The human cost of the coronavirus story is felt when you visit graveyards in parts of Kabul where gravediggers say between 40 to 50 bodies are buried every day – some during the night because of the stigma of COVID-19.
Some families list the cause of death as “mysterious” or "unknown," denying that their family member had died after contracting the coronavirus.
Some of the bodies are buried by a team from the Kabul Municipality on the outskirts of the city at the request of their relatives, according to TOLOnews’ Anisa Shaheed who talked to those families whose members have died from COVID-19.
In many cases, Anisa said, despite the risks, a small number of people attend funerals due to the COVID-19 threat. Typically in Afghan culture, dozens of people attend burial and funeral ceremonies that continue for three days at least.
Abdul Hameed, a Kabul resident, said he lost two members of his family to COVID-19 in less than two weeks.
“We took our patient to private hospitals, but they said they don’t have a bed for the patient. We went to the government hospital. They also said they don’t have a bed,” he said.
“Sometimes, we dig five or four or three graves and sometimes one grave,” said Zafar, a gravedigger.
In a graveyard in the Pul-e-Charkhi area in the east of Kabul, a gravedigger, Hameed, said bodies are buried at night.
“I was given Afs200 for a bottle of water. I watered the graves,” said a teenage gravedigger, who showed many graves that were prepared at night.
Gravediggers in Omid Cemetery in the west of Kabul said they have doubled their workers recently due to an increase in the number of deaths in that part of the city.
The government so far has not reported more than 24 COVID-19 deaths a day countrywide, but TOLOnews has found in its interviews with gravediggers and affected families that the number of coronavirus deaths is much higher than reported.
However, many families keep the reasons of these deaths a secret because of social stigma.
“Each person digs four graves from the morning until 5pm,” said Abbas, a gravedigger, who said there are 15 people working on a team.
“The number of deaths is high. Ten to 15 bodies are brought here every day. It was less previously,” said Mohammad, a young gravedigger.
“There are 50 bodies a day. I don’t know about nights but I think there are 20 or 10 bodies at nights,” said Sarwar, a gravedigger.
On Monday, the government announced seven new COVID-19 deaths, including two in Kabul.
According to hospital officials, the patients who lose their lives in the hospital are taken by the municipality and in compliance with safety measures.
Some municipality workers said that in one case they buried the son of a government official, but their family went to the cemetery and took the body to bury it in their family place.