By – Shamsa Ishfaq 26 June 2022
On early morning of 22 June 2022, Afghanistan was hit by a devastating earthquake which killed at least 1,000 people and injured hundreds, according to Afghan official sources. While the tragic devastation is indeed sad; the deepening challenge of climate change has evidently worsened the multiple crises facing Afghanistan. Amid the ongoing tragedy, it is time for the international community to be considerate towards Taliban-led Afghanistan and invest generously in humanity.
As per UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), about 29521 people were affected by natural disasters throughout Afghanistan in first three months of year 2022. During the period, Afghanistan’s 6 provinces experienced some kind of natural disaster as the country is prone to earthquakes, flooding, drought, landslides, and avalanches. Over three decades of conflict, coupled with environmental degradation, sensitivity to changing weather patterns, lack of infrastructure and insufficient investment in disaster risk reduction strategies have made aggravated vulnerability of the Afghan people to cope with the sudden shock of natural disasters.
Today, Afghanistan is not just severely war-battered but also among the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. According to the UN estimations, around 23 million people equal to about 55 percent of the population are at the verge of extreme of hunger and nearly 9 million of them are at the risk of famine. Not only this, it is suffering its second drought in four years, along with an economic meltdown that is compounding the humanitarian situation in the country. It is worrisome that these near-term climate impacts, if left unaddressed, will only worsen the ongoing socioeconomic catastrophe, conflict and violence. But unfortunately, the focus of the international community and even regional states has been on the status of the Taliban regime and her failure to ensure inclusivity and human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls.
On the contrary, much-criticized, small and economy-stricken Pakistan has once again displayed an exemplary performance in mitigating catastrophic natural and humanitarian crisis. According to official sources, a convoy of trucks carrying tents, Tarpaulin, blankets and lifesaving drugs has already left for earthquake affectees in Afghanistan. Prior to this, Pakistan has announced a humanitarian assistance package of 5 billion rupees for Afghan people. In last 10 months, Pakistan has sent 14945 Tons of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan via 694 truck and 4-C130 planes under the arrangements of Pak-Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF). The delivered aid consisted of wheat, food items, clothes, tents, medicines and medical equipment as well. Moreover, Pakistan has also established a free eye camp in Kabul from 30 May to 5 Jun 2022 with joint endeavor and support of Al-Khidmat Foundation wherein 4,290 patients had their check-ups while 1,033 went through different eye related surgeries. A similar camp was established in Khost. On 17 Jun 2022, 1st batch of Afghan children affected with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) also arrived at Lahore for free medical treatment.
Pakistan in the recent years had also funded hospitals namely Muhammad Ali Jinnah Hospital in Kabul, Najib Aminullah Khan Logari Hospital in Logar and Nishtar Kidney Centre Hospital in Jalalabad. Future plans include establishment of a Nursing and Allied Health Science College by University of Lahore. Furthermore, Pakistan is also assisting Afghanistan in capacity building in the fields of agriculture, banking, railways, military and diplomacy. To top it, Pakistan’s generous hosting of about 3 million Afghan refugees for the last four decades despite its own economic glitches is an unparalleled a contribution.
It is for the sake of humanity that Pakistan, putting aside its differences, is graciously allowing India to use its territory to send wheat to crisis-stricken Afghans. Similarly, Islamabad has offered air and land routes to international donors for transporting humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Not only this, Pakistan remained at the forefront to sensitize the world about Afghanistan’s worsening humanitarian situation and need to address the issue collectively. Pakistan is doing its bid for its brotherly country; however, it cannot alone address the grave humanitarian issue of its neighbor. It is time for the international community to come forward and play its role to help the Afghan masses who have been victim of decades of war followed by humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
In the words of Howard Zinn, “We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world”. Dear World! Come invest in humanity and save Afghanistan.