Global Update: According to John Hopkins University, the number of people worldwide who have died with COVID-19 has passed 1.1 million, with many regions still reporting surging numbers of new infections. The pandemic has now spread to 189 countries with over 41 million confirmed cases, as of 22 October.
MOPH Figures: MoPH data shows that 40,510 people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan are now confirmed to have COVID19. Some 33,824 people have recovered, and 1,501 people have died - 77 of whom are healthcare workers. 118,540 people out of a population of 37.6 million have been tested. The majority of the recorded deaths were men between the ages of 50 and 79. Men account for almost 70 per cent of the total COVID-19 confirmed cases in the MOPH data, although this may be the result of overrepresentation of men in testing. 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. WHO warns that widespread complacency and failure to follow public health advice is creating grave risks in the community with people generally not observing physical distancing or mask wearing protocols.
Second Wave: With a fragile health system, a developing economy and underlying vulnerabilities, the people of Afghanistan are facing extreme consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic. While data suggests that the first wave seemed to peak in June, a new rise in cases is being closely monitored.
WHO is warning that the second wave of COVID-19 may be deadlier than the first if people do not follow health advice. This dangerous second wave of the virus comes at a time of increased conflict and political uncertainty and reduced community adherence to prevention measures. Limited access to water and sanitation for good hygiene, widespread food insecurity and high rates of malnutrition are all additional complicating factors for Afghanistan. Resourcing community engagement, surveillance, and contact tracing remains critical to supporting the COVID-19 response.
Ongoing Needs: Humanitarian partners are also mobilising to respond to needs in southern Afghanistan where an estimated 35,000 people have been displaced by conflict and there has been a surge in trauma cases. The violence has stretched hospitals in Lashkargah to capacity. Furthermore, attacks on health facilities during fighting are particularly worrying with WHO reporting that 12 health facilities have been targeted. The closure of health clinics in the area due to insecurity is affecting around 20,000 people. COVID-19 awareness raising and community engagement work is being incorporated into this response. For more information, please see the latest OCHA Flash Update.
Health Services: Hospitals and clinics continue to report challenges maintaining or expanding their facilities’ capacity to treat patients with COVID-19, as well as maintaining essential health services. Health partners are continuing to see lower numbers of patients at fixed health and nutrition facilities due to people’s fear of catching the virus and have been delivering programmes via mobile teams wherever possible. Utilisation of health services in Afghanistan has dramatically decreased during the pandemic according to WHO, indicating that many severe medical cases that required hospital care were unable or unwilling to receive treatment for a variety of reasons, including health staff falling ill with COVID19, overwhelmed health facilities focused on COVID-19 response, or patients’ unwillingness to attend health facilities, movement restrictions. These unaddressed medical conditions will likely result in increased mortality and needs in the second half of the year and into 2021. WHO notes that when health systems are under stress, as is being seen in Afghanistan, both direct mortality from the outbreak and indirect mortality from vaccine-preventable and treatable conditions increase dramatically. WHO emphasises that infection prevention and control needs to be improved in health facilities to encourage people to return to health services safely. WHO also stresses the need to balance the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, with simultaneously engaging in strategic planning and coordinated action to maintain essential health service delivery, mitigating against the risk of system collapse.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.