Life after the earthquakes in Badghis
A family's story of survival in Afghanistan
BADGHIS PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN – 60-year-old Muhaiuddin and his six children were enjoying a quiet afternoon in their living room when the first earthquake struck. Chaos ensued as the family scrambled to get out of the house. Muhaiuddin and his eldest son, 12-year-old Baraktullah, escaped through the living room window, while others used the main door.
The ground was still shaking when Muhaiuddin's family and neighbours scampered down the narrow slippery alley to the bottom of the hill and towards an open field. The second quake struck soon after.
When the tremors subsided, Muhaiuddin and his family cautiously made their way back home. The family was safe, but their humble two-room wood and mud home was not able to withstand the seismic jolts. The living room and kitchen, where the entire family was sitting earlier, had been reduced to a pile of rubble. The little food they had stored was buried.
“The quake scared me. The first earthquake brought cracks to the walls and the second one collapsed the whole room,” says Baraktullah. “Other houses in the village were damaged as well.”
“I used my entire life savings to build this house. My lifetime of hard work is now in ruins,” says a distraught Muhaiuddin. “I worked my entire life as a daily-wage earner.”
The family dug through the rubble to salvage what they could before the sun set. Then they huddled together in the one room to spend the night as the temperature dropped below zero.
No one had anything to eat that night. Minor aftershocks continued throughout the night.
The next morning, Muhauddin's relative and neighbour gave him some rice and water. Muhaiuddin was unable to find any work, and on most days, his children remained hungry.
“We are poor people. My children were cold, hungry and falling sick,” shared Muhaiuddin, unable to hold back his tears. “We shared a bowl of rice and water in the morning. I gave my share to my children, knowing we wouldn't have anything to eat that night.”
Following the earthquake, UNICEF mobilized teams to assess the damage and deliver assistance to survivors.
On 26 January, nine days afte the earthquake, UNICEF distributed critical relief materials to Muhaiuddin and 77 additional families in Qala-e-naw District. These materials included hygiene kits, tarpaulin, buckets, jackets, trousers and boots for children, and baby blankets.
A relieved Muhaiuddin carried the relief materials home.
Once home, Muhaiuddin gathered his family. Together they opened the boxes and removed the contents. One of the boxes included warm clothes and blankets for his children.
Baraktullah tries on his new jacket. He is happy it fits.
Muhaiuddin helps his eldest daughter, 10-year-old Sadia, put on her new jacket.
Sadia wrapped the blanket provided by UNICEF around her baby sister, 8-month Shiringul, to keep her warm.
“My children will not be cold anymore,” says Muhaiuddin. Seeing them all smiling has given me joy after many days.”
The family unpacked the other relief materials and arranged them neatly in a corner of their room.
For now, the relief materials will help Muhaiuddin and his family get by, especially during the freezing winter months.
UNICEF is organizing similar distribution drives to reach all children and families affected by the earthquakes in the Badghis Province.
The earthquakes struck at a time when the people in Badghis are struggling to cope with the shocks and stresses of a deepening humanitarian crisis, droughts, violence and most recently, the freezing winters. The province is historically one of the poorest in the country. The compounded effect of the existing crisis and now the earthquakes risks pushing families like that of Muhaiuddin’s into abject poverty for many generations.
As per the preliminary assessment, more than 1500 families have been affected by the earthquakes, with the numbers expected to rise further. Most damages were in the remote villages in Qadis and Qala-e-naw districts, where thousands of children and their families are without food and shelter. UNICEF is coordinating its emergency response in partnership with other UN agencies to deliver additional lifesaving aid to Afghan children and their families in Badghis.