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Home World News Washington Post World News Death toll of children in Afghanistan earthquake rises to 155

Death toll of children in Afghanistan earthquake rises to 155

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GAYAN, Afghanistan — The death toll of children in last week’s devastating earthquake in southeastern Afghanistan has risen to at least 155, the United Nations said as the magnitude of the impoverished country’s deadliest earthquake in two decades comes into play.

The UN humanitarian coordination organization OCHA said on Sunday that another 250 children were injured in the magnitude 6 earthquake that struck mountainous villages in Paktika and Khost provinces near the country’s border with Pakistan, flattening houses and causing landslides. caused.

Most of the children died in the hard-hit Gayan district of Paktika, which remains in ruins days after the disaster. The earthquake also left an estimated 65 children orphaned or unaccompanied, the UN humanitarian agency added.

Even as much-needed food, medicine and other international aid has trickled into the provinces on precarious dirt roads, despair is growing among the newly homeless survivors. Many villagers who wandered past have lost everything.

In ravaged Gayan, villagers grapple with the magnitude of the tragedy.

When the earthquake destroyed his home and the people around it last week, Abdullah tried to claw through the rubble and save his children.

For hours he cried for help, screaming from beneath a deep mound of mud. When he and his neighbors finally cleared the wreckage, he discovered a nightmarish scene: the bodies of 12 family members, including his son and daughter, lying dead in the rubble. Four other family members were injured.

“What happened that night is very difficult to put into words,” the 65-year-old farmer and teacher, who like many Afghans goes by one name, told The Associated Press. “Everything is now underground. We just buried the bodies.”

With a pickaxe, he pulled more rubble from his collapsed mud and brick house, and discovered books that serve as mementos of lives violently turned upside down. Like other villagers, Abdullah now lives with his relatives in a donated tent. He fears the freezing winter.

Afghan Taliban rulers have put the total death toll from the earthquake at 1,150, with hundreds more injured, while the UN has given a lower estimate of 770, though they have warned the figure could rise.

Abdul Rahman, Abdullah’s son, lost two wives, a son and three daughters in the earthquake. His only surviving child is only a few months old.

“This little child has been left alone,” he said, rocking his swaddled body. The babies’ hammock, hung in the corner of their ruined home, swayed from the weight of the fallen rocks. “Who’s to take care of him?”

The disaster — the latest to convulse Afghanistan after decades of war, hunger, poverty and an economic crash — has become a test of the Taliban’s ability to govern and the international community’s willingness to help.

When the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last August while the United States and its NATO allies withdrew their troops, foreign aid virtually stopped overnight. World governments piled sanctions, stopped wire transfers and froze billions more in Afghanistan’s currency reserves, refused to recognize the Taliban government and demanded that they allow a more inclusive rule and respect human rights.

The former insurgents have resisted pressure and imposed restrictions on the freedoms of women and girls who remember their first time in power in the late 1990s, sparking Western reaction.

The Taliban are aware of their limitations and have asked for foreign aid. The UN and a series of overstretched aid agencies in the country that have tried to save Afghanistan from the brink of starvation have sprung into action.

The UN children’s agency said Monday it is working to reunite children separated from their families in the chaos of the earthquake. It has also set up clinics to provide mental health and psychological support to children in Gayan traumatized by the disaster.

But UN agencies are facing a $3 billion funding shortfall this year. Authorities and charities struggle to access the distant region and seem overwhelmed by the extent of damage and the daunting task of clearing debris, let alone rebuilding.

That has forced many in the earthquake-ravaged region to fend for themselves, even as the ground rumbles with more aftershocks and fears of further disaster loom.

“Yet there are earthquakes. … We can’t go near our houses,’ Abdullah said. “Everyone has fear. Women and children are screaming in the tent.”

Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.



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