Content warning: This article discusses death.

Since October 7, three earthquakes have struck western Afghanistan. Following the earthquakes, U of T’s Afghan Students’ Association (ASA) hosted a fundraiser to support those affected by the natural disasters.

The university has also released a statement of solidarity, expressing its sympathy and highlighting the resources available to U of T community members affected by the earthquakes. 

The natural disasters

On October 7, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Zinda Jan, a district in the Herat province of Afghanistan. Three days later, a second earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 struck the same province again. On October 15, another magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck near the city of Herat.

Herat, one of the largest cities in Afghanistan, has a population of more than 500,000 people. According to the British Red Cross, an estimated 1.8 million people were in areas that experienced “high intensity impact” as a result of the earthquakes. 

As of October 16, approximately 2,445 people have died, and 9,420 people have been injured within the Zinda Jan region. The Red Cross expects the death toll to rise as Red Cross teams continue to conduct rescue efforts across the Herat province.

In an email to The Varsity, a spokesperson for the ASA wrote that many issues in Afghanistan do not receive enough attention. “Tragically, such calamities in Afghanistan too often become normalized, their realities glossed over. We need to change this narrative,” they wrote.

Fundraising efforts

On October 17, the ASA held a bake sale in front of Robarts Library, where they sold chai, traditional Afghan pastries, and other baked goods. The ASA donated the $1,756 of bake sale proceeds to Children without Borders — a non-profit organization that aims to reduce child labour in Afghanistan.

The ASA spokesperson wrote, “We, and the community at University of Toronto, have a direct role to play in supporting those suffering from the devastating aftermath of recent earthquakes.” They wrote that many members of U of T didn’t seem to know about the earthquakes and noted the importance of spreading awareness. 

On October 24, Girl Up UofT — the university’s branch of a worldwide leadership and fundraising initiative run by the United Nations (UN) — plans to host a cookie decorating social in the Victoria College Cat’s Eye from 5:00–7:30 pm. It will donate proceeds to earthquake relief efforts by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Solidarity statements

On October 10, Joseph Wong — U of T’s vice-president, international — released a statement to the university community. He wrote, “On behalf of the U of T community, I wish to extend deepest sympathies to all those affected by the destructive earthquakes in Afghanistan.”

The administration has directly contacted students from the region and any faculty, staff, or librarians with connections to the country. The statement confirmed that no students are currently registered as being in the country, and the university is not unaware of faculty or staff currently in the affected region. 

In an email to The Varsity, Wong wrote that the university will continue monitoring the situation in Afghanistan. Over 60 current U of T community members are citizens of Afghanistan or hold dual citizenship. Wong wrote, “We know that others [in the community] have personal and professional ties to the country [as well].” 

With files from Jessie Schwalb.