ISLAMABAD - The United Nations and other international agencies are sending relief supplies including shelter and food to the scene of the earthquake which struck parts of Wardak and Logar provinces 100 kms south of Kabul on 11 February.
While UN international staff have been out of Afghanistan since the August missile strikes and subsequent murder of an Italian military observer, the UN sent a team of four international staff members to Kabul this week to help coordinate earthquake relief efforts led by the Red Cross movement.
Priority needs are for shelter material (plastic, tents, tarpaulins and blankets). The UN's World Food Programme has sufficient stocks on hand should critical food shortages develop. Today WFP allocated 55 tons of wheat, beans and high energy biscuits to 400 of the worst-affected families.
UNICEF, UNHCR and Habitat are sending shelter materials and blankets to contribute to supplies being distributed by the Red Cross movement.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the UN's World Health Organization sent medical supplies to treat the injured.
Assessments on the extent of the area affected by the quake, which registered between 5.5 and 5.9 on the Richter scale, continue to grow as teams probe further into snowbound villages. After surveying 63 villages, international agencies estimated the number of heavily damaged and destroyed houses to be more than 5,500, meaning that at least 30,000 people are homeless. Ninety mosques were also ruined.
The casualty count has not increased beyond some 39 dead and 256 wounded, since a tremor preceding the quake alerted residents to flee their homes. However more than 1,000 cattle-which share Afghan dwellings during the winter-were killed by collapsing structures.
The UN is preparing an appeal for donor countries to be issued pending a full assessment of the scope of damages, the area affected and the needs of residents.
The UN was in the process of assessing security conditions in Afghanistan in order to return international staff to the country when the earthquake struck. UN security officers are to complete their review of four cities by next week.