Jun 26, 2022 13:09 UTC
  • Funds frozen in US: Quake-hit Afghanistan faces disease outbreak

Afghan health officials say thousands affected by a deadly earthquake in eastern Afghanistan are in need of clean water and food and are at risk of disease.

The appeal on Sunday came days after the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) warned of a cholera outbreak in the region.

"The people are extremely needy for food and clean water," Afghanistan's health ministry spokesperson Sharafat Zaman told said.

He said officials had managed medicines for now but handling those who had lost their homes would be a challenge. 

"We ask the international community, humanitarian organizations to help us for food and medicine, the survivor might catch diseases because they don’t have proper houses and shelters for living," he said.

At least 1,150 people were killed, 2,000 injured and 10,000 homes destroyed in Wednesday's earthquake.

The disaster is a major test for Taliban rulers amid Western sanctions on Afghan government bodies and banks, cutting off direct assistance which had led to a humanitarian crisis even before the earthquake.

Afghanistan's Taliban administration called for a rolling back of sanctions and lifting a freeze on billions of dollars in central bank assets stashed in Western financial institutions. 

Following the Taliban takeover in August, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order, seizing 7 billion US dollars out of more than $9 billion frozen Afghan assets, to pay compensation to 9/11 victims.

China’s permanent representative to the United Nations urged the Biden administration to immediately return Afghanistan's frozen assets.

“The Afghan people need every bit of these resources. That’s why it’s unjustified to freeze Afghanistan’s foreign assets,” Zhang Jun told a UN Security Council session.

He said the UN chief, human rights experts and humanitarian agencies were all univocal in their demand to return the assets without any conditions as soon as possible.