Coronavirus was confirmed to have spread to Afghanistan when its first case, in Herat was confirmed on 24 February 2020. According to the Ministry of Public Health Afghanistan, until now 174 cases are confirmed across the country.
Lockdowns and Self-quarantine are some of the measures undertaken by the Afghan government and most of the countries across the world to slow down the spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) outlined the bellow six steps that each country should implement to stop the spread of the Coronavirus.
1. Expand, train and deploy your public health force.
2. Implement a system to find every suspected case.
3. Ramp up testing capacity and availability.
4. Identify and adapt key facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients.
5. Develop a clear plan to quarantine contacts.
6. Refocus the whole of the government on suppression and containing COVID-19.
Steps were taken by the Afghan government for slowing down the spread of the coronavirus. On 14 March, President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, told the public to avoid large public gatherings and to pay attention to hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease. On 18 March, the Ministry of Interior Affairs banned all large gatherings, including the closure of venues that attract large crowds such as entertainment places, sports grounds, swimming pools, fitness clubs and wedding halls.
Herat, Khandahar, Logar and Kabul provinces are lockdown, the Afghan government began to limit the movement of residents in Farah, Nangarhar and Nimruz provinces, praying in mosques was suspended to prevent any possible spread of the virus, On 26 March, the government announced the release of 10,000 prisoners that were aged over 55 to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Even on the 3rd day of the lockdown in the capital Kabul, you can see the streets are full of people doing their daily work, below are some of the reasons that why people are not taking the precautions seriously.
Afghanistan is one amongst the poorest countries in the world and according to the Afghan government, 42% of the people are living under the poverty line. Currently, the poverty line is defined as an income of 70 afghanis a day, which is equivalent to about 1 U.S. dollar. The Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS) reported that the national poverty rate has risen from 38% in 2011-12 to 55% in 2016-2017, with the slowing economic growth and a deteriorating security situation as two causes. Over half of the population is living off less than a dollar a day and this is why you can see the streets are still crowded, people are out to find food for their families.
Afghanistan has gone through wars and internal conflicts for more than three decades. As a result of war, the education system collapsed and several generations of Afghans became illiterate. The education system restored after the Taliban regime (2002) but we are far from the rest of the world. More than half of the population is illiterate.
- Public Awareness
Public awareness is the public’s level of understanding of the importance and implications of Coronavirus safety precautions in cities and communities. Raising public awareness is not the same as telling the public what to do – it is explaining issues and disseminating knowledge to people so that they can make their own decisions and to take precautions seriously. The Afghan government has already stepped in for public awareness through press conferences, TV, social media Facebook, Twitter, the lockdown of the cities and etc. but the most important is that the message should be delivered to the people by the language they know so they can understand the message better.
Pashto and Dari are official languages of Afghanistan and from the beginning of the public awareness program the high officials are only presenting the message to the people in Dari which can cause misunderstanding between the people who don’t understand Dari, for example, the Minister of Health visited Nangarhar Province on 29 March 2020, where more than 90% people are Pashtuns and speak Pashto, in a Press Conference he delivered the message to the people only in Dari, for the better understanding of the people the message should be delivered in both languages and even in Uzbeki, Pashai and Nuristani.
- Control overpricing
The gradual and unchecked rise in prices of common use products has created serious problems for the poor where more than half of the population lives under the poverty line. Differences and fluctuations in prices of different commodities are very strange and cannot be compared to any country in the world. It is necessary that the government body responsible for setting up the prices should establish prices of different commodities in a rational manner because very low prices can drive the shopkeepers into losses. It is also necessary that the government body should work incessantly and vigilantly on the shopkeepers and sellers of commodities so that the things should be sold on the permitted prices.
During the start of the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the capital one bag of 50 KG flour rose from 1500 Afghani to 2500 Afghani and in some areas to 3000 Afghani, 1 KG of Lemon rose from 50 Afghani to 300 Afghani and the same with other commodities. Therefore it is very important that strict steps should be taken by the government to control the prices and if such steps are not taken, the life of the public would get more difficult with every passing day.