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Afghanistan calls for help

A deadly earthquake worsens the country’s food crisis


Afghans receive aid at a camp in the Gayan district on Sunday. Associated Press/Photo by Ebrahim Nooroozi

Afghanistan calls for help

In the village of Popaly in Afghanistan’s Barmal District, landslides triggered by last week’s magnitude 5.9 earthquake diverted a stream that dried up the community’s only water source. The quake has already killed more than 150 people in that district.

The disaster hit the southeastern Paktika and Khost provinces near neighboring Pakistan while many people were still asleep. The death toll surpassed 1,000, while more than 2,000 others sustained injuries. Aid groups are now rallying to get support to the Taliban-controlled nation.

More than 19 million Afghans were already experiencing acute hunger ahead of the latest disaster. The worst-hit districts are mostly impoverished and include sparsely spread out villages across the mountains. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said as many as 700 families have no shelter.

The U.K.-based landmine clearing charity The Halo Trust redeployed some of its earth-moving equipment to help with road and rubble clearing.

The team also distributed food and medical aid to a village in Gayan district. “During this visit, we heard stories of young babies who have lost their mothers and as such cannot be breast-fed,” said Callum Peebles, Halo’s head of Central Asian operations.

China has pledged $7.5 million in emergency aid, while the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, among others, have also dispatched emergency supplies. The Taliban, which returned to power in August, has called for more foreign aid and appealed to the United States to unfreeze billions of dollars in Afghanistan’s currency reserves. The U.S. Agency for International Development is providing nearly $55 million in emergency aid.

The World Food Program has already delivered emergency food assistance to 2,600 households as need assessments continue. ‘’This is an emergency on top of an emergency,” said Gordon Craig, deputy country representative for Afghanistan.

World Radar

HONG KONG: Friday marks 25 years since Britain handed back Hong Kong to China. Authorities bolstered security around the convention center ahead of planned events and shut down any signs of dissent. Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit the city to attend anniversary events in his first trip outside the mainland since the pandemic. China will also swear in John Lee, Hong Kong’s new leader who led the crackdown on the territory’s pro-democracy movement.

ECUADOR: The government and Indigenous protest leaders signed an agreement Thursday ending 18 days of strikes that brought the capital of Quito and other cities to a near standstill. The deal would see the government decrease the prices of gasoline and diesel by 15 cents per gallon, prohibit mining in protected areas, and limit the expansion of oil exploration zones. The government has 90 days to implement the agreement. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador launched the indefinite national strike on June 13 with its list of demands. Both sides agreed to negotiate after the strike sparked food and fuel shortages.

NIGERIA: Gunmen killed a Catholic priest in the southern Edo state on Sunday morning after abducting him as he prepared to go to Sunday Mass. The 41-year-old Rev. Christopher Odia had served as a priest since 2012. One day earlier in north-central Kaduna state, gunmen killed the Rev. Vitus Borogo as he worked on his farm. Some good news—two other priests also abducted in Kaduna state back in May have been released. Amid the surge in violence, the governor of northwest Zamfara state last week said residents can now obtain licenses to bear arms. Such permits are rare in Nigeria, and Zamfara could be the first state to make such a move.

HAITI: Prisons in Haiti are recording rising inmate deaths as they run out of food and water. At least eight inmates have died at a prison in the southwest city of Les Cayes that houses 833 inmates. It ran out of food two months ago. Four nonprofits pooled resources to feed 11,000 inmates across Haiti’s 20 prisons for three months this year. Inmates also rely on family members to feed them, but gang violence has made some areas impassable. Haiti’s overcrowded prison system has long battled to care for inmates, but last year’s earthquake and insufficient government funds have worsened conditions.

VIETNAM: Authorities in June published for public comment two draft decrees that could further clamp down on already limited religious freedoms. Religious leaders say one of the decrees would tighten control over religious affairs, including online meetings. The second could introduce fines of up to $1,300 on individuals and double the amount for organizations. The proposed changes also recommend heightened monitoring, including reporting how much foreigners put into the offering plate. Clergy must also study Vietnam’s “revolutionary history” as part of their theological training.

CAMEROON: At least 30 villagers died in weekend attacks in Cameroon’s Southwest Region triggered by conflicts between neighboring communities. The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon on Monday said people from the Mavass community arrived with hired gunmen at a Saturday funeral in the district of Akwaya. The church said the conflict over a swathe of farmland had been escalating since April. English-speaking separatists have been battling the Cameroonian military in the Southwest and Northwest regions since 2017, while the violence and security vacuum has allowed conflicts to spread unabated.

Africa brief

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently released its annual livability ranking of 173 major cities around the world. This year Nigeria’s commercial capital—Lagos—ranked second to last, just before Syria’s war-torn capital of Damascus. The ranking metrics include stability, healthcare, culture and environment, and infrastructure.

Anyone who has been to Lagos may not have enjoyed the crowded streets, constant traffic gridlock, and noise. But the city also has its attractions. The top five cities on The Economist’s list are Vienna, Copenhagen, Calgary, Zurich, and Vancouver.


Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.

@onize_ohiks

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