Afghanistan + 2 more

Afghanistan: Strategic Situation Report: COVID-19, No. 100 (1 July 2021)

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Situation Report
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The next Strategic Situation Report will be released on 15 July

Situation Overview:

120,216 MoPH Figures: As of 1 July, MoPH data shows that people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan are confirmed to have had COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. An additional 23,685 people have tested positive since the last update two weeks ago. Of the total cases since the start of the pandemic, some 71,012 people have recovered, and 4,962 people have died – at least 92 of the fatalities have been healthcare workers.
Since the start of the pandemic, only 612,112 tests have been conducted for a population of 40.4 million.

Cases have steadily risen to alarming levels over the post-Eid period. The daily average number of new cases now far surpasses figures seen during the peak of the first and second waves last year. On 16 June alone, 2,313 new cases were reported – the highest number of new cases recorded in a single day since the onset of the pandemic. Overseas testing has confirmed the presence of the variants in Afghanistan. While Afghanistan lacks in-country facilities to test for the Delta variant, concern over the variant’s spread is high. Afghanistan now has a daily test-positivity-rate – positive tests as a percentage of total tests – of 42 per cent as of 30 June, suggesting overall under-testing of potential cases. 30 laboratories are now operating in Afghanistan – with plans to scale-up to at least one laboratory per province – with a testing capacity of 8,500 tests per day. Due to limited public health resources, lack of people coming forward for testing, 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.

WHO warns that despite the new surge, widespread complacency and failure to follow public health advice in Afghanistan is creating grave risks in the community with people generally not observing physical distancing or mask-wearing protocols. There is particular concern about the upcoming Eid al-Adha period and the need to promote personal protection measures during this holiday. Given the rapid rise in cases , the Government of Afghanistan has extended closure of all schools, universities and training courses that started on 29 May. The school closure will be in effect across 16 provinces, including Kabul. Most government offices have moved to essential staff because of the outbreak. The Government has also announced other preventative measures across these 16 provinces, including the banning of mass gatherings and weddings. No other nation-wide lockdown measures are currently in place.

Vaccination: Since 8 March, Afghanistan has received 1,668,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines – 468,000 from the COVAX facility, 500,000 directly from the Government of India, and 700,000 from the government of the People's Republic of China. The contribution from China of Sinopharm vaccines arrived in Afghanistan on 10 June. COVID-19 vaccinations through MoPH are open to all those above 18 years of age. Vaccination is currently available in select health facilities and through mobile vaccination teams. People are reminded that mixing of vaccines between doses is not recommended. More than 898,000 people have been vaccinated in Afghanistan through the MoPH programme to date, including some 133,000 health workers, 91,000 teachers and 51,000 people with co-morbidities. Of those vaccinated, 63 per cent were men and 37 per cent women. Around 21 per cent of those vaccinated have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The United States has recently announced its intention to provide around 3 million doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Afghanistan to support the vaccination campaign. Afghanistan is also expected to receive 468,000 additional doses of vaccines from the COVAX facility. Both contributions are expected to arrive in Afghanistan around mid-July. Similarly, a new contribution of 124,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the Swedish Government is anticipated to arrive in Kabul in the coming week.

According to a recent public perception survey on COVID-19 vaccines in Afghanistan conducted by the Afghanistan National Public Health Institute (ANPHI) and UNICEF, 71 per cent of respondents reported that they are yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. However, some 69 per cent of all respondents noted that they wish to be vaccinated if given the opportunity, compared to just 17 per cent who said they do not want to be vaccinated. Around 14 per cent did not respond to the question. The majority of all respondents listed the radio, masjids and religious leaders, TV and health care providers as the most trusted means of communication for COVID-19 information.

Overall, there remains strong concern regarding equitable access to vaccines for Afghans, especially vulnerable groups such as IDPs, returnees and nomadic populations and people living in hard-to-reach areas. IOM continues to report that vaccination coverage is extremely limited among all migrant populations due to negative perceptions and barriers to accessing care. Greater focus is needed to ensure mobile populations are vaccinated on pace with settled populations given the impact mobility has as a vector for transmission, especially with the more contagious viral variants present in neighbouring countries. Additional efforts are also needed to reach women and people living in non-government- controlled areas with vaccines. Risk communication and community engagement efforts are needed to ensure high-risk populations and frontline staff understand the benefits of the vaccine and can effectively dispel misinformation. Countering negative rumours about the vaccine is a priority as well as promotion of preventative measures during the upcoming Eid holiday. As cases increase, humanitarian partners continue to urge the Government to ensure laboratories and frontline staff are appropriately equipped and that procured supplies – including vaccines – go to under-resourced health centres across the entire country in a transparent manner, so that life-saving support can be delivered to those most in need.

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