Afghan Red Crescent responds to devastating avalanche across the country

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By Hossein Sharifara, Afghan Red Crescent Society

Recent heavy snowfalls, rain and avalanches took a deadly toll on the lives and properties of the people in 22 provinces of Afghanistan leaving 230 people dead and 35 wounded. Over 6,000 homes were also damaged or destroyed.

Among the affected provinces, Panshir, northeast of Kabul, was the worst affected where two metres of snow caused avalanches which damaged 100 homes and killed almost 200 people. “I have not seen such a heavy snowfall before in my entire 90 years,” said Mohammad Hossein, from Bazarak village.

Afghan Red Crescent Society’s disaster response and mobile health units from Kabul and neighbouring provinces joined local teams in affected areas to undertake rescue and recovery operations while also assessing longer-term needs for those affected.

The rapid assessment process revealed immediate needs for drinkable water, food items, health and hygiene kits, warm clothes, blankets, tents, tarpaulin, jerry cans and heaters. Red Crescent staff and volunteers distributed items to the affected communities in spite of another drop in temperature and continued snowfall.

“While we are here to express our sympathy to the families who lost their beloveds and extend our deepest condolences, it is good to see you are working very hard to give them assistance,” said Kabiri, Governor of Panjshir province. The Governor later sent a letter of appreciation to Fatima Gailani, president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society.

In Kabul, H.E Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan praised the rapid humanitarian actions taken by ministries and the Afghan Red Crescent Society in the course of an extraordinary session of cabinet held to review the activities and plan for the long-term response.

“Following the initial rapid response to meet the needs of the victims, the pipeline of distributing relief items is running smoothly now and we are focusing on monitoring the operation facilitating an effective evaluation of the efforts,” said Abdul Rahman Kalantary, head of the Red Crescent’s disaster management department.

President Fatima Gailani thanked partners including the Red Cross Society of Chine, Qatar Red Crescent and the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran. “We have enough non-food aid and are ready to assist the affected people found in the course of current search and rescue operation in the buried houses of the other villages in Panjshir valley,” she said. Gailani added that donations would make a difference in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, but would also be used to improve the resilience of communities to ensure they are prepared for similar events in the future.