, confusion and despair fell shy of describing their situation.
The Taliban, as they planned on medical equipment and supplies, also collected all the relief food items. Whereas the aid items from the charity organizations and individuals who personally delivered it to the place, with their usual cruel tricks, gathered and claimed that all of them will be confiscated and later distributed to the needy at once. But the local people said that Taliban’s helicopters have come here and they are taking relief food with them under the name of transferring their wounded.
In this area, you can clearly see many examples of the Taliban's looting and plunder. For example, on the very first day when our medical team reached there, several Taliban officials, under the name of visiting and comforting the survivors, arrived in separate flights in helicopters and just like their fellowmen in the dirty and corrupt government of Ghani, who were only there for photography and show. One of the relief organizations had cooked food for several hundred people who were affected by the earthquake, but an army of security guards and armed Taliban forces attacked and forcibly took away all the food for their dirty stomachs to get full. They were fed, and practically nothing remained for the affected people.
We have traveled to many provinces and when we have seen the living conditions of men and women in Kunar, Badakhshan and Bamiyan, we always thought they were the most miserable and poor. But by witnessing the conditions in Paktika, we forgot about all of that.
Despite the influx of billions of dollars under the name of helping and rebuilding rural areas, the people of Barmal district are still living in the Stone Age. In the past two decades, there are still no signs of schools, roads, hospitals, drinking water and other basic and fundamental amenities of life here. The only 20 - bed hospital in the center of the district is several hours away from the villages of Argoon and Barmal districts, and the vast majority of the population cannot even reach these small facilities.
Although our medical assistance was insignificant compared to the large population of the region, but the doctors and nurses of our team worked tirelessly and sincerely treated dozens of people.