Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan have risen dramatically in recent weeks, creating grave implications for a country already struggling with deep seated poverty, long-running conflict and an extremely fragile health system.

As community transmission continues to escalate, the virus is taking its grip on the country.

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What is the current situation in Afghanistan?

The first death from COVID-19 in Afghanistan was confirmed on 22nd March in Balkh Province, involving a man with no travel history outside the country. Initially there was only one hospital in Afghanistan that could properly diagnose the virus, which could only treat 150 patients at a time. There are now ten laboratories in the country but still with limited capacity for testing. There are regional and provincial isolation centres, but many communities are without access to a hospital at all.

Inadequate health facilities is not the only issue. Millions of Afghans were already facing food insecurity and a lack of basic services, such as access to clean water and sanitation, continues to be a serious problem in many areas of the country.

The existing challenges faced on a daily basis by families in Afghanistan will only be magnified by this new threat, as lock-downs continue across the country. Over half the population lives below the poverty line and the spread of the pandemic poses a serious threat to their ability to cope. Already the cost of basic essentials has increased dramatically, leaving at least a third of the population faced with food shortages. This includes 7.3 million children, according to recent findings from Save The Children.

Conflict and natural disasters across the country continue to displace thousands of families, compounding pre-existing issues faced by these families and the communities they settle in, and leaving them more vulnerable to serious consequences from COVID-19.

Afghanistan’s border with the Islamic Republic of Iran – where almost four million Afghan refugees and migrants live – is a particular concern for the country. With tens of thousands of both human and commercial movements across the border from Iran into Afghanistan recorded every day, including the continued mass return of Afghan refugees, Afghanistan is put at heightened risk. More than 487,000 Afghans returned from Iran in 2019 alone and the IOM reports that the influx of returnees increased following the Coronavirus outbreak in Iran.

COVID-19 Multi-Sector Humanitarian Country Plan for Afghanistan has been finalised requiring $108.1m to reach 6.1m people with life-saving assistance across all clusters.

Afghanaid’s response

Afghanaid is taking the necessary precautions to protect our staff and the communities we’re serving. We have implemented a variety of preparatory, containment and control activities in response, and are continuing to monitor the situation closely.

Our teams on the ground have reached 1,500 communities, including some of the most remote and hard-to-reach villages across the country, with COVID-19 awareness raising materials, as well as information and advice about hand washing, hygiene and social distancing. This includes working with community elders and local government authorities, as well as local religious authorities to get health messages distributed as part of the Friday prayers.

We have procured personal protective equipment for our staff, so as to ensure we can continue our existing work and provide as much support as we can moving forward. We have paused some work and adapted activities to ensure the safety of the communities we are serving, distributed protective masks and set up hand washing stations alongside our current work. Hear from Qiam, who we've hired to help restore local land back to productive use, providing him with a vital source of income.

 

We are monitoring the secondary impacts of extended lock-downs on vulnerable families, which are likely to exacerbate existing challenges and push households into desperate situations. Moving forward, we will continue to work with partners across the country to deliver assistance and support those who need it.

The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak was declared a global pandemic on 11th March 2020 and is now straining health systems worldwide. Afghanaid would like to send a message of solidarity to everyone in Afghanistan and the world over at this difficult time, and wishes everyone well. 

How can you help people in Afghanistan?

Afghanaid is working incredibly hard to protect vulnerable communities in Afghanistan during this novel Coronavirus crisis. During challenging times, donations from our supporters are an absolutely vital resource for Afghanaid, and will help to ensure we can continue to reach those who need it most, and provide vital assistance to the most vulnerable.

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