SAN ANTONIO, Texas — On Thursday, October 12th, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) agreed to provide $12 million to address immediate humanitarian needs after several devastating earthquakes struck Afghanistan. The United States is the largest humanitarian donor to this impoverished region, providing nearly $2 billion since the Taliban takeover in mid-2021, including more than $1.46 billion from USAID.
Earthquakes Devastate the Afghanistan Region
A series of three earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks shook the western Afghanistan region in October 2023. On Saturday morning, October 7, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck western Afghanistan, followed by several aftershocks. On October 11, another 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit the same region, leading to widespread destruction of villages, with hundreds of mud-brick homes — typical structures for those living in poverty — demolished beyond repair. Then, on Sunday, October 15, a third earthquake registering the same magnitude on the Richter scale hit the already devastated Herat region. At present counts, these earthquakes have killed nearly 3,000 people and injured countless more. Many residents slept outside in public parks and streets in the following weeks, fearing that any of the homes and structures still standing could collapse at any moment.
USAID Funds Afghanistan
USAID has a history of supporting Afghanistan during times of crisis. Changing weather patterns have significantly impacted the Afghani region over recent years, devastating local agriculture and leaving almost 90% of Afghani citizens in extreme poverty. In early 2022, USAID committed $30 million to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to support specific programs around food security and sustainability in Afghanistan.
When the drought in Afghanistan began to cripple the existing agricultural systems in 2021, the FAO’s Drought Response Plan focused on the winter wheat season and distributed wheat cultivation packages. Foreign funds enabled the FAO to distribute these wheat cultivation packages across areas of need in Afghanistan. Thanks to foreign aid funds and coordinated efforts by the FAO Drought Response Plan, Afghanistan’s important cereal requirements — wheat and flour — are projected to be 28% higher than last year’s yield.
Additional Funds Save Lives After Earthquakes
In response to the October 2023 earthquakes that hit Afghanistan, USAID pledged an additional $12 million in funding to assist the poverty-stricken region amid this environmental crisis. This emergency funding includes support from USAID partners, like the International Organization of Migration (IOM), to continue these humanitarian efforts — providing life-saving supplies to people affected by these earthquakes. The IMO responded to this crisis quickly, providing humanitarian assistance, medical care and supplies like blankets, solar lamps, clothing, emergency shelter kits, cooking and water collection materials and other household items.
“Our teams were on the ground four hours after the first earthquake, leading the inter-agency Needs Assessment,” said IOM Chief of Mission Maria Moita. “I went to one of the affected villages and witnessed the human tragedy and scale of the disaster. I was also impressed by the humanitarian response and the collective efforts that enabled the necessary aid to be brought in quickly.”
The IMO will also supply water and work with other aid groups to restore water-source delivery systems that were damaged during the earthquakes, to ensure people in these affected regions have safe drinking water. Before the earthquakes hit, many in these regions were already suffering acute diarrhea due to water-born illnesses. USAID funds Afghanistan and continues to work with IMO and other humanitarian organizations to prevent further disease outbreaks. “USAID will continue to stand with the Afghan people to respond to humanitarian needs,” USAID said in the statement.
– Ann-Jinette Hess