World Vision concerned about impacts of recent earthquakes on Afghan children this World Mental Health Day

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Children are walking in their villages and moving from one part to the other of the village. ©2023 World Vision

HERAT (October 10, 2023)— World Vision, a global humanitarian organization working in Afghanistan since 2001, is deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of Afghan children after this weekend’s devastating earthquakes. In addition to the loss of caregivers and threats to children’s physical safety, their emotional well-being is a serious concern as the world observes World Mental Health Day.

The organization’s aid efforts are escalating following the series of earthquakes that struck the western part of the country on Saturday. Local teams are operating mobile health units in areas most severely affected by the quakes, as well as distributing hygiene kits and other supplies to survivors. The organization plans a robust response focusing on food; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services; health, including psychosocial services; and child protection programming in the coming days and weeks.

Even before the earthquake, Afghanistan was experiencing one of the world’s most grave humanitarian crises. Hunger, poverty and displacement have devastated the population as a result of climate shocks like recurrent drought and years of conflict and governance challenges. Over 29.2 million Afghans were already in need of humanitarian assistance prior to this most recent natural disaster.

Afghan women and children are among the most vulnerable and are likely to suffer disproportionately in the wake of the earthquakes. Initial assessments indicate that women and young children account for a majority of deaths and injuries, having been more likely to be at home during day.

On Monday, World Vision’s national director in Afghanistan, Thamindri de Silva, visited a village of 900 people, of whom only three survived the quake. She saw only piles of rubble where houses once stood. “We drove by roadside communities living in tents located next to piles of stones marking the dead,” she said.

World Vision’s office in Afghanistan is located only 25 miles from the epicenter of the quakes, and local staff are having to balance their commitment to their neighbors with meeting the needs of their own families. “Even those who have escaped direct loss describe their frightened children unable to sleep, and many have spent the nights outside in parks,” says De Silva. “Then by day, they join teams responding in communities where everyone has lost loved ones, sustained injuries, or seen their homes and property destroyed.”

“Our teams returned devastated by the damage to entire villages. Some were completely evacuated, while others with partial destruction were still animated by people burying their dead. Incongruously, a smattering of children played in areas near wholesale destruction while looking for their friends who, in their words, have ‘disappeared.’”

De Silva says these “urgent needs require an urgent response: medical care, water, food, shelter and help to stay safe.” World Vision is coordinating closely with other organizations to deliver this immediate assistance.  “But we are conscious too of the longer-term needs such disasters create, from serious mental health impacts to a worsening of an already dire humanitarian situation. Children will be especially badly affected,” de Silva emphasized.

World Vision began emergency relief operations in Afghanistan in 2001 in response to intense humanitarian needs resulting from conflict and natural disaster. The organization’s local staff continue to partner with communities to deliver humanitarian aid alongside recovery, resilience, and development initiatives in the western provinces of Herat, Ghor, Badghis and Faryab. Programming in the region focuses on maternal and child health, nutrition, WASH, livelihoods and food security, education and child protection.

About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information, please visit or follow on X, formerly known as Twitter, @WorldVisionUSA.