People in Need diverts aid to Afghan earthquake zone

Afghanistan, Baghlan, photo CTK

Monday's earthquake in the Baghlan region of Northern Afghanistan devastated mountain villages in a region already hard-hit by hunger, drought and war. Humanitarian aid organisations working in Afghanistan immediately began diverting resources to helping the earthquake victims, and among those organisations was Czech Television's People in Need foundation, which has been working in the country since October. Earlier my colleague Rob Cameron spoke to the director of People in Need, Tomas Pojar.

Afghanistan,  Baghlan,  photo CTK
"The first estimates of thousands of dead and tens of thousands of houses completely demolished were a little bit exaggerated - hundreds, maybe more than 1,000 of people were killed, and the number of houses completely destroyed is also lower. We've got our people now in the area, we've got nine trucks with food aid there and after one of the routes is cleared of mines, the distribution is going to start in some of the villages there."

Right, and of course People in Need has been operating in Northern Afghanistan for quite a while before this earthquake, what kind of work have you been concentrating on?

"Well, we've been concentrating on the return and resettlement of refugees, we are the main partner in Northern Afghanistan for the International Organisations for Migration, and we have brought back to their villages more than 5,000 people. The second major activity is in building schools and working on the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the school system in Northern Afghanistan. We've got one office in Mazar-e-Sarif, from which we are operating, we've got another office in Bamyan, where we are starting with similar activities."

And how much has the earthquake actually made your work there more difficult?

"The area of Mazar-e-Sarif hasn't been hit, people felt the earthquake, but nothing was damaged, therefore it was not directly affected. On the other hand we have stopped our activities and the food we had in storage - 100 tonnes - has been moved to the district of the earthquake, and we are trying to fill the storage with new food and continue with our projects in Mazar-e-Sarif and surrounding areas in a couple of days."

If people listening to the programme today want to help the people of Northern Afghanistan through People in Need, what's the best way to go about it?

"Well the best way is probably to see our web-page, which is , and there you'll find our account number. That's the best way to help - to send us financial support, because we don't buy anything here in Central Europe, in the Czech Republic, we buy everything on the spot, which is much cheaper, closer to the region and it's much easier and faster to get aid there."