Afghanistan Earthquakes: Fast Facts

Four powerful, 6.3-magnitude earthquakes hit western Afghanistan in the span of eight days, leaving thousands dead. Get the facts about the disaster and learn how you can help survivors through community-led relief efforts.


1. The first earthquake in a string of tremors was the most destructive in Afghanistan’s recent history.

Four 6.3 magnitude earthquakes have hit Afghanistan’s western territory over eight days. The earthquakes and aftershocks of Oct. 7 were among the deadliest disasters in decades, according to the United States Geological Survey. Two more earthquakes struck the region on Oct. 11 and Oct. 15, leveling entire villages and cutting off remote areas that were hardest hit. The death toll is estimated to be more than 2,000 people. There were 153 reported injuries and four deaths caused by the two later tremors.

The epicenter of the latest earthquake was within 20 miles of the provincial capital of Herat in the district of Zinda Jan, a mountainous area of western Afghanistan. This northwest region of Afghanistan, near the borders with Iran and Turkmenistan, is not considered to be earthquake-prone, and it took rescuers and local authorities hours to grasp the scope of the damage. The first earthquakes hit within 30 minutes of each other, collapsing entire villages within seconds.
Source: The Washington Post + ABC News + NPR + CNN + NBC News + The Associated Press

Support community-led relief and recovery with a donation to GlobalGiving’s Afghanistan Earthquake Relief Fund.

2. About 90% of the people killed in the earthquakes were women and children.

When the first earthquake hit, people took shelter in their homes, thinking it was an explosion. Hundreds of people—mostly women—are still missing.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 600 families have been affected by the earthquakes. Half of them are displaced to Herat, where they are living in abandoned buildings. Although the death toll hasn’t risen substantially since the first quake, this is reportedly because the damage from the first quake was so severe that affected families have remained unhoused and outdoors since then.
Source: USA Today + The Associated Press

3. Freezing temperatures are hindering rescue efforts.

Herat is located 3,000 feet above sea level, and nighttime temperatures can drop to 40 degrees Fahrenheit at this time of the year. After the first earthquakes, the lack of supplies was so severe that volunteers gave their tents to survivors so they could keep warm. Aftershocks are further complicating rescue efforts. Some residents plan to leave the area entirely, shaken by the seemingly endless wave of quakes.
Source: The Washington Post + Reuters + The New York Times + USA Today

4. Afghanistan lacks health care services and resources to support earthquake survivors.

Following the first earthquake, Afghan military helicopters began transporting survivors and bodies from the first quake’s epicenter to Herat’s regional hospital. The hospital, built for 600 patients, was quickly overwhelmed with more than 1,500 casualties. Many had to be treated on the hospital floors and in makeshift wards outside the building.

Aid groups warn of an escalating humanitarian crisis in the country. Rescue and relief efforts have been hindered by the Taliban government and the remote location of many impacted communities. Afghanistan’s health care system relies almost entirely on foreign aid and has suffered crippling cuts in the two years since the Taliban took over.

Several neighboring countries, including Pakistan and Iran, are offering assistance to the Afghan authorities. Tents, blankets, hygiene kits, and ration bags were included in the support, but resources for health care and basic emergency needs for survivors remain scarce.
Source: The Washington Post + Reuters + CNN

Support community-led recovery with a donation to GlobalGiving’s Afghanistan Earthquake Relief Fund.

5. The earthquakes are worsening a complex humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

The country was facing a humanitarian and economic crisis before the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, and it has deepened since then. Nearly half of the country’s 39 million people face severe hunger, and about 3 million people are on the brink of starvation. With winter looming, it will become even more difficult for families to recover from the earthquakes.

Attention to other crises, such as the ongoing war in Ukraine, has limited international aid to emergencies like the Afghanistan earthquakes this year. And given the political turmoil in the region, potential donors are cautious of being seen as supportive of the Afghan government. Some have been deterred by its policies, such as its suppression of the rights of women under Taliban government-imposed Sharia law. The United States and its allies have frozen about $7 billion of the country’s foreign reserves and cut off international funding. The situation has crippled an economy already heavily dependent on aid.
Source: The Washington Post + CNN + Le Monde

6. GlobalGiving partners are already on the ground helping survivors access food, shelter, and other emergency services.

GlobalGiving’s Disaster Response Team is working with local partners to meet the immediate needs of Afghanistan earthquake survivors and first responders.
GlobalGiving partners are already active and providing food, water, shelter, and emergency support to survivors and affected communities. These are community-based and community-led initiatives in Afghanistan, and once urgent needs are met, they will continue to support the transition to long-term recovery efforts within their own communities.
Source: GlobalGiving Afghanistan Earthquake Relief Fund

7. Cash is the best way to help people in need during a disaster like the recent earthquakes in Afghanistan.

Why? Survivors’ needs vary greatly throughout the life cycle of recovery. Some will require financial support, medical care, and psychological assistance years down the road. You can learn more about the importance of cash donations in this infographic.
Source: GlobalGiving + USAID Center for International Disaster Information

Help communities hit hardest by the Afghanistan earthquakes through GlobalGiving and fuel community-led recovery.


Featured Photo: Afghans receive aid while a sandstorm rages at the Chahak village, after an earthquake in Zenda Jan district in Herat province, western Afghanistan, Thursday, Oct. 12 by Associated Press/Ebrahim Noroozi

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