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Thousands of Afghans are without homes after devastating earthquakes


Days after rolling earthquakes flattened nearly a dozen villages in western Afghanistan, thousands of families are sleeping in tents. But as winter looms, will there be aid for them to rebuild their homes? NPR's Diaa Hadid reports.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: In a video shared by the U.N., Afghans clear away the rubble that was once their village in Zinda Jan, a remote, dusty district in the country's west.

PHILIPPE KROPF: The only thing that still sticks out of the rubble in many cases is the door or the door frame.

HADID: Philippe Kropf is a spokesman for the World Health Organization (ph). He just returned from Zinda Jan. More than 1,000 people died there. They're mostly buried now.

KROPF: Outside of every village, there are new graves, and it's not individual graves. It is one long row of graves that, every meter or so, they put a stone to indicate the person underneath.

HADID: Most of the dead are women and children. At least some of them thought there were bombs dropping nearby, and they ran inside for cover. Many of the wounded are female as well. Another U.N. video shows a woman aiding a girl.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: Officials tell me the Taliban is turning a blind eye to women working in the field, even though they've been largely restricted from public life since the group seized power two years ago. It suggests how devastating these earthquakes were.

MUSTAFA SAHIL: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: One local, Mustafa Sahil, says 10 villages were flattened in Zinda Jan, but survivors are getting help from the U.N., charities, even locals.

SAHIL: Are not enjoying the emotional toll, I can assure them.

HADID: But he tells NPR producer Fazelminallah Qazizai that many others aren't getting aid, but their homes aren't safe to live in now. He says they're sleeping in the wild. They've had to endure powerful aftershocks and even a dust storm. In the city of Herat, a few dozen miles from the epicenter, the situation is also dire. This is from journalist Abdul Karim Azim from the nonprofit Alive in Afghanistan.

ABDUL KARIM AZIM: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: Azim says the city is surrounded by tents.

AZIM: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: He says there's hundreds of families who don't have money for bread, but they've had to buy a tent to protect themselves from the cold. It's already biting. But international aid has been dwindling to Afghanistan. Donors are frustrated with Taliban restrictions, and there's crises elsewhere. Sediq Ibrahim is with UNICEF. They're asking for $20 million to cover initial needs.

SEDIQ IBRAHIM: The winter is coming. These people cannot continue to be living in these conditions.

HADID: But already the U.N. had to cut off food aid to 10 million Afghans because they couldn't raise the money. Now they only support 3 million of the most vulnerable people. And the area that was struck by the earthquake was already deeply poor. Many folk there are subsistence farmers who've faced punishing droughts for years. Ibrahim worries about what will happen next. So does Kropf from the World Food Organization (ph).

KROPF: So the price of inaction will be paid by the most vulnerable. And we just are calling on international solidarity with the Afghan people.

HADID: A call for solidarity at a time when the world seems to lack so much of it. Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Mumbai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.