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islamic relief staff in afghanistan sat with a group of men affected by the recent earthquakes

Four earthquakes and a sandstorm leave traumatised Afghans in need of mental health support

Four major earthquakes within one week have had a devastating toll on the mental health of people in western Afghanistan, Islamic Relief says, with the charity treating people who are so shocked they can barely speak.

The earthquakes, of a magnitude between 4.7 and 6.3, have hit the Herat region since the 7th of October 2023, killing up to 2,000 people and injuring thousands more across six districts in the province. More than 3,000 homes have been completely destroyed and the number of people directly affected has risen to more than 40,000, with many families now homeless and in need of aid.

destroyed villages in herat in afghanistan following earthquake that struck
Image: destroyed villages in Herat, Afghanistan following the deadly 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

A sandstorm subsequently destroyed hundreds of tents where people were staying after losing their homes. Many families are sleeping outside because their homes have been reduced to rubble, and they are afraid to return to what remains of them due to fear of more shocks.

Islamic Relief teams in the region are providing people with mental health support and counselling, as well as providing shelter, medical treatment, cash assistance, drinking water and sanitation.

Umair Hasan, Country Director for Islamic Relief in Afghanistan, said:

Our teams see survivors coming to them in such a state of shock they can barely speak. They have been traumatised by a week which has seen four earthquakes flatten entire communities and wipe out generations of families.

“People were really suffering after the first earthquake, but more earthquakes and then a devastating sandstorm has taken a huge toll on their mental health. People don’t feel safe and they are too afraid to go indoors. They’ve seen loved ones and neighbours die under the rubble. People will need long-term support to recover from this unprecedented disaster.”

Saeyqa Aslami, a psychosocial counsellor for Islamic Relief in Herat, said:

I can’t believe what I am seeing on a daily basis. Almost all the people who come to our temporary medical tents in the villages are showing signs of mental shock.

You can see the fear and disturbance on their faces. They come to us already tired and crestfallen. Women and children are the most affected.

Many Islamic Relief staff have themselves lost relatives and homes in the earthquakes, and have also felt the psychological impact through their work with the vulnerable and their own personal stress.

Islamic Relief has deployed health teams to the earthquake zone which include doctors, psychosocial support counsellors, midwives, nurses and vaccinators. In addition the charity is also constructing new sanitation facilities, as there is a high risk of disease spreading among the displaced communities.

Continue supporting our Afghanistan Earthquake Appeal today.

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