The future of earthquake survivors in eastern Afghanistan, who have lost homes and loved ones and are living in crowded tents, looks very uncertain without the arrival of massive and rapid aid.
Like many other villages in the devastated area on Wednesday, Akhtar Khan’s, with its 14 houses, was completely destroyed.
Currently, 35 families live in tents, very close to their dilapidated homes.
“Before the earthquake, life was nice and beautiful, we had our houses and God was good,” says Abdu Rahman Abid.
Dragged under the rubble, he lost 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 explains with a tired look.
“Before we had our own houses and everything we needed, now we have nothing and our families live under a tarp,” he continues.
Two small makeshift camps were set up in dusty gardens near the destroyed houses. There, in tents set up in a circle, joined one to another, live 35 families, that is to say more than 300 people, including many children.
The men refused AFP’s request to question the women.
The space in one of the gardens is shared with three cows, a donkey, two goats and chickens.
“If life was not really good before because there had been war for years, the earthquake made it even harder for us,” he says.
Malin Jan, who lost two of her daughters in the earthquake.
“If our children remain in this situation, their lives will be in danger due to the rain and snow,” he explains.
The harsh winter, which lasts almost five months in this remote mid-mountain region, will arrive in September.
“In general, even living in a house is difficult during the winter. If our homes are not rebuilt by then, our lives will be in danger,” said Masud Sakib, 37, who lost his wife and three of his daughters.
Sanitary and living conditions in these precarious camps are also at risk of rapidly deteriorating.
People go to fetch water from a nearby well. There are no toilets.
On one of the two lots, some men set up a new store. The day after the earthquake “there was only one, we were crowded into it, some slept in cars,” says one of them.
On Saturday, the country’s top UN official, Ramiz Alakbarov, traveled from Kabul by helicopter to the region, including the village of Akhtar Khan, with representatives from each UN body.
Near the ruins, greatly moved during an encounter with a girl and while a survivor offered him tea, Alakbarov could not hold back a tear, saluting the “resilience and courage” of the population.
International emergency aid begins to arrive en masse.
“We need shelter (in the strict sense), the international community should help us rebuild our homes,” says Malin Jan.
The destruction is such that everything will have to be razed before rebuilding, which will take time.
Questioned by AFP on the sidelines of a meeting with the UN official on the ground, the Afghan Minister of Health, Qalandar Ebad, insisted on the “mental and psychological” suffering of the population after the earthquake.
Generally, when a family experiences a drama, the others surround them and support them. But today, as they are all affected, “we comfort each other, we can’t do anything else,” explains Malin Jan.
“We ask the world to help us and share our pain,” implores Abdul Rahman Abib.