On June 22, Afghanistan was struck by the deadliest earthquake in more than two decades, with the eastern provinces of Khost and Paktika severely damaged. According to Afghan media, the earthquake has so far caused at least 1,500 deaths, more than 3,000 people injured, and over 10,000 houses destroyed. The poor structure of the adobe houses in the affected area has led to more casualties. In addition, landslides triggered by the earthquake have blocked major transportation routes, coupled with floods caused by continued heavy rainfall in many parts of Afghanistan, adding more difficulties to the rescue efforts.
Many people have no choice but to dig through the rubble with bare hands in search for survivors. It is said that the earthquake is the first and largest natural disaster that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has faced since taking power last summer. Having struggled through years of war and economic challenges, Afghanistan is actively engaged in the rescue effort alongside seeking international support. IEA Supreme leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada has called upon the international community to help the suffering people of Afghanistan. After the hasty withdrawal of NATO troops and the IEA taking power, the U.S. has signaled many international aid groups to leave the country, resulting in limited equipment such as helicopters and shortage of materials for disaster relief. The U.S. and other western countries continue to pose sanctions against the banking sector in Afghanistan, forcibly cutting off the flow of international aid into the country.
The U.S. has frozen $7 billion of Afghan central bank assets on U.S. soil in the name of “punishing the Islamic Emirate”. Aid agencies that provide funds to Afghanistan also face the risk of so-called “violations of U.S. sanctions” once deemed connected with IEA-related accounts. All these factors added up to the ill-funded reconstruction and hindered disaster relief in such a war-torn country as Afghanistan.
Therefore, on June 25, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan called on the U.S. and its NATO allies to lift the sanctions and to unfreeze the central bank’s assets in order to allow Afghan people the right to life. However, the west is currently busy fighting for geostrategic space in Ukraine and have largely turned a blind eye to the deadly earthquake in Afghanistan and its exacerbated humanitarian crisis. As a saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. The earthquake in Afghanistan has touched the hearts of the Chinese people and China has once again demonstrated its role as a responsible major country by providing timely and precise assistance. The Chinese government provided 50 million RMB at the first time in emergency humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, the first batch of which arrived on June 27. The following day witnessed two Y-20 cargo planes of China’s PLA fully loaded with earthquake relief materials arriving at Kabul Airport, and more Chinese flights carrying more relief supplies are scheduled to arrive in the near future. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi sent a timely message of condolence to Acting Foreign Minister of the IEA Amir Khan Muttaqi and also held a phone conversation with him, stressing that China is willing to provide emergency humanitarian assistance according to the needs of Afghanistan.
China is also planning to provide another batch of emergency humanitarian assistance on top of previous aid, specifically to support the earthquake relief. China is also speeding up the distribution of the previously pledged food aid to Afghanistan, and proposes to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan in disaster prevention and mitigation, disaster monitoring and early warning in the future. In addition, China is actively employing multiple channels to collect cash, tents, bedding and other humanitarian materials for Afghanistan, such as local governments, the Red Cross Society of China, Chinese companies, NGOs，etc. MCC-JCL Aynak Minerals Company Ltd.
(MJAM) has donated US$200,000 worth of supplies for the earthquake-hit areas. China’s assistance in such a time of crisis has been widely praised by the Afghan society. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan conveyed sincere thanks to China and stated that all the assistance will be distributed at a fast pace. An official responsible for disaster management and humanitarian affairs in the earthquake-hit province of Khost said that China provided the most urgently needed materials for the people in the struck areas of Afghanistan at the critical moment. Many Afghan citizens have also expressed on social media that China offers help to Afghans in need while the western countries disappoint them with indifference.
Undoubtedly, China will continue to pay close attention to the disaster relief and post-disaster reconstruction within Afghanistan, and is willing to provide more assistance according to the needs of Afghanistan. China’s policy towards Afghanistan has maintained its stability and continuity despite the dramatic political changes in the country. China has always respected Afghanistan’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and respects the independent choice by its people. Recently, China and Afghanistan have just successfully held the second meeting of the China-Afghanistan liaison mechanisms at the working levels for humanitarian assistance and economic reconstruction. The two sides are expected to follow through on the consensus reached at bilateral meetings and the outcomes of multilateral conferences regarding Afghanistan, taking solid steps to advance pragmatic cooperation in fields such as people’s well-being, economy and trade, agriculture, mining, connectivity, and capacity building. This helps promote the post-disaster reconstruction in Afghanistan, and brings warmth and hope to the Afghan people suffering from severe humanitarian crisis.
(Lan Jianxue, Director of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at
China Institute of International Studies (CIIS). Lin Duo, Research Fellow of the Department for Asia-Pacific Studies at CIIS.)
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Source: Bakhtar News Agency