Afghanistan

COVID-19 Update: September

As of 17 September 2020, Afghanistan has confirmed 38,855 COVID-19 cases. Total death toll is 1,436. Currently, testing has been done for only 107,593 people. Testing has been slow given that the population in Kabul alone is about 5 million people.

The Government is trying to secure the country from takeover by the Talibans; even though the peace talks are ongoing, there is active war in many provinces as the armed groups want to take over as many provinces as possible ahead of and during the peace agreement.

Within the communities, there is an increasing sense of complacency; most Afghans are no longer wearing masks nor taking heed of health precautions. It is now business as usual. The previous lockdown had left a very negative impact on people’s mental and economic well-being. There are also concerns around the in-country testing capacity and management of the pandemic in the border crossing areas especially between Iran and Afghanistan. Protective equipment for frontline workers are limited, essential health services are also inadequate. There is limited sustained prevention and mitigation measures.

The past two months have been particularly gruelling for Hagar Afghanistan clients and staff:

  • Some of Hagar Afghanistan’s beneficiaries from the Empowering Women for a Better Future (EWBF) project have lost their jobs, those on the business empowerment track who had just begun their businesses suffered loss of finances that were invested in their business.
  • Several Hagar Afghanistan staff who work directly with children in the protection centre for boys aged 8-17 were infected by the COVID-19. Many activities in the centre have also been impacted during this period.
  • Poor internet connection has affected the quality of online classes, and engagement activities in the Centre. It was particularly difficult for the young boys during the lockdown, who struggled to cope mentally, physically and emotionally. Those who newly arrived the centre had to be in isolation and could not deal with the separation from other children.

Responding to the heightened stress, Hagar created space for additional recreation within the centre so that the boys are able to de-stress using physical exercise. Various relaxation techniques were also introduced to help manage and reduce the stress and anxieties experienced by clients and staff during these stressful times.

From 1st September, Hagar Afghanistan project activities have resumed, schools have also reopened, and the boys in the centre are now able to go to school and engage in some outdoor activities. Community training for those at risk of trafficking is now been conducted remotely by cell phone and Whatsapp. There have been challenges reintegrating children to their families in the province. Cases of cross border reintegration involving Pakistan and Norway are currently pending.

COVID-19 Update: August 4th

Information from a Strategic Situation Report written by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA) describes the grim impact COVID is having in Afghanistan. The report states: 

  • 36,829 people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan are now confirmed to have COVID-19. Some 25,742 people have recovered, and 1,294 people have died (57 of whom are healthcare workers). 
  • 89,822 people out of a population of 37.6 million have been tested. Almost 10 per cent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases are among healthcare staff

In addition to these startling numbers, the report also stated: 

“Due to limited public health resources and testing capacity, as well as the absence of a national death register, confirmed cases of and deaths from COVID-19 are likely to be under reported overall in Afghanistan. Modelling suggests the peak has not yet passed and cases may still accelerate over the coming weeks, creating grave implications for Afghanistan’s economy and people’s well-being.”

Christiana, the Executive Director of our work in Afghanistan, confirmed this and said in her update that despite the pandemic being at its worst in June and July, many people in Kabul (the most affected part of the country) no longer wear masks or care about taking precautions.  

Unfortunately 18 of Hagar’s 43 staff in Afghanistan became sick with flu like symptoms or were infected with COVID from the 1st June to 31st July. With these staff at home recovering, a huge burden and extra workload had to be taken up by the other staff so that Hagar’ work could continue. It was a hard time for the team in Afghanistan and staff from other Hagar offices supported and encouraged them as best as they could. We are exceptionally grateful globally that all 18 staff who were sick have or are recovering well. 

The pandemic has impacted Hagar’s Women Empowerment Project significantly and many activities have had to stop as the team observe and model precautionary behaviour. Business training and self-help groups could not continue and those receiving educational support have to stay at home due to all the schools being shut down in April. However, Christiana said of her team: 

“The EWBF team members, through their determination and commitment, reinvented the EWBF operations while in quarantine and working virtually. The team developed a COVID-19 responsive work plan to ensure that beneficiaries who are able to work from home continued to earn income. The team conducted career counselling by phone during the quarantine, there was a deeper level of engagement with the beneficiaries.”

Forgotten No More, our protection shelter in Kabul for boys who have survived severe abuse, has continued to operate and house these boys throughout lock down. The 15 boys living here have continued to receive services and help including education, counselling, medical services and family mediation.  Elements of this programme, which require staff to travel outside of Kabul and into the provinces (e.g. Family assessments and re-integration), have been impeded due to the pandemic and staff continue to try and do what they can through online platforms.  

Please continue to keep Afghanistan, our staff and our clients in your thoughts and prayers. As a global Hagar family, we stand with them as they do their absolute best to continue to be there for clients while also staying safe themselves. 

To read the report referenced above, head here:

 

COVID-19 Update: July 12th

While our projects in both Cambodia and Vietnam have returned to normal, COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact in Afghanistan.

A Strategic Situation Report prepared by the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Aid paints a confronting picture. Key points include:

– The country has poor health infrastructure which is struggling to cope with the pressures caused by COVID-19

– As at 12th July, there were 34,451 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across all the provinces in Afghanistan. However due to the lack of testing, it is believed that the number of cases is significantly higher than that. Only 79,732 tests have been conducted from a population of 37.6million and 1010 people have died (56 of whom were health workers)

– The report states: “Different COVID-19 models show that the peak for the COVID-19 outbreak in Afghanistan is expected between late July and early August, creating grave implications for Afghanistan’s economy and people’s well-being.”

Please join us in praying for our colleagues, their families and this country going forward. They are a part of our Hagar family and they need our support.

To read the report referenced above, head here:

 

COVID-19 Update: June 10th 2020

We received the following update from Christiana, the Executive Director of Hagar Afghanistan, this week: 

“The rate of infection has really spiked pre and post the Muslim Eid holidays.

This is a time when Afghans buy new clothes and celebrate with families around the country. This year, the armed opposition groups announced a three day Eid ceasefire on May 24th.

Following the Eid break, when all the precautions were thrown to the wind, many NGO workers have now contracted COVID-19 from family members. One college stated yesterday that half the people in Kabul will get infected because social distancing orders was blatantly ignored by many Afghans. This is antithetical to their culture.

We are also managing the shame and stigma around being positive as a result sick people are willing to admit they have typhoid or malaria but not covid19. This has put us in a difficult situation.”

 

Daily updates from OCHA (the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Assistance) provide further context to the situation that Christiana describes above. Their latest report stated the following:

“MoPH (Ministry of Public Health) data shows that 24,766 people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan are now confirmed to have COVID19. Some 4,725 people have recovered, and 471 people have died (16 of which are healthcare workers). 55,981 people out of the population of 37.6 million have been tested. Afghanistan has a test-positivity-rate – positive tests as a percentage of total tests – of more than 44 per cent. More than five per cent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases are among healthcare staff. The majority of the deaths were people between ages of 40 and 69. Men in this age group represent more than half of all COVID-19-related deaths.

With a fragile health system, a developing economy and underlying vulnerabilities, the people of Afghanistan are facing extreme consequences from the COVID19 pandemic. Cases are expected to continue to increase over the weeks ahead as community transmission escalates, creating grave implications for Afghanistan’s economy and people’s well-being. Kabul remains the most affected part of the country in terms of confirmed cases, followed by Hirat, Balkh, Nangarhar and Kandahar.”

https://reliefweb.int/report/afghanistan/afghanistan-flash-update-daily-brief-covid-19-no-53-14-june-2020

Can you please continue to lift up our Afghanistan Hagar family members in prayer and ask for their health and safety during this time.

 

COVID-19 Update: May 26th 2020

While our work in Cambodia and Vietnam is returning to normal following COVID-19, our work in Afghanistan continues to be impacted significantly and we would like to ask you to include our colleagues and clients here in your thoughts and prayers.

Last week, a report by the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs stated: “Conflict and natural disasters across the country continue to displace thousands of families, compounding pre-existing vulnerabilities and making them potentially more susceptible to serious consequences from COVID-19.”

 

Over 10,000 people, across all 34 provinces, have tested positive for Coronavirus in Afghanistan and Kabul, where Hagar is based, is the most affected. The number of recorded cases nationwide has almost doubled in just 10 days. The country faces significant increases in the price of food and families, who rely on casual day labour, are increasingly vulnerable. Hagar staff are also experiencing difficulty connecting with former clients and families due to limited internet infrastructure but are still managing to check in with former and existing clients.

The boys shelter that Hagar runs remains open and the staff remain committed to being there for the boys.

For example, the manager of the boys centre, walked 40 minutes in the pouring rain one morning recently after he was unable to drive past a checkpoint that had been set up to limit the spread of the virus.

Please pray if you can for Afghanistan, our colleagues and those that we serve. We would really appreciate it.

 

COVID-19 Update: May 15th 2020

There are 5,226 confirmed COVID-19 cases as at 14 May.

However, beyond COVID-19, there has been significantly more unrest in Afghanistan due to the recent tragic attacks on a maternity ward in Kabul and at a police commander’s funeral in the neighboring Nangarhar province.

New mothers, nurses and at least two newborn babies were among the 16 people killed in an assault on the maternity hospital in the capital, Kabul, while the bombing in the Nangarhar province killed at least 26 people. You can read a full news report here.

The country is also experiencing challenges in access to food due to the longer term impact of war and more recent COVID-19 pandemic.

Afghanistan is a landlocked country and has experienced decades of war, insecurity and drought which has destroyed its rich agriculture. As a result, there has been a spike in imported goods.

This has in turn caused a significant increase in price of wheat, oil and pulses across the country in the past month. When Pakistan, Tajikistan and major borders were shut down due to COVID-19, other food supplies, medicine and essential items also became scarce.

Sadly, the extreme spikes in food prices and supplies is felt most by those that are vulnerable in the community. They are also often not prioritized when it comes to food distribution.

From a Hagar Afghanistan perspective, we are not able to conduct some of our project activities using the usual approach due to COVID-19 restrictions. For example, our caseworkers are not able to deliver training to clients or visit them and some survivors are unable to attend classes at school. Vocational training is also postponed as staff cannot interact with clients face to face. However, staff are trying to remain in contact with survivors via phone as much as possible.

Due to decades of war, the IT and power infrastructure in Afghanistan is weak and therefore problematic when it comes to conducting any online training.

COVID-19 Update: April 30th 2020

The situation in Afghanistan remains challenging and complex. At the beginning of the pandemic, people in Kabul were anxious and fearful of the COVID-19 virus. However, since Afghanistan has not yet been affected in a major way, many are less cautious now. The Afghans, being very social people, are struggling to follow social distancing and have adopted a mentality of simply hoping that if they catch the virus it will impact them mildly. However, face masks are being frequently used.  

Christiana, Executive Director of Hagar Afghanistan, sent the following update through regarding Hagar Afghanistan’s project and the impacts on the staff:

“The beneficiaries at the Forgotten No More centre (Hagar’s centre for young boys who have experienced significant trauma) are now adjusting to the lockdown. Most are able to adapt to the new schedules and studying at home. They are not fearful of the COVID-19 virus. For some however, the emotional struggles have increased as they face the impacts of childhood trauma. They are all very thankful for the home and all the provisions of food and supplies. For many this would not be so in the provinces where they are from. Our clients have shared that in their own homes they had never had such good care and provisions. While thankful for this care, some are anxious to know if their families are well in this time of crisis. The staff continue to ensure the clients who have family phone contacts are able to call home regularly.

Around the world despite the lockdown, employees both male and female have been able to complete significant office duties and assignments from their homes. Many would share of new adjustments but for many others opportunities to work from home are more difficult… This is especially true for our female staff. The strong cultural norms here in Afghanistan are that women whilst at home must only be busy with cooking, cleaning and caring for the family’s needs. Parents in laws, some parents and husbands are unwilling to release the women to work online and on laptops and on phones. These are women who, in the last years, were grateful that they were allowed to leave their homes to work during the day at offices and so were released from doing only housework. However, the lockdown has changed it all for them now.  One of our staff members stated she could no longer cope with the pressure at home and being able to deliver her responsibilities to a standard she expects of herself and as a result was planning to resign.

Through interpersonal counselling, we have found an option that will enable her to balance the expectations.”

 Such an update truly highlights the different challenges that COVID-19 presents in different countries and cultures. 

Our Work in Afghanistan

Read about the incredible family reunion Hagar recently facilitated here:

Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, with deep beliefs about gender roles. The ongoing conflict and consequent displacement of so many, also makes this nation a perfect target for traffickers. A study of 210 stakeholders in Afghanistan in 2014 (including 130 boys) found, for example, that on average one in ten boys interviewed had experienced human trafficking!

Hagar Afghanistan is one of the only organisations in the country delivering the long-term support services required to recover from such trauma. Staff walk the whole journey with the boys they encounter, each one traumatised as a result of the abuse they have suffered.

Hagar Afghanistan is also working with the government to combat the trafficking of boys and raise awareness about women’s rights.

 

Help us Transform Lives

Donate Now

By partnering with Hagar, you're supporting survivors to heal from the trauma of severe abuse. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you. 

Help us Transform Lives

Donate Now

By partnering with Hagar, you're supporting survivors to heal from the trauma of severe abuse. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you. 

 

Help us Transform Lives

Donate Now

By partnering with Hagar, you're supporting survivors to heal from the trauma of severe abuse. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you. 

 

Help us Transform Lives

Donate Now

By partnering with Hagar, you're supporting survivors to heal from the trauma of severe abuse. Our work is dependent on charitable giving by people like you. 

 

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