Meet Sharifa, who has ‘peace of mind’

Outside their small compound the virus burns through refugee camps, skulks the presidential palace, drags a country to its knees. Inside, Sharifa and her family wait.

“I’m worried. There is a health centre in our village that cannot do anything about coronavirus and a hospital in the district with very few facilities,” says the 24-year-old mother of four.

It’s been less than two months since the coronavirus arrived in Afghanistan, smuggled in the lungs of what was first a ripple, then a surge of returnees from neighbouring Iran. Fleeing one early epicentres of Covid-19, these untold thousands unwittingly created another. And experts worry it could be even worse.

“We fear that Herat [province] will turn into another Wuhan,” Afghanistan’s national health minister, Ferozuddin Feroz, told reporters in late-March.

With only one testing site in the country, the true scale of the crisis may never be known. But it’s clear Afghanistan’s health system can’t cope. For Sharifa, her family and 37 million Afghans just like them, prevention is the only hope.

Bulkh district, Afghanistan

Peace of mind

Sustainable solutions to long-term problems. For 13 years, Hand in Hands Afghanistan has tackled poverty with jobs. And yet with thousands of members living in hard-to-reach areas, deep bonds with local officials, and a senior management team with decades of humanitarian experience, we found we were perfectly situated to help lead the fight against coronavirus. So when a government lockdown caused the suspension of our usual training on 30 March, that’s exactly what we did.

“It’s a very heavy responsibility and we feel a sense of fear. If someone has the virus, it’s difficult to control it,” says Hand in Hand trainer Zahra. “On the other hand, it’s a pleasure to help our people, who are really in need and live in poverty.”

Sharifa was among the first to receive our help. “Our trainer told us about coronavirus and how dangerous it is. She gave me and other women some health instructions such as not to go to crowded places, to wash your hands repeatedly with soap more than 20 times a day, and cover your mouth with a cloth when sneezing and coughing.”

She also received six bars of soap, as well as a bottle of chlorine solution for the surfaces in her home. The support, she says, “has brought me peace of mind. Thank you to the supporters of Hand in Hand. Please know you are giving us hope.”

An urgent appeal

Hand in Hand trainer Zahra

Hand in Hand is doing everything in our power to protect Sharifa and her neighbours. But we urgently need your help to keep going.

Already, we’ve reached thousands of families in Herat and Parwan provinces with life-saving training and hygiene. Next, we’re focusing our efforts on communities and refugee camps in Balkh province, targeting 10,000 families in total.

Residents of Afghanistan’s camps didn’t ask to live there – they were chased there by Taliban guns and bombs. Packed together in improvised tents, struggling with malnutrition and lacking access to health services, they have none of the comforts or safeties that others take for granted. Like Sharifa, prevention is their only hope – and in many cases, Hand in Hand is the only one providing it.

To find out how you can help, please get in touch. To make a donation, please click below.

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With your help, we’ll…

Reach 10,000 families in communities and camps throughout Afghanistan

Provide them with 6 bars of soap, a bottle of chlorine solution and one spray-pump each

Train every household in handwashing, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces and more