The International Rescue Committee (IRC) on Monday has warned that Afghanistan faces a “humanitarian disaster" as COVID-19 spreads in the country and confirmed cases have risen by 684% in May.
It said that Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health has said they only have the capacity to test 2,000 cases per day, yet are receiving between 10,000 and 20,000 samples each day.
“That means between 80 and 90 percent 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 population infection,” it said.
Despite the spread of COVID-19, “the IRC is safely continuing its life saving programming, working to combat and respond to violence against women and children, train frontline healthcare workers on Infection, Prevention and Control, adapting our education programming to reach children in their homes.”
The IRC is urgently calling on the international community to work with Afghanistan to improve their testing capacity, and to increase direct support for frontline responders like the IRC.
“Four decades of war has 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, Afghanistan Country Director at the IRC.
The COVID-19 outbreak is making the already terrible situation much worse, she added.
The IRC also said that 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. This horrible conflict and now the economic impact of this virus has left almost 11 million people facing severe food insecurity, unsure of where their next meal will come from,” the IRC said.
“Attacks on health facilities and civilian infrastructure, like the recent horrific attack on a maternity ward in Kabul, continue despite a recent three-day ceasefire and ongoing peace negotiations between the US and the Afghan government and the Taliban,” it said.
The IRC has been working in Afghanistan since 1988 providing aid to the most vulnerable. With more than 1,700 staff and volunteers, the IRC reaches more than a million Afghans each year with education, protection, water and sanitation, emergency response, and economic recovery programs.
The IRC has launched a US $30 million appeal to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations, with a focus on mitigating and responding to the spread in vulnerable communities, protecting our staff and ensuring continuation of life-saving programming.
On Monday, the Ministry of Public Health reported 545 new positive cases of COVID-19 out of 1,168 samples tested in the last 24 hours, bringing the total cases in the country to 15,750.
The ministry also reported eight COVID-19 deaths and 100 recovered patients in the last 24 hours.
The total number of known deaths is 265 and recovered cases is 1,428.
So far, the ministry has tested 39,628 samples countrywide.
The total active cases in the country is 14,057, out of 15,750, the total accumulated confirmed cases.