6 Months After the Devasting Earthquakes in Afghanistan

Over 7,000 pregnant women were in need of maternal health services following the devastating earthquakes in October 2023. © UNFPA Afghanistan

Between October 7-15 2023, 4 earthquakes struck the Herat Province in Afghanistan, affecting 1.6 million people. From the moment tragedy struck, UNFPA was on the ground delivering lifesaving care to women and girls affected – including the 7,000 pregnant women in need of immediate maternal health services. Follow the photo journey below to meet some survivors and see how UNFPA jumped into action.


In the devastating rubble left behind by the earthquakes, a single doorway stands. © UNFPA Afghanistan

When the 6.3-magnitude earthquake violently rocked through the Herat province, entire villages were leveled. 25-year-old Shamaiel from Naieb Rafi village recalled: “I thought that somebody was shaking me. And then the roof collapsed.”

Shamaiel, 25, was trapped under her own roof when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan on October 7. © UNFPA Afghanistan/Arlene Alano

Shamaiel, who was nine months pregnant at the time, was trapped under her own home. After being extricated and brought to the hospital by ambulance, midwives helped her deliver her baby – but it was too late. The baby did not survive. Distraught and still suffering from immense physical pain, Shamaiel was grief-stricken.

UNFPA mobile team treats a mother and her child following the earthquake. © UNFPA Afghanistan

Only days later a UNFPA mobile health team arrived in Herat to treat a range of immediate needs for the survivors of the earthquake – from delivering premature babies to providing mental health counseling to women like Shamiel. Nearly 20,000 people were reached within just 10 days of the devastating earthquake. Currently, we are operating approximately 117 mobile health teams across Afghanistan, reaching an estimated 1.5 million people.

Midwife Rahna visits with new mother, Hanifa, whose home was destroyed in the October 7th earthquake that struck Herat province. © UNFPA Afghanistan / Ahmad Jamshid Qazizadah

Hanifa’s home was destroyed during the first earthquake on October 7th – but that didn’t stop her baby from coming on October 15th. Displaced, hopeless and petrified, Hanifa recalls thinking “How can a mother bring a child into this chaos?

But then Rahna, a UNFPA midwife arrived. She helped guide Hanifa through labor and safely delivered her baby into the world. Without Rahna, Hanifa would’ve been at increased risk of facing a life-threatening complication during the birth.

Midwife Nafisa helps distribute a range of critical health services to survivors of the earthquake. © UNFPA Afghanistan

At the heart of our lifesaving services are dedicated midwives like Nafisa.

Nafisa is a midwife from a neighboring province who was deployed to Herat within 24 hours of the earthquake to support pregnant women through a UNFPA supported maternal health tent. Within 72 hours of the tragedy, UNFPA set up medical tents to provide immediate maternal health and psychosocial support on the ground. Today, these tents have been replaced with a fully equipped emergency maternity unit providing normal and cesarean-section delivery services, as well as counselling and mental health support for women and girls to help them cope with the grief of loss as they strive to rebuild their lives.

Below are some of the thousands of other women and girls who we’ve reached in the last 6 months:

11-year-old Amina sits outside a UNFPA medical health center after receiving care. During the quake, she fractured both her legs and lost her grandmother. © UNFPA Afghanistan
Maryam lost her 20-year-old daughter in the earthquake. She utilized the counseling services at UNFPA’s mobile health clinic to learn how to cope with her grief. © UNFPA Afghanistan
Women living in a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) attend a UNFPA health center to access a range of services – such as pre and postnatal care, psychosocial counseling, and an ambulance for transporting women to maternity hospitals. © UNFPA Afghanistan
UNFPA distributed thousands of dignity kits immediately after the earthquake. These kits included blankets and tarps to help women and their children survive the cold as they spent the winter in camps. © UNFPA Afghanistan
UNFPA psychosocial counselor Faiza was deployed to support a mobile health team in Herat. Here, she comforts a woman from Zindajan who lost family members during the earthquake. © UNFPA Afghanistan

Your contributions have helped UNFPA support more than 700 health facilities across Afghanistan. In total, we are reaching more than 700,000 people every month. Thank you for your continued support of the women and girls in Afghanistan and across the globe.

If you would like to make a donation to further support our work in Afghanistan and in humanitarian crises around the world, click here to make a donation.

Amanda Christian
Be there for women and girls, no matter what

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