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Taliban Health Official Warns Of Disease Risk After Deadly Afghan Quake

An Afghan boy stands in a graveyard in the village of Gayan after the burial of relatives who died in the earthquake.

Health officials in Afghanistan's Taliban-led government warned on June 26 that thousands of people affected by a deadly earthquake this week in eastern Afghanistan desperately need food and drinking water and are at acute risk of disease.

The death toll of around 1,150 people from the June 22 earthquake, which had a magnitude of 6.1, is already conflict-torn Afghanistan's worst natural disaster in two decades.

The tragedy is amplified by weaknesses in the hard-line government and its isolation over human rights abuses since the Taliban swept to power as U.S.-led international troops withdrew and the UN-backed Afghan government collapsed in August.

"The people are extremely needy for food and clean water," Taliban-led Health Ministry spokesman Sharafat Zaman told Reuters.

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

The UN office that coordinates humanitarian affairs, the OCHA, has already warned of the seriousness of possible cholera outbreaks.

In addition to the confirmed dead, at least 1,600 people are said to have been injured when the earthquake hit three mountainous Afghan regions near the Pakistani border.

An aftershock on June 24 killed five more people shortly after the Taliban authorities announced that search-and-rescue operations had ended.

UN Deputy Special Representative Ramiz Alakbarov toured one of the affected provinces, Paktika, on June 25 to gauge damage and help distribute aid such as medicines and tents.

Some UN helicopters and trucks have delivered rice, bread, and blankets to stricken areas. But officials say major obstacles to better distribution of such essentials remain.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP