In October 2023, a series of four shallow, strong earthquakes, measuring 6.3 each, rocked Herat province in Western Afghanistan. This has been one of the most devastating disasters to hit Afghanistan in decades.

It is estimated that a staggering 1,500 people lost their lives due to the quakes, with the UN officials reporting that 90% of those killed were women and children. Over 175,000 people in nine districts have been directly affected: entire villages in these areas have been flattened, with approximately 21,500 homes completely destroyed and more than 17,000 buildings severely damaged.

Afghanaid immediately launched an emergency appeal following the first earthquake on October 7th, and began coordinating with partners to assess needs and deliver humanitarian assistance to those most vulnerable, especially families in particularly hard-to-reach communities who struggle to reach services in district centres. Our partners have already been able to reach more than 170 families with support, and with your help, we will continue to deliver vital aid to many more in the coming months to help them get back on their feet.

With cash assistance, families like Shahla's have made it through the winter

As our first response, Afghanaid and partners recognised the value of getting cash to families in crisis, quickly. This is because the flexibility offered by unconditional cash enabled residents of these areas to respond to the unique challenges and needs they have. From food to shelter to household goods, their biggest priorities vary - and direct cash ensures they can execute their judgement on what is most appropriate for their families, and also meet multiple needs at once.

Take Shahla*, is a 48-year-old single mother of three. Even before the earthquakes struck last autumn, Shahla was struggling to get by, and often had to rely on the generosity of neighbours to keep her children fed.

"My husband died six years ago, leaving me alone to take care of our children. With the family responsibilities falling solely on my shoulders, I have faced many difficulties. I began work to support family living expenses, mainly working from other people's homes by baking bread and washing their clothes."

Shahla lives in Zinda Jan district of Herat province. Zinda Jan was the epicentre of the earthquakes.

The earthquake had no mercy. It took my home and has forced us to live under a tent. Then, cold weather and a lack of food was making my children sick. The people of the village who used to help us could not help us anymore. I was hopeless.

Families take shelter in tents in Shahla's village

Then, Shahla heard about our response programme happening in her area, and signed herself up for support. The cash gave her the flexibility to meet a range of her family's needs.

With this cash assistance I have been able to cover a range of daily expenses, such as food, medical treatment for my children and I've also purchased heating items, like a bukhari and blankets to keep us warm. I am so happy and thankful to have received this help, so I can get my family back on their feet.

80-year-old Ghulam Mohammad is the only adult male in his family, so in recent years this has meant that he is the sole income earner, despite his senior age. This has meant that he's been really struggling to make ends meet - even before the earthquakes hit in October.

"As the breadwinner, I am the only one responsible for my family's income. There are five of us. But I am getting very old and sick and suffering from different types of diseases, so I have only been able to make a low income. Before, I at least had a house, but it was destroyed when the earthquake happened, so now me and my family are living in a tent in this winter season."

Shahla and her family, right, and Ghulam Mohammad, left 

"As everyone living our village was badly affected by the earthquake, we couldn't support each other to solve our problems." Usually, in Ghulam Mohammad's village, people are very supportive and try their best to help the most vulnerable community members when they face challenges. But with 97% of the homes in Zindjaan district having been either fully or partially destroyed, there are very few people left unscathed by the devastation the quakes brought.

"Luckily, I was able to identify myself as in need of support, and was happy to receive a cash payment of 16650 AFN."

Thanks to this generous assistance, I purchased food, I could provide some heating equipment for the winter, and I also managed to get some medicine to help with my pain. I am very grateful and thankful for the assistance for me and my family in this critical situation, as the cold weather in the winter season is always hard.

Helping families to rebuild

With your support, since October we've helped over 170 families in Herat access much needed cash to meet their needs and survive the winter. We're working hard to reach many more in the coming weeks and months, to ensure that as well as meeting their urgent needs now, they can also start to rebuild their homes, their livelihoods and their hopes for the future.

People like Shahla and Ghulam Mohammad require multi-layered support to address the complex challenges they face. You can help us support districts like Zinda Jan to transform their futures with sustainable, community-driven solutions.

By setting up a regular gift today, every month, you can help us reach remote villages, respond to emergencies and natural disasters, and work with communities to make them healthier, stronger, and more inclusive. You will join us and our partnering communities in building a brighter future for Afghanistan.

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*We have changed names to protect their privacy.

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