In the words of Sima: “It was like the world had ended and the earth had clashed with the sky”


Photo: UN Women/Sayed Habib Bidell
Sima holds her surviving 2-month-old daughter as another woman prepares some food. Photo: UN Women/Sayed Habib Bidell

Sima is a young mother from Ghar-Moshak Village in Zenda Jan District, the area most affected by the strong series of earthquakes that rocked Afghanistan’s Herat province in early to mid-October.


It was around morning, and I was with my three children in a room that served as both a living space and a kitchen. We are a poor and struggling family and were [already] having trouble filling our young children’s hungry stomachs with food.

As the first hours of the day dawned, I felt a strange sensation, as if the earth was in turmoil and unrest. In those moments, a strange and frightening but deep and deafening sound suddenly reached my ears. I had a strong feeling of fear. My husband was in a distant area taking care of the cattle. At those moments I felt lost, and my little daughter, aged only two months, was crying violently.

I felt the house collapse and I got smashed, but I remember vividly that I somehow managed to carry my two-month-old daughter and one-and-a-half-year-old son outside with all my strength. Unfortunately, my 3-year-old daughter was still under the ruins.

I was trying to move myself to save her when another earthquake occurred. This time, I was trapped under the collapsed foundation of my house. I felt my face sticking out from under the dusty debris. It was like the world had ended and the earth had clashed with the sky.

Breathing became extremely difficult, and for a moment I felt nothing at all. In those moments, I perceived screams and cries for help from my surroundings. All I wanted was to find my daughters alive and well.

Fear took over my entire existence. The question that tormented me in those moments was: How could I escape from under all these ruins? What if a third earthquake was imminent? How could I bear this tragedy if my eldest daughter was buried under the rubble? Was she still alive? How were my two other children? Where was my husband? With thousands of unanswered questions, I felt overwhelmed.

I felt as if every bone in my body was broken [although in fact none were]. Perhaps I had been injured by the collapsed ceiling and brick walls. I was so shocked and I couldn’t breathe properly. I only hoped that I would find my daughters alive.

After almost two hours, I was saved by a rescue team. However, I was confronted with the [devastating sight of the] lifeless body of my eldest daughter, who was trapped under the ruins. She was found, but breathless and badly injured.

Losing a child is the most penetrating pain I have ever experienced. I wanted the mountains and the sky to know that a part of me had died. I was in shock and it was like my voice was caught in my throat.

A few moments later, I received the news that my husband had died as well. In an instant, I had lost everything. And there is no protection for me. Now, I have two children, aged two months and one and a half years, and a world of despair with the images of the earthquake burned into my memory.”