Afghanistan + 2 more

Afghanistan Flash Update: Daily Brief: COVID-19, No. 16 (20 March 2020)

Situation Report
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Key Messages: UPDATED

• People confirmed to have COVID-19: 24
• People tested for COVID-19: 420
• People confirmed negative for COVID-19: 366
• Pending results: 30
• Key concern: Border crossing areas in the country’s west

(Source: Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan)

Situation Overview: UPDATED

According to the WHO Global Dashboard, as of 20 March a total of 209,839 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed and 8,778 fatalities have been reported worldwide across 168 countries. For the first time, Italian authorities have reported that the number of deaths in the country have exceeded those in China. China has recently sent a team of experts to Italy to share their experiences of containing the outbreak.

On 11 March, WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic. Physical distancing measures can help to slow transmission of the virus and reduce the burden on the health system. But to suppress and control epidemics, countries must isolate, test, treat and trace. As the virus moves to low-income countries, WHO is deeply concerned about the impact it could have among populations with high HIV prevalence, or among malnourished children – the latter being of particular concern in Afghanistan. Travel restrictions by countries are changing rapidly and should be monitored on daily basis.

The first person to test positive for COVID-19 in Afghanistan was confirmed on 24 February by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). A total of 24 people are now confirmed to have the virus in 7 provinces – Hirat (15), Samangan (3), Balkh (1), Daikundi (1), Kapisa (1), Badghis (1), Logar (2). Contact tracing for the people confirmed with COVID-19 is ongoing. The clinical condition of the people both confirmed and presumptive for the virus is considered good. One patient in Hirat has reportedly recovered and been discharged from the treatment facility.

A number of people being held in isolation in hospital in Hirat left the facility on 16 March, although some have reportedly since returned to the hospital. A range of factors including hospital conditions, distrust of the authorities, loss of livelihoods issues, stigma and lack of understanding of risk and fear are likely to have contributed to this situation and warrant a scale-up of awareness raising among those being isolated in hospitals and the wider community. The Protection Cluster will endeavour to negotiate access to those being held in medical isolation in order to ensure they understand what is happening to them and that their well-being is being protected and their specific needs addressed. Improved awareness raising at border crossings will also support this. Addressing rumours and community fears of seeking medical treatment through community engagement will be critical and there are plans to soon establish a COVID-19 Risk Communications Working Group in the near future. The Government has also advised its provincial and district level counterparts to initiate awareness raising through community leaders and using mosques.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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