United Nations: India said it is ready to provide assistance and support to the people of Afghanistan in their hour of need as a devastating earthquake killed nearly 1000 people, destroyed houses and displaced several.

“At the outset, I express our deepest condolences to the victims and their families, and to all those impacted by the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan. India shares the grief of the people of Afghanistan and is ready to provide assistance and support in this hour of need, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti said at a Security Council briefing and consultations on Afghanistan Thursday.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi has also tweeted that the first consignment of India’s earthquake relief assistance for the people of Afghanistan has reached Kabul and has been handed over by the Indian team there. Further consignment also follows, he added.

The 5.9 magnitude quake struck the Central Region of Afghanistan early Wednesday morning and four districts in Patika province – Gayan, Barmala, Naka and Ziruk – as well as Spera district in Khost province, have been affected.

The earthquake registered at a depth of 10 km, UN humanitarian agency United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

At least 1,000 people have been killed in the quake with several others displaced nearly 2,000 homes destroyed. OCHA is coordinating the emergency response on behalf of UN agencies and humanitarian partners.

Tirumurti said India has supported the Security Council Resolution 2615 that provided for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, while ensuring that the Security Council would continue to exercise its oversight to guard against any possible diversion of funds and misuse of exemptions from sanctions.

We hope that the humanitarian carve outs’ of this Resolution are fully utilized by the UN agencies and their aid partners and aberrations addressed, he said.

In response to the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people, India has dispatched several shipments of humanitarian assistance consisting of 30,000 MTs of wheat, 13 tons of medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine and winter clothing.

These humanitarian consignments were handed over to the Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital, Kabul, and UN specialized agencies such as World Health Organisation and the World Food Program (WFP).

To ensure fair and just distribution of India’s wheat assistance, the Government of India signed an agreement with the WFP for the distribution of 50,000 MT of wheat within Afghanistan. The dispatch of this wheat to Afghanistan has already commenced, he said.

Further, to oversee the utilization of India’s medical and food-grain assistance and to further assess the humanitarian requirements of Afghan people, an Indian team visited Kabul recently on June 2-3 and met with representatives of international organizations involved in distribution of the humanitarian assistance.

In addition, the team also visited places where Indian programmes and projects are being implemented like Indira Gandhi Children Hospital, Habibia High School, Chimtala sub-power station and the WFP wheat distribution center.

We are now in the process of shipping more medical assistance and food grains to Afghanistan. We also gifted one million doses of India’s COVAXIN COVID-19 vaccines to Iran to administer to the Afghan refugees in Iran. In addition, we have assisted UNICEF by supplying almost 60 million doses of polio vaccine and two tons of essential medicines, he said.

Tirumurti reiterated that humanitarian assistance should be based on principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence. The disbursement of humanitarian aid should be non-discriminatory and accessible to all, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, or political belief. In particular, the assistance should reach the most vulnerable first, including women, children, and minorities.

Noting that peace and security in Afghanistan are critical imperatives that the international community needs to collectively strive for, he said India will continue to play its role towards the pursuit of that objective and the interests of Afghan people will continue to be at the heart of our efforts in Afghanistan.

He underlined that as a contiguous neighbour and long-standing partner of Afghanistan, India has direct stakes in ensuring the return of peace and stability to the country.

Therefore, given our strong historical and civilisational linkages to the Afghan people, we are deeply concerned about the recent developments in Afghanistan, especially the deteriorating humanitarian situation, he said

Tirumurti stressed that India’s approach to Afghanistan, as always, will be guided by its historical friendship and special relationship with the people of Afghanistan.

On the political front, India continues to call for an inclusive dispensation in Afghanistan which represents all sections of the Afghan society. A broad-based, inclusive, and representative formation is necessary for both domestic and international engagement, he added.

We are deeply concerned about recent developments in Afghanistan which directly impact women and girls of Afghanistan. There has been an increasing attempt towards removing women from public life in Afghanistan. We join others in calling for ensuring the protection of rights of women and girls and to ensure that the long-fought gains of the last two decades are not reversed, he said.

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