AKHTAR JAN, Afghanistan, June 26, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Village life has always
been tough for Afghans in the rugged mountains of the east, but compared to
what they are enduring today it was paradise.
A 5.9-magnitude earthquake rumbled through the area last Wednesday, killing
more than 1,000 people, injuring three times that many, and leaving tens of
"If life before was not really good -- because for years there was war -- the
earthquake has made it even harder for us," says Malin Jan, who lost two
daughters in the quake.
All 14 houses in his village of Akhtar Jan were flattened, and survivors --
including some from outlying hamlets -- are now living in tents among the
Two small makeshift camps have been set up in dusty gardens, with stunted
grass grazed by three cows, a donkey, two goats and a flock of chickens.
In tents pitched in a circle, about 35 families -- more than 300 people
including many children -- are trying to survive.
Living in such close proximity to non-relatives is anathema to Afghans --
particularly in the conservative countryside where women rarely interact with
Sanitary conditions are likely to deteriorate rapidly -- there are no
toilets, and people have to draw water from a well to wash.
"Before the earthquake, life was nice and beautiful," says villager Abdu
"We had our houses and God was good."
He gives a gruesome count of those he lost in the rubble -- his parents, his
wife, three daughters, a son and a nephew.
"The earthquake killed eight members of my family and my house is destroyed,"
he says, looking weary.
"There is a big difference now. Before we had our own houses and everything
we needed. Now we have nothing and our families are living in tents."
Neighbour Malin Jan is already looking ahead, fearful of what the future
The harsh winter, which lasts almost five months in this remote mid-mountain
region, will arrive in September.
"If our children stay in this situation their lives will be in danger because
of the rain and snow," he says.
Massoud Sakib, 37, who lost his wife and three daughters, also fears for the
"Even living in a house is difficult during winter, so if our houses are not
rebuilt by then our lives will be in danger," he says.
On Saturday, the UN's top official in the country, Ramiz Alakbarov, arrived
from Kabul by helicopter to visit the region -- including the village of
Akhtar Jan -- with representatives of each UN agency.
Alakbarov was moved to tears as he met a young girl and was offered tea by a
survivor, praising the "resilience and courage" of the people.
But their tenacity only stretches so far.
Interviewed by AFP, the Afghan minister of health, Qalandar Edad, warned of
the "mental and psychological" suffering of victims.
Malin Jan said the villagers were doing their best to help each other through
"When a family is hit by a tragedy, the others naturally come to surround and
support them," he said.
"Everything is affected... we console each other."
But they cannot do it alone, adds villager Abdul Rahman Abib.
"We ask the world to help us as long as we need it. It must share our pain."