Kuala Lumpur / Kabul / Geneva, June 17, 2021- A wave of COVID-19 in Afghanistan has reached critical point as infections and deaths spiral out of control, threatening to engulf the country’s fragile health system, following decades of armed conflict, and exacerbate disasters.
Hospital beds are full in many parts of the country and oxygen supplies cannot keep up.
Infection rates have climbed about 2,400% over the past month. Across Afghanistan, 34% of tests gave positive results last week according to government officials, indicating several thousand undiagnosed infections.
Dr Nilab Mobarez, interim president of the Afghan Red Crescent, said:
âAfghanistan is at a critical point in the battle to contain COVID-19, as hospital beds are overflowing in the capital Kabul and in many areas. This surge is quickly spiraling out of control, adding enormous strain on our fragile healthcare system and on millions of people living in poverty.
âThousands of trained Red Crescent volunteers are risking their lives to help infected people with emergency medical care and to step up prevention measures. We fear we are within a heartbeat of the kind of horror we have already seen in countries like India and Nepal. ”
The Afghan Red Crescent operates 140 health facilities, including a 50-bed COVID-19 hospital in Kabul and 70 mobile health teams. The volunteers screened more than 650,000 people for the disease. In rural areas, many people find it difficult to access medical care, clean water, hygiene products or accurate information about the virus and how to prevent it.
Afghanistan also faces a vaccine shortage exacerbated by a high level of reluctance. Less than half a percent of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Mask use and physical distancing are very low.
Necephor Mghendi, head of the Afghan delegation to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
âCOVID-19 is another cruel blow to millions of Afghans already facing the constant threat of violence, displacement, food insecurity and poverty. We see many people having to make terrible choices between finding a way to feed their families and the increasing risks of getting sick.
âThe IFRC is working with the Afghan Red Crescent to urgently deliver more medical equipment, including an oxygen plant for its COVID-19 hospital in Kabul. More international support is needed to help win this race against this virus, so that we can save thousands of lives. ”
Afghanistan is one of the poorest and most disaster-prone countries in Asia. More than 14 million people struggle with food shortages during one of the worst drought crises in decades. With support from the IFRC, Afghan Red Crescent volunteers and response teams stepped up relief efforts, including food and cash, for thousands of drought-affected families.
The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global COVID-19 emergency appeal, with only around 40% of the funding needs for Afghanistan covered so far. Global emergency appeal funds are essential to continue supporting the vital work of the IFRC and member National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world.
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
In Kuala Lumpur: Antony Balmain, +60 12 230 8451, [email protected]
In Wellington: Ellie van Baaren, +64 21 774 831, [email protected]
In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]