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Tackling Covid-19 in remote Afghanistan: Six months on

Tackling Covid-19 in remote Afghanistan: Six months on

The Disaster Emergency Committee’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal launched in July and has so far raised £30 million to help war-torn countries face this deadly threat.

Since then, with your support, Concern Worldwide and other member agencies have worked tirelessly to provide assistance to communities around the world that were hit hardest by Covid-19. Here’s how we’ve been responding in Afghanistan.

Why Afghanistan?

Concern has been working in Afghanistan for almost three decades, since we responded to a major earthquake in 1998. Today, Afghanistan is facing one of the most complex humanitarian crises in the world. Prolonged poverty, deadly conflict, recurring environmental disasters and political insecurity have long posed significant challenges and made the country extremely fragile.

Continued violence is undermining opportunities for development, with almost two thirds of the Afghan population living in areas directly affected by conflict. This has caused a significant amount of internal displacement that chips away at people’s resources, livelihoods and mental health over time.

On top of these challenges, many communities have limited capacity to withstand – and adapt to - the impact of frequently occurring natural disasters across the country, including floods, landslides, earthquakes and drought. For years, Concern has been providing emergency, resilience and long-term development programming.

The impact of Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic hit Afghanistan in mid-February, during a time when the country was already grappling with conflict, inadequate health facilities, severe food insecurity and a dire economy that has plunged over 80 percent of the population below the poverty line.[1]

Random Covid testing conducted in Kabul in May revealed a third of tests were positive, raising serious concerns on how widespread and undetected the virus was.[2] A lack of access to clean water and sanitation is a serious problem in many regions across Afghanistan and these challenges have been magnified by the spread of Covid-19. With many cities in lockdown for months, millions have also suffered from the economic implications of the pandemic.

The country has recorded a total of 47,851 confirmed cases and 1,919 deaths as of mid-December. However, limited capacity, access challenges and corruption are likely to be hindering these figures, with the real situation feared to be much more severe.

[1] COVID-19 Multi-Sector Humanitarian Country Plan- Afghanistan, March 29 2020.

[2] Associated Press (AP) News: In Random Test of 500 in Afghan capital, One-third has Virus, May 3, 2020.

How is Concern responding?

We’re concentrating our efforts on assisting 30 of the most conflict-affected communities in the Khanabad district in the Kunduz province, while focussing on reaching the most vulnerable, such as people with disabilities, the elderly and unaccompanied minors.

Kunduz has largely been neglected in terms of Covid testing, and the lack of confirmed cases - combined with limited access to reliable information - has created a false sense of security. This means many communities have been disregarding critical prevention measures for most of the year.

After carrying out a needs assessment in Kunduz, we identified that food support, sharing information about the spread and prevention of Covid-19 and increasing families’ access to safe water and hygiene facilities must be prioritised. For example, a survey showed that 67% of people in the region didn’t have access to a safe supply of clean water, and relied on surface water and wells. Our team on the ground have begun the process of installing 120 accessible handwashing stations in public areas, like mosques and markets, and repairing damaged wells to make sure they’re safe and accessible.

With the pandemic magnifying dire food insecurity that already existed in the region, the team has  also started to distribute food baskets to households and kicked off awareness-raising campaigns for local communities. These will improve their knowledge of the virus, while debunking common misconceptions and teaching people practical ways to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.

This first phase of activities will continue to January 2021 so these communities – that have already endured so much hardship – can move forward with the tools and knowledge they need to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

We couldn’t do work like this without your help, and are so grateful for everyone who has supported the Coronavirus Emergency Appeal – even through these hard times. Thank you.

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