ISSN 2330-717X

How An Embattled Afghanistan Grapples With Coronavirus – OpEd

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The coronavirus pandemic entered Afghanistan on February 23 when three citizens returned from Iran into western Herat province, and the following day, the first positive case was registered in the country. But the first confirmed dead from the virus was in northern Balkh province on March 22 according to the Ministry of Public Health Officials. 

So far, there have been 11 dead from the coronavirus with 15 cases recovered. 367 positive cases are registered across the country majority of them in Herat province. The reason why Herat became the epicenter is because the province is bordered with Iran, a country badly struck by coronavirus. 

The Public Health Ministry warned the other day, if proper measures are not taken and we do not mobilize the people to fight the virus together, 80 percent of the population in the country is predicted to get infected to Covid 19. 

About 2000 Afghans return from Iran every day fearing the virus outbreak in that country. 

Some people believe, in contrast to what Afghanistan has undergone in the past four decades, the casualties from the coronavirus is almost nothing. It is health aspect is not as huge as other aspects of the virus. For instance, in the past several weeks, the number of Afghan National Security and Defense Forces casualties were in thousands compared to the few coronavirus deaths, it is way too high. 

To make sure all people are fed during the lockdown, the Afghan government took the initiative to distribute aid to those in need. The government is moving cautiously and in consideration with the health ministry advisory. A three-week lockdown has already been imposed in Kabul city. As of now, lockdown measures are strict in Herat province and Kabul city. 

Since the virus put a step in Afghanistan, all television channels started running spots spreading awareness to the public on how to remain in their homes and wash their hands more frequently. Unfortunately, social distancing is not respected in the right way. 

Last week, a man aged 70, who was infected with Covid 19 has died in a hospital in Kabul city, his family forcefully discharged the body from the hospital and took him for a funeral ceremony, later buried him in a cemetery which is unbelievable. This shows how indifferent the ordinary people are toward the virus. 

Despite Health officials requests from the people to follow social distancing rule and do not leave their homes if they don’t have urgent work. Some people don’t seem to bother. Instead, they take the opportunity for granted and go out for picnicking and the like.  

The ministry of Hajj and Religious affairs called on the people to avoid praying in congregations to prevent spread of the virus, but some Mullahs don’t seem to take that seriously. In fact, they call on people to ignore the government calls and keep coming to the mosques. I witnessed this myself. 

The farther one goes from the cities, the lesser people know about the coronavirus and its risks. People still do handshakes when they meet. The reason for this is lack of awareness. 

There is no doubt that the virus brought major powers to their knees, look at Italy, USA and China and now Spain. They are way too strong and resourceful but the virus is forcing them to go on quarantine and lockdown. Businesses are shut worldwide. The virus has changed our world utterly, it has changed our way of life, and is changing our present and future. 

The number of all deaths from the Covid 19 across the world reaches to nearly 60 thousand and all positive cases to over a million according to different data gathered globally. So far there has been no lack in finding treatment and or vaccinations to this virus. 

In 1971, there was a famine in Ghor province of Afghanistan. Thousands of people had died of hunger. Back then, King Zahir Shah was on the throne. After the king found out about the mass deaths caused by food shortages in central province of Ghor. He tried to find aid to end the human catastrophe. When he got the aid, he found out there were no proper roads to bring the corns and wheat to Cheghcharan capital of Ghor and it wasn’t possible to carry all the aid he had gathered on Donkeys and horseback. Therefore, if the current Afghan government is caught in such a situation, it will be even harder to deal with it once the virus makes its way and spreads over. 

So, doctors and health officials warn of a human catastrophe unless proper preventive measures are not taken by all. So far, the government has not been able to do enough in fighting this lethal disease. 

As of now, Afghanistan allocated a small amount of money to spend fighting the coronavirus. The world Bank has approved a 100 million dollars grant to be spent in the fight against the Covid 19. 

The country was already battling with unsettling problems, now came a coronavirus outbreak spreading all over the country and the United States pressuring to cut aid which goes to the Afghan National Security Forces who defend the country against international terrorism will definitely undo many achievements made in the course of past 19 years. 

*Jawad Sukhanyar, StratCom for Peace, Office of the First Vice President of Afghanistan


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