Experts from our Afghanistan and Pakistan offices have travelled to areas affected by the earthquake to assess the needs of the local communities.

Islamic Relief teams started journeys into remote areas in the north of both countries to find out how communities had been affected.

Information coming from Pakistan and Afghanistan has confirmed that the number of people who lost their lives in the earthquake is in its hundreds, while the number of confirmed injuries is in the thousands. The number of casualties is expected to increase further as more remote areas are reached.

Umair Hasan, Islamic Relief’s regional humanitarian manager for Asia, said: “Our teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been mobilised. They have been trained to respond to these situations. We have stocks of essential items such as tents in-country in Pakistan ready for immediate use.

Risk of mudslides

“The challenge for us and all humanitarian actors will be access. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the areas most affected are very remote. It is taking time for our teams to travel there, as these are tricky mountainous areas, where the roads – if they are passable – are single track, with narrow turns, and susceptible to landslides. It is likely our teams will have to double back and try to find safe routes. On top of this, despite forecast for dry weather, it is now raining and this brings the risk of mudslides, which can make rescue and humanitarian work dangerous.”

Since Islamic Relief was set up in 1984, it has responded to many disasters including the earthquake in Pakistan in 2005.

“It is important that our teams get to these places to assess needs properly,” added Umair. “There is very limited information at this point and it makes it extremely difficult to make decisions. It may take some time to understand the full extent of the situation. From our experience, however, we know that it is likely that food, shelter and non-food items such as blankets and kitchen sets are likely to be the items needed immediately.”

250,000 people could be affected in northern Afghanistan

Raja Rizwan Ashfaq, Islamic Relief’s country director of Afghanistan, said: “It is very challenging. The flow of information here is quite slow. We don’t have the exact number of affected population, but on a rough estimate of 10 per cent of the region’s population, that makes 250,000 people in northern Afghanistan who have been directly affected by the earthquake.

“Access is very difficult. The area of Badakhshan has had snowfall and lots of landslides and some rural areas are politically insecure. At the moment we are trying to get more information, but we believe 7,000 houses have been completely destroyed in the most rural areas. We expect this number to rise significantly as more and more information comes in.

“In Nanghar, the team is already assessing needs as part of a United Nations cluster system. The most urgent items are likely to be food, non-food items and shelter. We plan to distribute non-food items in the next few days.”

The earthquake occurred at around 2.30pm local time on Monday, October 26. It measured 7.5 on the Richter scale.

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