Afghanistan

COVID-19 in Afghanistan: Knowledge, Attitudes, Practices and Implications - July 2020

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This Samuel Hall research brief highlights:
• Gendered concerns and understandings around COVID-19.
• Dangerous misconceptions about the virus.
• The rise in food insecurity.
• Negative economic impacts of COVID-19.
• The common nature of psycho-social symptoms.
• Stark limitations to ongoing remote learning for children.

INTRODUCTION

COVID-19 threatens Afghanistan’s many gains, from progress in access to education for children and trust in formal protection mechanisms to social norms around gender and trust in Government.

With a healthcare system already stretched to the limits, ongoing conflict and natural disasters, widespread food insecurity and reductions in foreign aid, stakeholders in Afghanistan were already facing a complex and worsening situation. COVID-19 has the potential to disastrously exacerbate this.

Samuel Hall is supporting the Afghanistan Protection Cluster (PC) and other stakeholders with this brief to fill in key knowledge gaps around how COVID-19 is understood and perceived and its current and likely implications.

CONTEXT

As of late June 2020, Afghanistan counts 29,640 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Actual numbers are suspected to be much higher, as limitations on testing facilities give only a partial picture, and continuous migration flows from Iran (with 300,000 returns between 1 January and 30 May) increase community transmission.

Key actors – the Government of Afghanistan, United Nations Agencies, (I)NGOs and others – have been racing to provide support, through a countrywide ‘Master Plan’ to address the virus combined with a 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan revised to take into account COVID-19. Specific ministries and agencies have created targeted sectoral plans.

Conversations with protection actors in Afghanistan identified gaps in information around knowledge of, attitudes towards and impacts of COVID-19.

To address this, Samuel Hall launched a call-centre in Kabul to collect information from 401 randomly selected Afghan households (333 men and 68 women were interviewed) across 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, in June 2020.6 These were asked 40 questions with specific attention given to food security, psycho-social well-being and education.