Strengthening COVID-19 Response in Afghanistan
Strengthening COVID-19 Response in Afghanistan aims to cover the most critical COVID-19 associated needs immediately, with a focus on promoting community-centered interventions and supporting the existing health system. A consortium led by AKDN implements interventions directly in 16 provinces. AHDS implements activities in Nimroze and Kandahar provinces. The project is funded by the European Commission.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic on 11 March 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Globally, as 21 February 2021, there have been 110,749,023 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,455,131 deaths, reported to WHO.
As the pandemic develops, countries with weaker health systems, limited capacity to deal with major outbreaks, and large populations of already vulnerable communities are at particular risk; this includes Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, as 21 February 2021, there have been 55,604 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,432 deaths, reported to WHO.
The relatively low level of infection, especially juxtaposed with the high number of Afghans who have returned from Iran and Pakistan in recent months, can be attributed to low community-testing and slow processing of test results – especially for those in rural, remote and insecure areas. Tellingly, while the number of reported positive cases has dropped, the rate of death has risen.
Afghanistan is thus uniquely placed to experience potentially catastrophic morbidity and mortality during the ongoing pandemic which could grow beyond imagination without a strong response and strict control measures. Unless serious containment measures are put in place, enforced and adhered to throughout the country, the MoPH anticipates that as many as 25 million Afghans will be infected with COVID-19 leading to 110,000 deaths. In other words, more people will die of COVID-19 in Afghanistan than the estimated 100,000 civilians killed since the current conflict began more than 18 years ago.
Considering the successful experiences of its members in emergency health management, the consortium aims to cover the most critical COVID-19 associated needs immediately, with a focus on promoting community-centred interventions and supporting the existing health system. This is to be achieved through activities that are geared towards the following Specific Objectives: 1) increasing the response capacity of the health system; 2) improving infection prevention measures and capacities; 3) reducing nutritional risks; and 4) strengthening and sustaining community efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in alignment with the national COVID-19 Global Response Plan, guidelines and strategic priorities.
The consortium will implement its interventions directly in 16 provinces. AKF (Afg) and its partner agencies of the AKDN will implement activities in Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan, Bamyan, Samangan, Daikundi and Parwan provinces. Cordaid will implement its interventions directly in Kabul and Herat and through its local implementing partners in Balkh, Nangarhar Ghazni, Nimroz (AHDS), Kandahar (AHDS) and Paktya provinces. These provinces and proposed interventions have been closely coordinated with the WHO and UNICEF during the design of the project to ensure complementary support and to avoid any possible overlap of interventions and to ensure that collectively the stakeholders work together to implement in at least one province from each geographic region. For example, in a province where the WHO is establishing a diagnostic centre, the consortium has community-based interventions planned.
In addition to the national level support in Kabul, the consortium will be reaching 8.4 million direct and indirect beneficiaries at the country level including 4.3 million male and 4.1 million female beneficiaries, including children. The target population includes existing beneficiaries in programme areas, as well as healthcare professionals. Particular attention will be given to the most vulnerable individuals and families in programme areas, including women and girls, Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) and returnees, Kuchis, the elderly, people with disabilities, those with underlying health conditions, those experiencing economic stress, and other at-risk individuals.