Disaster in Herat

Responding to the earthquakes that hit western Afghanistan in October

A female nurse gives an injured woman medication in an MSF emergency tent after the Afghanistan earthquake.

Afghanistan 2023 © Paul Odongo/MSF

Alert is a quarterly magazine published by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-USA) that features ground reporting from our work around the world. This article appears in the Winter 2023 issue (Vol. 24, no. 3), The Year in Photos: Voices of 2023..

On October 7, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck western Afghanistan, followed by two earthquakes of the same magnitude on October 11 and 15, respectively, and many aftershocks. The tremors devastated the region and, together, resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people and thousands more injuries.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams already working in Herat Regional Hospital were able to respond immediately, setting up tents to help the hospital accommodate the influx of wounded patients, dispatching mass casualty kits, and stationing a medical team at the hospital’s emergency room for additional support. In addition, we provided medical supplies, assisted with triage for emergency cases, and managed care for stabilized patients. Many patients remained in the tents after receiving care because they no longer had a home to return to.

An Afghan man digs through the remains of his house beside his mother after the earthquake in Herat, Afghanistan.
Afghanistan 2023 © Paul Odongo/MSF

“When the first earthquake hit, our teams rushed to evacuate all the children who were admitted, many in critical condition, from the pediatric inpatient wards of the hospital, which are run by MSF,” said Lisa Macheiner, MSF project coordinator in Herat. “This was a precautionary measure in case aftershocks damaged the building. The facility was not affected by the earthquake.”

The aftershocks sent subsequent waves of patients to the hospital. As we adapt our response, MSF will continue to support the hospital, providing much-needed care including mental health support to people in the region, many of whom lost homes and family members in the disaster.

MSF Alert Winter 2023: The year in photos

Alert Winter 2023: The year in photos

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