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Afghans work to recover after earthquake that killed hundreds

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's been nearly a week since an earthquake hit a remote, impoverished corner of Afghanistan, killing hundreds of people. The disaster has mobilized Afghans to help each other, as NPR's Diaa Hadid reports.

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: When the earthquake shook the district of Barmal, it caused Raji Gul's house to collapse over his sleeping family. It killed his son and daughter, and he was trapped.

RAJI GUL: (Non-English language spoken).

HADID: He says, "I tried calling for help, but I was buried under the mud. It was coming into my mouth." Gul was ultimately pulled out by relatives. It's stories like this - of parents losing children, others left orphaned - that has mobilized Afghans.

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in non-English language).

HADID: In the capital, Kabul, is Parwiz Hamdard. He's collecting cash, clothes, pots, pans - whatever Afghans can give. And he says Afghans are giving what they can.

PARWIZ HAMDARD: (Through interpreter) It makes us so happy because people here are very poor. But still, Afghans come and donate for their people.

HADID: As Hamdard speaks to NPR producer Fazelminallah Qazizai, a man walks over and drops 40 afghanis into a collection box. That's about $0.04. It buys about four pieces of bread. The man donating is Mohammad Bilal Shaheen. He's 23, unemployed.

MOHAMMAD BILAL SHAHEEN: (Through interpreter) I donated what I could. We've got to help those people as much as we can.

HADID: Hamdard says it's been like this since he began yesterday. He says people aren't just giving from what little they have. They're giving to people outside their own communities. He says that's no small thing in Afghanistan, where minorities have viewed each other with mistrust for decades. The earthquake's victims are from Afghanistan's Pashtun community, but the people donating to them in this area are mostly Uzbek and Hazara Afghans.

HAMDARD: (Through interpreter) It was a good experience for us to see. Afghans, Hazara, Uzbek, Pashtuns - they want to help each other.

HADID: On the road to Kabul, to areas destroyed by the earthquake, motorists dropped change in charity boxes at rest stops. Hamdard says Afghans are showing their unity.

HAMDARD: (Through interpreter) Leaders divide us, but we are working for one Afghanistan.

HADID: This may be the most Afghans have mobilized since the Taliban seized power almost a year ago. And while the modest amounts donated by Afghans won't amount to the millions that the U.N. says are needed, what they're giving is symbolically important, showing that despite decades of war, there is still care and concern for each other. Diaa Hadid, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIM ALLHOFF'S "STILLNESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.