AFGHANISTAN – Humanitarian disaster looming

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has warned that Afghanistan faces a humanitarian disaster as Covid-19 spreads undetected. Confirmed cases rose by 684% in May alone. They said that the Health Ministry has the capacity to test 2,000 suspected patients each day, but are receiving between five and ten times as many samples. “That means 80-90% of potential cases are not being tested. Afghanistan has one of the highest test positivity rates (40%) of all the countries where the IRC works, suggesting a high level of undetected infection in the population.”

“Four decades of war have devastated the health care system in Afghanistan and left more than five million Afghans, especially women and children, living in fear of abuse, neglect, conflict, exploitation and violence,” said Vicki Aken, IRC’s Afghanistan Country Director. “The Covid-19 outbreak is making the already terrible situation much worse. Many health clinics do not have the proper protective gear to treat or refer Covid-19 patients and are turning away those showing signs and symptoms. Our teams on the ground are seeing an increase in violence against women and children, and women are likely to face increased economic hardship.”

When the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan was closed to quell the spread of Covid-19 in mid-March, food prices in Kabul jumped by up to 30% overnight. The government moved to curb excessive pricing within hours, but the prices of staple foods have managed to increase gradually nonetheless.Daily market price analysis by the World Food Programme for eight important provincial markets across the country shows that within two weeks the price of wheat flour had increased by 19%. The outbreak is said to have left almost 11 million people facing severe food insecurity, unsure of where their next meal will come from.

SOURCES: The Guardian Live, by Akhtar Mohammad Makoii, 2 June 2020 ; The Diplomat, by Wahidullah Amani, 17 April 2020 ; PHOTO: WFP/Shelter for Life