Afghanistan + 2 more

Afghanistan Flash Update: Daily Brief: COVID-19, No. 6 (3 March 2020)

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Key Messages:

  • People confirmed to have COVID-19: 1
  • People who are presumptive for COVID-19: 81
  • People who have tested negative for COVID-19: 58
  • Key concern: border crossing areas in the country’s west

(Source Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan)

Situation Overview:

As of 3 March 2020, a total of 90,893 people have been confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and 3,111 people have reportedly died across 73 countries. On 28 February, WHO increased its assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to “very high” at the global level – its top level of risk assessment – while stressing that there still is a chance of containing the virus if its chain of transmission is broken. The daily number of new people confirmed to have COVID-19 in China has been stabilising, however since 26 February more people with COVID-19 have been reported outside China. Furthermore, the increasing spread of the virus from and within Italy, Iran and South Korea remains a concern. Travel restrictions by countries are changing rapidly and should be monitored on daily basis.

On 24 February, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported that one person with COVID-19 had been confirmed in the western province of Hirat. The person had recently travelled from Qom in Iran. It is reported that all schools in Hirat are closed and public gatherings banned until further notice. As of 3 March, MoPH is investigating 81 people presumptive for COVID-19 (see table below). The clinical condition of the person confirmed and those presumptive for COVID-19 is good. All 81 people presumptive for COVID-19 are being kept in isolation wards.

Response

The focus of activities in Afghanistan is on both preparedness and containment. MoPH is working closely with WHO, Health Cluster partners, IOM and other relevant stakeholders to rapidly expand in-country preparedness and containment capacity, to strengthen detection and surveillance capacity at points-of-entry into Afghanistan, such as airports and border-crossing sites (especially in the west), and to continue the training of medical staff on case-management, risk communication and community engagement. The level of support and activities in all key areas will need to be expanded rapidly to manage the further spread of the disease.

As of 2 March, MoPH has 1,600 screening tests and 150 confirmation tests available in-country. Additionally, MoPH has recently established five committees for the surveillance of COVID-19 at the national and provincial level: Points of Entry Committee; Population Surveillance Committee; Data Management Committee; National COVID-19 Contact Tracing Committee; and the Lab Surveillance Committee.

60 UNICEF-supported MHTs are on stand-by across 13 provinces to provide primary health care services in potentially affected areas. In an effort to raise awareness of water, sanitation and hygiene steps to contain the spread of COVID-19, UNICEF, the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR), World Vision International (WVI), International Medical Corps (IMC), Relief International (RI) and Coordination of Afghan Relief (CoAR) have dedicated surge capacity to be able to carry-out awareness campaigns at both community and school-level. This dedicated capacity can swiftly be deployed to border-crossing sites with Iran and Pakistan. UNICEF is currently in discussion with local authorities to provide washing stations and hand sanitiser for returnees (citizens of Afghanistan) at screening facilities at the Islam Qala border crossing.

Cross Border Concerns:

As of 3 March, there are five people confirmed to have COVID-19 in Pakistan. In Iran, health officials have reported 1501 people have COVID-19 and 66 people have died after contracting COVID-19 as of 3 March.

On 1 March, the Spin Boldak border crossing was closed by both Afghan and Pakistani border police, reportedly in connection with COVID-19. The border will remain closed for seven days. However, Pakistan’s main border crossing with Afghanistan - the Torkham border crossing - remains open.

IOM reports that there has been a higher number of spontaneous returnees (citizens of Afghanistan) from Iran during recent days as many labour camps have been closed due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. Awareness raising and evidence-based sensitisation on COVID-19 facts remain key gaps and require further strengthening.

IOM and WHO are actively supporting response activities with MoPH to address preparedness and emergency coordination actions in the border provinces with Iran and Pakistan (Nangarhar, Kandahar, Nimroz and Hirat). Support includes: secondment of staff for cross border surveillance; material support; publication of MoPH and WHO Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials; billboards; community-level awareness raising and sensitisation efforts through health education sessions and Displacement Tracking Matrix focus group discussions; and use of IOM transit facilities as temporary isolation/quarantine spaces.

Education

The Ministry of Education is working closely with MoPH to develop IEC posters for hygiene and sanitation promotion to be distributed in schools across the country. Similarly, the Education in Emergencies Working Group (EiEWG) is currently working on developing public information campaigns on preventive measures against COVID-19 to be distributed through schools, community shuras, parents’ associations and teachers. As part of this effort, UNICEF will print and distribute 800,000 IEC leaflets. All schools in Hirat – including temporarily learning spaces (TLS) and community-based education (CBE) – are suspended until further notice to help contain the spread of COVID-19 (although public schools and universities are currently closed for winter break and will resume on 22 March).

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.