Hand in Hand Afghanistan steps up fight against Covid-19
05 Apr 2020
Hand in Hand is delivering soap, chlorine solution and crucial virus prevention training to 26,000 Afghans as the country braces for a Covid-19 crisis that could become “another Wuhan” without immediate action.
Launched on Sunday 5 April, the emergency response came just days after Afghan officials appealed to NGOs for help, targeting 4,000 hard-to-reach households in Herat, Balkh and Parwan Provinces.
“We consider it our duty to inform people about methods of prevention,” says Zahra, a Hand in Hand trainer on the frontlines of our response. “We can save lives.”
An uncertain world
In a world where so much is uncertain, Afghans have reason to be especially concerned. Every day, thousands of returnees pour across the border from Iran, one of the early epicentres of the virus, fleeing both the economic devastation wrought by Covid-19 and the virus itself. It’s impossible to know how many are bringing it with them, but public health officials here are worried.
“We fear that Herat will turn into another Wuhan,” Afghanistan’s national health minister, Ferozuddin Feroz, told reporters in late-March. Add to that the country’s depleted health system, which struggles to keep up even at the best of times, and prevention is the only hope.
For as long as that hope remains, Hand in Hand will do everything in our power to protect our members and their neighbours. That’s why we’re urgently appealing for your help to nearly triple our impact, reaching 70,000 more Afghans – most of them living in camps for the internally displaced – with soap, chlorine solution and virus prevention training. With your help we can save lives. But we have to act now.
A day’s travel away in Balkh Province, Hand in Hand member Sharifa has worries of her own. The 24-year-old was among the first to receive virus prevention training from Hand in Hand in the earliest days of the outbreak, before the government’s response kicked in. In an area without adequate health services, she says, that training could be her community’s only defence.
“There is a health centre in our village that cannot do anything about Coronavirus and a hospital in the district with very few facilities, no capacity and no equipment for testing,” says the mother of four young children.
For precisely that reason, she says, Hand in Hand’s training on how to keep safe “has brought me peace of mind. Thank you to the supporters of Hand in Hand. Please know you are giving us hope.”
Afghanistan recorded its first confirmed case of Covid-19 on 24 February. Within weeks, Hand in Hand trainers were instructing members – many living in remote areas that public health messages don’t always reach – on virus prevention measures including handwashing, social distancing and more.