In the span of just one week, Herat Province was rocked by four powerful 6.3 magnitude earthquakes on 7th, 11th, and 15th October 2023. The tremors left a trail of devastation, with aftershocks continuing to rattle the affected areas. One particularly significant aftershock, measuring 4.9 magnitude, struck the province at midnight on 29th October, further compounding the destruction.   

The toll was staggering. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 1,482 people lost their lives, while over 2,100 sustained injuries. The catastrophe directly impacted nearly half a million people across nine districts, leaving them in urgent need of assistance, according to a Multi-Sectoral Rapid Needs Assessment (MSRAF). 

IOM has been providing critical assistance to those affected including emergency shelter and relief items; winterization; water, sanitation, and hygiene; as well as healthcare and mental health and psychosocial support. 

Among those who received the assistance is Nergiz*, a resilient single mother who had to become the sole provider for her seven children following the tragic loss of her husband in the earthquakes. 

As winter approached, Nergiz became very worried because their home was destroyed by the earthquake. Thanks to funding from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF), IOM was able to provide emergency shelter and relief items to those affected, including Nergiz. "Shortly after the earthquakes, [IOM] teams came to us and assessed our situation," Nergiz recounts. "They provided me with shelter assistance, and household items" she adds, a lifeline that protected her family from the biting cold. 

Nergiz with her children in the tent. Photo: IOM/Marjan Wafa

Nergiz's narrative is one of resilience in the face of adversity. "I never thought that my children would grow up without a father," she reflects, grappling with the sudden weight of sole responsibility. To make ends meet, she takes up odd jobs, alternating between sewing and hand-embroidering men's jackets from her shelter. Still, even though she tries hard, the possibility of hunger is always there for her and her family. 

"This winter has been really tough. Look, it's even snowing now in March. We wouldn't have made it without the help," she explained. "Luckily, our shelter is warm, and I don't need to worry about my children." 

However, Nergiz's struggles extend beyond mere physical comfort. The trauma of her husband's death weighs heavily on her. Through the support of IOM's psychosocial specialists, she has found solace and strength to persevere. "I feel much better now," she said.

Nergiz is determined to support her children to ensure they have a brighter future. Photo: IOM/Marjan Wafa

Nergiz has big dreams for her family's future. "I want to be able to work without restrictions to support my children," she said, showing her strong resolve despite facing challenges. However, she is upset by the restrictions that limit women's freedom of movement, making it harder for her to find a job. 

Above all, Nergiz's greatest wish is to ensure her children receive an education, as she believes it will pave the way for a better future filled with opportunities. "I'm determined to support my children's education," she said. 


*Name changed to protect her identity