Kabul [Afghanistan], June 23 (ANI): The UN and partners have rushed to support Afghanistan following a devastating earthquake that hit two provinces in the east of the country early on Wednesday morning.
An earthquake struck eastern Afghanistan early Wednesday, and the death toll has surpassed 1,000, with more than 1,500 people injured, news reports said. The most affected areas are in Spera District in Khost Province, and Barmala, Ziruk, Naka and Gayan districts in Paktika Province.
The UN was already mounting one of the largest humanitarian operations in the world in Afghanistan, where nearly 20 million people, roughly half the population, are going hungry.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply saddened to see the tragic aftermath of this morning's deadly earthquake in Afghanistan.
UNHCR and other UN agencies have deployed staff to the most affected areas in Pakitika and Khost provinces from its field office in Gardez. Currently, the focus is on search and rescue operations to find survivors. There are fears that more lives could be lost if survivors are not reached urgently in remote parts of the country.
Interim authorities have appealed for immediate humanitarian assistance and UNHCR is rushing supplies and staff to assist the affected people, working with other humanitarian partners.
"It is heart-breaking to see this tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan on top of the ongoing humanitarian crisis that Afghans are going through every day," said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "I convey my deepest sympathies to the people of Afghanistan and especially those who have lost friends and family in this horrific natural disaster. UNHCR stands with Afghans at this difficult time and will make all efforts to provide relief to those affected."
Afghanistan is going through a dire humanitarian crisis with some 3.5 million people displaced inside the country. Millions of others are struggling to survive amid rising levels of poverty and hunger, with social services under immense strain.
"This tragedy highlights once again that Afghans need and deserve the world's solidarity and support," Grandi added.
UNHCR has worked with Afghans for the last four decades inside Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. Nearly one million displaced Afghans and host communities have been assisted with aid since January this year.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday expressed grief over the tragic loss of life in the earthquake that hit Afghanistan.
"My heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan who are already reeling from the impact of years of conflict, economic hardship and hunger. I convey my deep condolences to the families of the victims and wish a speedy recovery to the injured," the UN chief said in a statement. (ANI)