Refugees

Afghan-Americans help victims of Badghis earthquake find food, shelter

By Emran

A number of Afghans living in the United States pooled their resources to provide financial assistance to the victims of last month's earthquake in Badghis province. Jalaluddin Wardak, an engineer, travelled from the United States to Afghanistan to deliver the assistance to the residents of three villages of Qadis district on January 29–30. [Emran/Salaam Times]

BADGHIS -- A number of Afghan-Americans pooled their resources together to provide financial assistance to the victims of last month's earthquake in Badghis province.

The assistance also helped return eight girls to their families who sold them out of poverty and desperation after the fall of the Afghan government last August.

Jalaluddin Wardak, an engineer, travelled from the United States to Afghanistan to deliver the assistance to the residents of three villages of Qadis district on January 29–30.

Two earthquakes, the epicentre of which was in Qadis district, shook western Afghanistan on January 17, destroying more than 2,800 homes and killing 22 residents.

Afghan-American Jalaluddin Wardak distributes cash to the victims of earthquake in Qadis district, Badghis province, January 30. [Emran/Salaam Times]

Afghan-American Jalaluddin Wardak distributes cash to the victims of earthquake in Qadis district, Badghis province, January 30. [Emran/Salaam Times]

A house damaged by a 5.3-magnitude earthquake is shown in this photograph taken January 29 in Qadis district, Badghis province. [Emran/Salaam Times]

A house damaged by a 5.3-magnitude earthquake is shown in this photograph taken January 29 in Qadis district, Badghis province. [Emran/Salaam Times]

Several Afghan-Americans have donated money to the victims of the earthquake and to Afghans suffering from poverty and the cold winter weather, Wardak said.

"The affected people live in a very remote area. It took us two days to come here from Herat," he said. "They are deprived of any kind of assistance."

"Afghans around the world should not forget their poor compatriots in these difficult times," he said. "They should share their food with them since they have nothing to eat."

Authorities have provided very little assistance to the affected survivors in Badghis. Some NGOs, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), have provided tents and food, but they have been insufficient, according to local residents.

Assistance provided by individuals and philanthropists from within and outside Afghanistan to the earthquake-affected inhabitants of Badghis is reported to exceed the assistance provided by the government and NGOs, locals said.

Earthquake 'took everything'

Many residents affected by the earthquake in Qadis district have lost their homes and have no shelter from the harsh winter.

Sayed Mohammad, 65, who lost three family members and his house in the earthquake, said he and the surviving members of his family now sleep in a small tent that does not protect them from the cold.

The grief of losing his wife, daughter-in-law and granddaughter and the concern of feeding his five surviving family members gravely plague him, he said.

"We have nothing to eat. So far, we have received some cash assistance from aid agencies, but it won't be enough even for a month," he said.

Mohammad said he was already very poor because of the recent drought and is not able to rebuild his house.

"The cash assistance provided by our brothers from the US will cover our expenses for a few months, but we need more money to rebuild our houses," he added.

Abdul Hamid, a resident of Qadis district, said the earthquake took everything from them, leaving them with empty stomachs.

"We have been living under a tent for several days as the earthquake destroyed our house," he said. "I cannot afford to rebuild my house, and this has made our lives very difficult. I have no idea how to continue my life."

"It is very cold at night as it has snowed in our village," he said. "Our children are sick from the cold weather, and we do not have the money to treat them."

The assistance provided by other ordinary individuals has saved their lives in difficult conditions, but they need more help, he said.

"Our house collapsed, and flour, oil, rice and carpets were buried under the rubble," said 11-year-old Amir Hamza, whose house was destroyed by the earthquake. "We were starving for three days after the earthquake; we had nothing to eat."

Even now, his family's situation has not improved much.

"Inside the tent is very cold, and water leaks inside when it rains," he said. "We are all sick."

Girls reunited with their families

The assistance provided by the Afghan-Americans helped return to their mothers eight girls previously sold in Badghis province.

After the fall of the previous government and the drop in foreign aid, many families were forced by hunger and extreme poverty to sell their young girls.

Their buyers gave them back after receiving refunds.

Zulaikha, a mother of six, made the difficult decision to sell her 6-year-old daughter Sitara because of poverty.

"I had to sell my daughter," she said. "The government used to help us in the past, but after the fall of the government, no one has come to our aid."

Zulaikha said she cried day and night after selling her daughter.

"I cannot believe that I am holding my daughter once again," she said. "I will never forget the help of my fellow Afghans. They gave my daughter a new life."

Zulaikha was forced by war two years ago to move from Qadis district to Qala-e-Naw city. She now lives in a tent in an internally displaced persons' camp in the northern part of the city.

Mariam, 11, was sold by her family for 200,000 AFN three months ago.

"I cried a lot when they sold me. I felt like I was dead," she said. "But now I'm happy to be with my parents once again."

Mariam wants to go back to school and build a good future for herself.

"I do not want to get married as a child; I want to study and become a doctor in the future," she said.

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Thousands of times, they helped these poor people and did not leave them alone in whatever trouble they were in. Hopefully, all foreigners will not leave them alone. This is because the condition of the people in the country is deteriorating day by day, which may be due to lack of food or shelter, but in reality, this number is very high. There are many kinds of problems. Still, thanks to the help of Afghans living in the United States. It is essential not to look at the officials and do what can be done to help.

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Afghanistan is a country that has immigrants in almost every country in the Americas and in the Europe. If all of them feel so much patriotism and help their compatriots, they will undoubtedly solve some portion of the problems. We are very happy with the help of Afghan-Americans and we thank them. God bless them.

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I cordially thank the US-based Afghans for providing aid to the earthquake victims in Badghis. Please do not wait for the governments to assist, whatever possibilities you have. You may offer it to the compatriots. Give alms, provide help. Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran that whoever gives loans to Allah means that to give aids to the poor people, Almighty Allah will reward them seven to seventy times in this life, and the rewards they receive after death are countless. All aid agencies, including the Red Cross, WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, should help these and other poor people. Thanks.

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The information about the disappointing situation of Badghis residents is really hurtful. May Allah bless our country and people.

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